Teaching in a high-need school in New York poses some very serious challenges for educators. First of all, class sizes in such schools are usually much bigger than the city average. Therefore, the teacher might fail to allocate sufficient amount of time and attention to individual students. It is an absolute must to maintain strict class discipline to avoid disruptions of learning process which can happen frequently in large groups of adolescents. In order to do that, the teacher should be a visionary leader and command respect with his or her exceptional personal and professional qualities.
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A set of issues in a high-need school can be caused by the fact that students come from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, including underprivileged families. Problems driven by jealousy or hatred can extend far beyond the classroom.
Therefore, it is crucial to establish a relationship of trust between students and school staff – including teachers, counselors and administrators – so that teenagers would feel comfortable approaching them about problems that often plague neighborhoods where high-need schools are located. These problems include bullying, arms, small weapons and underage sex. Since teacher turnover rate in such schools is usually very high, students do not have time to establish such a relationship with their educators. Therefore, a teacher intent on working in a high-need school should be first of all committed to stay there for a time long enough to make a change. If school staff assists students in resolving their personal difficulties and interpersonal conflicts, dropout rate can be decreased, and an atmosphere more propitious to learning can be established.
Another barrier to effective teaching in high-need schools is inadequate supply of study materials. While schools in more well-off parts of the city are equipped with latest technology, students attending educational institutions in poorer districts might not be able to afford even the basic set of books and stationary. As a teacher, there are two possible ways to ameliorate the situation. First of all, school staff should try to attract sponsorship and charitable donations – in cash or inkind contributions – to provide adequate teaching materials to all students. Secondly, teachers should encourage sharing of study materials among students. The teacher can divide the class in small groups for working with a particular book or equipment on a rotating basis, so all students get to do a particular exercise even if there is not enough study materials for all.
The main message emanating from a teacher in a high-need school should be focused on the importance of education for future career and personal advancement. Frequently, education is the only means of breaking the circle of poverty many families find themselves in. A teacher in such a school should be psychologically prepared to handle a lot of adversity from the side of students and witness a lot of human misery. But this is what makes this job so honorable and personally fulfilling: helping students to make a radical change in their lives and pursue a better future is a great mission in life.—————————————————————————–
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