Hostility Surrounds them Like Thunderclouds
How do we help at-risk students who often do little or no work and are so fed up with failure at school that they've grown into tight, constant lumps of resentment? You've likely seen some of them. Sometimes their hostility towards school surrounds them like thunderclouds.
How do we help them? I've taught secondary alternate students, at-risk students who are often angry, and suspicious of do-gooder teachers, for 20 years, and all my experience tells me that the starting point is a humanistic, student-centered, one. Carl Rogers agrees.
If the counsellor [teacher] likes the client [student], unconditionally, and if the counsellor [teacher] understands the essential feelings of the client [student] as they seem to the client [student]...then there is a strong probability that this will be an effective helping relationship" (1958, p. four of his article1).
Rogers advocates the "client-centred approach" (Ibid., the third page1).
So did Jean-Jacques Rousseau. And John Dewey. And so does William Glasser. He says that "teachers...[need to learn] enough Choice Theory [his Pet] to understand how students [in particular at-risk students] need to be treated if they are to [begin doing work at school]" (1997, p. 601). He adds, "When we asked the students why they were no longer disruptive and why they were beginning to work in school, over and over they said, 'You care about us.' And sometimes they added, 'And now you give us choices and work that we like to do'" (Ibid., p. 601).
That sounds like "work with us, not against us" doesn't it? Kellough and Kellough (those two are no flakes) side with Rousseau, Dewey, and Glasser on that student-centered point. "Collaboratively plan with students challenging and engaging classroom learning activities and assignments" (Kellough & Kellough, 1999, p. 45). Student-centered? Humanistic? "Maintain high expectations, although not necessarily identical, for every student" (Ibid.). "Develop...withitness....Be aware of everything that is going on in the classroom, at all times, monitoring students for signs of restlessness, frustration, anxiety, and off-task behaviours. Be ready to reassign individual learners to different activities as the situation warrants" (Ibid., p. 47). Again, student-centered, humanistic?
Yup. "Involve students in understanding and in making important decisions about their own learning, so that they feel ownership...of that learning" (Ibid., p. 49). Again, yup.
I'd like to sit at a table with Rousseau, Dewey, Rogers, Glasser, and the Kelloughs. We could discuss student-centered, humanistic teaching methods. I'd have a good time, and I'd learn lots that would help me improve as a secondary alternate teacher of at-risk students.
1 I have been unable to obtain the actual pages of the article as found in the journal that published it (see Rogers, 1958).