Type of Technology: General
SAMR Rating: Substitution
Subject Areas: Social Studies
Grade Levels: 9-12
Over one thousand people have checked this site so I thought I would give you some background on what it takes to be a Continuation High School Teacher. In a regular High School many teachers have five classes of thirty or more students and in every class there may have any number of challenging students. Regular high schools have many intervention programs to help these challenging students overcome issues they may have. In most of the cases schools are successful and the student is able to succeed. However, not every student makes the necessary adjustments; some just do not want to or cannot make the effort. Teachers and Administrators are not to blame. With large classes sizes a teacher can be spread too thin and finding time to help the student who doesn’t come to school, or who comes, but is never prepared is difficult. It is kind of like having a beautiful aquarium with several different types of fish, anyone who has ever kept a tank knows that if you have a perfectly balanced environment and then you put the wrong type of fish in, it can destroy the entire ecosystem. Inevitably the troublesome fish must be removed in order to save the rest of the population.
Students are not fish; they are human beings that come from homes and living conditions that range from having a Mom and a Dad and a nice house, to having nobody to care for them and living in unstable environments. We cannot give up on these students! A teacher at a regular school may have to teach up to 150 to 200 students a day. Out of all of those students they may have one or two that they have tried every intervention with, but the student still does not respond in a positive way. What would you do? Sometimes schools make the difficult choice to remove the student so that everyone else in the class can have the chance to succeed. These are the students that come to a continuation high school. Imagine having five classes of nothing but these types of students. Welcome to my life. I Love it!
How do I reach these students? Think of a gardener. To have a successful crop you must have fertile soil that is free of any insects or disease, the climate must be conducive for growth, the plants will need food and water, and you must clear away the weeds. Every plant will grow at its own rate. Some will bloom while others stay dormant a little longer. But if you are patient and keep creating conditions for growth and have patience, most of the seeds will grow into healthy plants. The last thing a gardener wants to do is force growth on a plant. That would be like getting up in the middle of the night and grabbing a plant and pulling on it trying to force it to grow at the same pace with the others. Doing this will only destroy the plant. A continuation high school teacher must create conditions for growth; they cannot force a time table on their students. The teacher must closely monitor each student and yet not smother them. It is a delicate balancing act that the teacher must accomplish. A successful teacher must be able to “read” his students and know the best way to help them succeed. Every student is different so I must be able to decipher the correct way to interact with all of them yet still keep them safe from each other. Now keep in mind that I have to stay current on the curriculum that I teach. As an Economics and Government teacher I have requirements that I have to meet. The students need to be taught the same thing that the regular high schools are being taught and at the same pace while navigating the baggage that they bring to class each day!
This is where technology comes in to play. I post my lessons online so that if my students are in court, or in jail, under the influence, or just ditching class they can still have access to the assignments. We are also part of our school district’s 1:1 iPad pilot so all of our students have iPads, which ensures that the curriculum is always available to them. I strive to keep my lessons meaningful so I will give assignments that matter to the students. For example, my Econ class is very practical rather than theoretical. We talk about hhow much will they need to make per hour to live in Santa Barbara after they graduate. Students use their iPad to research how much it costs to rent an apartment including the security deposit.This is usually a big eye opener! They must then research on their iPad how much it costs for each utility such as electricity, natural gas, water, trash service etc. They must decide if they are willing to pay for a phone, computer with internet service and a TV. On top of this they must research how much car and renter’s insurance they need to have and how much it will cost. Food is the real eye opener for most students, most are shocked when they figure out how expensive it is. So once they figure out how much it costs to live in an apartment, buy food and have insurance they must then decide on transportation. They can walk, ride a skateboard or bike, take the bus or own a car. But they must calculate how much a car will cost including insurance, fuel and maintenance. In addition, they must decide how much money they will need to put in a banking account to build up a savings. Finally, they must determine how much money they want to have for personal use for clothing, shoes and going out to dinner. One they figure out their budget we look at tax information online to learn that 20% to 25% will be taken out of their paychecks for taxes. Students then calculate how much they will have to earn per hour to accomplish this. All of this can be done on the iPad. This assignment usually scares the #%@!! out of students and makes them realize what they will be facing when they are done with high school. Using the iPads, students can also make creative presentations about their future lives.
I am fortunate to be an Economics and Government teacher; the subjects that I teach are relevant and important to my students. I am also fortunate that I teach seniors because most of them realize that play time is over and they need to prepare for life on their own. We are lucky at my continuation high school; we have an excellent staff, a Principal that truly cares about everyone, and iPads to help our students access information and gain skills that will help them after graduation. For this type of students, relevance and the real world are necessary to keep them on track for graduation.