Working with Alternative Youth at Risk 
Guest Speaker: Susan Winterbourne, Washington County Juvenile Department

Objectives for today's talk:
  • Become aware of the content of who you are in relationship to at risk alternative kids and adapt appropriately
  • Understand the risk factors, what will you notice and where you should focus
  • Learn a basic communication therapeutic technique based on developing relationships, understanding who you are in relation to the situation, and helping the student come up with strategies for meeting their goals.

What words come to mind when you think of the words: "At Risk" "Alternative"
- rebelliousness, poverty, impressionable, lack of support, unengaged, misunderstood, substance abuse, abuse at home, neglect in general, gangs, single parents, parent of colour

Why do these words make kids at risk or alternative?
- discussed that lack of resources, poverty, support/network are often at the root of the problem

  • You may be going into uncomfortable situations that may trigger emotions [e.g. you bring emotional baggage based on past experiences]
  •  Biggest predictor of how you will parent is how you were parented. This will also inform how you teach
  • The lens with how you see these kids will affect how you engage with them [e.g. how many of you feel ready to engage with a gang kid?]
  • We have a lot of labels for these kids. **We must acknowledge what our labels are to be able to suspend judgement as they interfere with our ability to build relationship and might trigger emotions**
  • Resist the urge to judge/blame parents. Youth problems are not always the result of "bad" parenting but their lack of knowledge, skills, resources, finances, or how they were parented. 
These kids want relationships but it's like hugging a porcupine - because they lack trust they will push away and try to intentionally alienate people
  1. Respect is earned not given, must be maintained and nurtured. We have changed what respect means in our society towards people in positions: teachers, police etc. We get judged every day but need to respect our students. 
  2. Know your kids. Sample scenario: John - Test day -- John acts out -- Teacher sends John out of room [Was this a successful outcome?  No, John just got what he wanted]
  3. Believe in their potential. One positive impact of NCLB - pre NCLB, ELL, SPED, people of colour graduating at low levels werent held to the same level of expectations. NCLB made this visible in a way previously not apparent. Now everyone is expected to get there and no child is to be given up on. 
  4. Dont engage in Power struggles. Giving directives = starting a power struggle [i.e. took the bait the kids sent you]
  5. Understand your limitations. e.g. age difference between you and students & their parents may be small. Focus on the academics where you are the professional
Risk Factors:
  • Recidivism: youth committing a crime is likely to commit a crime again
  • Attitudes, Values, Beliefs
  • Peer groups: hang out with people doing the same
  • Aggressive & Impulsive: often starts at an early ages
  • Substance abuse
  • Family: criminogenic factors, abuse
  • School
Protective Factors:
  • Involvement in Extracurricular Activities
    • how are these kids supposed to connect when they arent eligible able to participate?
  • Need a Close Positive Relationship
  • Having Family involved
Challenge to you as future educator: How are you going to address these issues?

back to John...
    Situation: Test Day -> Behaviour/Action: John Acts Out -> Feelings/Thinking --> We dont know -> Consequences: John Sent Out of Room --> what now?

Follow up Discussion
- Try to understand what  John was Thinking & Feeling [test anxiety? not prepared? other?]
- Listen, suspend judgement & resist urge to offer solutions 
- Use questions to find out what John wants [Goal? to pass course? finish high school? other?]
- Help John to think about how his actions [- or +] are helping him to reach this goal
- Assist him in coming up with ideas on how to find a solution/address the situation that doesn't involve John getting away without consequences [e.g. John still has to write the test but perhaps does it at a later date, in stages, or after he has been given some additional support]

Help Student Set Goals
- How are your + and - behaviours helping you to achieve your goals?
- What do you want?
- How can I help you to get there? 

Your Role as the Teacher
- to build relationship -> requires you keep your opinions/judgements/emotional responses in check
- to help the student change their thinking and feeling based on a process of positive and negative consequences [think the Cognitive Behavioural Modification we learned in Ed Psych]
- to have the expectation/requirement that every student gets carried forward

Ship metaphor: cant throw anyone overboard, cant exclude, need to figure out how to address the problem.

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