The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: August 7, 2011

What would you suggest?

I received this email through my Vancouver Public library account. With permission, I’m sharing this you here, so I can try and find some resources for this teacher. I’ve tried to remove information which could identify this person, since they would prefer it that way.

Good Morning, I read your list of resources for special education. I am from ***********, ********, and this is my first year teaching special ed after finishing my Masters Degree. I teach 16-18 year old boys who have committed assault and sexual assault crimes, served jail sentences or received parole, and are now in a residential facility as part of their parole or probation agreement. The high school I teach in is actually PART of the facility they are in and I am employed by that facility as a teacher. I teach [some math and history courses] though I can and have taught other subjects as well. The young men I teach are often angry, violent, and can(and do) blow up at the least provocation, making threats, yelling, or even hitting teachers, other students, or other staff. We have a lot of students who were in gangs, students who have severe post traumatic stress disorder, etc. The reason I emailed you is because I am looking for some resources from another special education teacher, educational or otherwise, that can help me teach these young men or otherwise work with them. I am wondering if you have any ideas. Thank you! *******

I emailed the teacher back, and gave her my personal email address, and she sent me this additional information.

…I guess my biggest problem with teaching these guys is that I am … small … with no military, police, or other background. I was a preschool teacher … before getting my Masters Degree and taking this job. I do feel that this is what I want to do the rest of my life and have felt like this after pretty much a few weeks on the job. I am good at building rapport with these guys. However, rapport only takes you so far as far as these guys are concerned, since they get angry and violent anyways. We’ve had broken windows, desks thrown across rooms, someone who had to have a skin graft when hair was ripped out of their head after being dragged by the hair, a student attacking another student in the cafeteria and kicking them in the head, seriously injuring them, etc. Every week brings something new. The offending student is usually punished by being confined to his room on the unit for a number of days(if its not too serious) or being sent to jail for anywhere from overnight to several weeks. Sooner or later, even if you have good rapport, you’ll have to administer a serious consequence that they don’t like or help with a restraint and then the rapport is gone. We have students that actually hate to the point of despising certain teachers, assistants, or unit staff. For me, it’s hard to know what to do in which circumstances or if I’m pushing too hard on someone or not hard enough and letting them get away with stuff.

The teacher sent me some other information about the school, and how they manage their students. It sounds like an incredibly difficult experience, and not something I’m very familiar with. The level of violence I had to cope with when I worked in NYC was nothing like what this person is describing.

What resources would you suggest this person look at? So far, I’ve suggested they check out #spedchat, and they’ve looked at a list I created on the VPL called "Education must reads." 

Math in the real world: Relationships

This is another post in a series I’m doing on math in the real world.

5 generations of women

Image credit: mvplante

There is a lot of different types of mathematics in family relationships.

For example, each generation you go back, the number of ancestors you have increases exponentially. This works, of course, since we all have a lot of overlap on our ancestors, and eventually everyone is related to just one person, a woman named Eve who lived in Africa many years ago.

You can also look at the probability of relationships forming, based either on interest, or on type of friendship building activity in which you participate. When we want to form relationships, we tend to participate in high probability activities, like drinking with friends at a club, or discussing books during a book club. My friend noted that the probability of a couple forming strong relationships with other couples where they have similar interests, everyone gets along with each other, and each member of the couple has a compatible schedule is actually rather low.

Disfunctional family

If you look at the relationships of the families themselves, you can draw graphs of the relationships where the circles in the picture above represent people, and the lines between the circles represent the relationships between the people. Would you say that this is a functional family, or not?