Re: At-risk students discussion
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 15:43:44 -0500 (EST)

Dear Robin,

I am not currently a staff member at a Sudbury model school, but I have
taught in public schools for seven years. (Not currently, thank goodness.)
From that experience I can tell you that whether you "label" the kids
"at-risk" or not, if the kids have in some way been identified as needing
special attention, every kid in the school will know it, and they will know
exactly what it means. The problem with most adults is that they forget one
very important thing - kids aren't stupid! They know exactly what is going
on. And even if they aren't identified by the school system, they will be
identified by both the teacher and the other students in the class. I mean,
even though you didn't specify what these kids are "at risk" for, I would say
that it's pretty obvious to anyone in a classroom which kids would be
considered "at risk".

Regardless of what type of special assistance is attempted, it will be like
using an eye dropper to put out a four-alarm fire, because the problem is not
that the kids aren't fitting into the system, it is that the system is not
right for the kids. While I taught in the public school, I tried many
different methods to help my "problem students", whether they were "at-risk",
or "LD", or "ADD", or "BD", or "troublemakers", or "slow", or "average", or
"gifted", thinking that somehow I would find a way to help them succeed in
school. I worked with LD teachers, I worked one-on-one with kids after
school, I did cooperative learning and whole language - you name it, I
probably tried it, or saw other teachers try it. On the whole, it didn't
really make much difference, for one basic reason. "Success" was defined by
me, not them. The students were not doing something based on their own
interests and initiative.

And I don't see any cure to that, other than putting them in a Sudbury model
school, where they are treated with respect and given the freedom to choose
their own paths in life. That is where they are able to identify their own
special needs, and figure out the way they wish to have those needs met.

Melissa Bradford
Liberty Valley School