Educating “Barrier” Children - The Human Cost
Lynn Gray, B.A., M.S.
It is an expensive and comprehensive task to educate a child. A central goal of education is to have children become successful, productive and caring human beings. A key concern is to get every child to graduate from high school. However, many students today come to our schools with a tremendous amount of mental and/or physical barriers. These “barrier children” face challenges which can include one of more of the following: single parent households, parents who lack employment, lack of basic nutritional meals, living in high poverty areas, and not intellectually on grade level of reading and math skills. We know that half of these children do not attend pre-school and come to class ill-equipped to keep up with the intellectual progress of their classmates.
These barriers impact parts of the demographic groups attending our public schools today. It is not surprising that these students are less likely to complete high school, and, thus, do not graduate. Furthermore, during their time in school they suffer from low self-esteem and become easily frustrated which often lead to behavioral problems. All too often these children will have a difficult time developing relationships with their peers.
How do we get our “barrier children” to succeed in getting their high school diploma? Can teachers alone fill in the gaps and interventions to facilitate success? No, not alone. Human resources from the community must be included.
As an educator working for years with this population, I have implemented a human resource model for intervention and positive change among barrier children. This model requires the investment of time of those individuals who will become role models. Working in a timeline fashion, each will bring both their experience and resources in bridging the gaps these children face. Hopefully, the end result will be that these challenged students will become successful, productive, and, yes, caring human beings.
The Human Resource Model
Human Resources needed:
Step 2: Develop relationship building through peer mentoring. The effective teacher will teach those students how to build relationships, solve problems, set goals, and help others. Eventually, pair up the “barrier child” to help another one of his/her peers on a routine basis. Again, recognize verbally to peers and significant others within the school.
Step 3: Develop productive relationships with business owners and local community leaders. The effective teacher brings in business owners and local leaders with the idea of one of them partnering or adopting a class or classes. These human resources from outside the school are the conduit to real world productivity. Routine visits established by the volunteer coordinator will demonstrate to “barrier children” how their “talents” can lead to success.
Step 4: Develop a collaborative relationship where a business owner or community leader becomes an official partner with the class(s). This could be in one or more subject areas such as: reading, math, music, art, vocational, and/or technical skills. Field trips become a reality; and, depending on the age of the children, an apprenticeship practice can begin either within school or at the workplace.
Lynn Gray has practiced this human resource model while at Middleton Middle School, an inner city school. Among other awards, Lynn Gray received recognition from implementing this model which included becoming a nominee for Teacher of the Year, nominated for Teacher of the Year finalist, and awarded the Peer Facilitator of the Year. Lynn continued to practice this model with modifications during her time in other Hillsborough County Public Schools, at Jesuit High School, and the JMJ Homeschool organization in Tampa.