Kim Clayton @kaclayton tells her story of reaching students who have been “given up on” by many. You'll be encouraged not only to reach the unreachable star but to teach them! Remember why you're in the teaching profession and be the teacher and reacher!
This episode is sponsored by Bloomz.com
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Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Transcript for Episode 116
To Reach the Unreachable Stars
[Recording starts 0:00:00]
VICKI: Happy Motivational Monday, teachers. Today we’re having a conversation with somebody I feel like I’ve known forever and have collaborated with her, Kim Clayton @kaclayton from Texas. I finally got to meet her at ISTE, I was so excited. But she had left a comment on a post we had done a while back about how she’s a teacher of what other teachers might call “bad kids” but you know what? This is a really good story. So for those of your struggling with kids right now, let’s take a listen to Kim’s story.
So, Kim, tell us about your “bad kids” and to be clear, you don’t call them bad kids but other people probably would.
KIM: No, I don’t consider them bad kids at all. But I am currently working in a small school. This school is called the Simon Youth Academy http://syf.org/ and it is a joint collaboration or a joint partnership between the Simon Youth Foundation and the School district I work for which is Katy Independence School District here in the greater Houston Area. And this program is specifically for students who have dropped out of school and they are coming back and trying to finish up their high school diplomas.
Learn more about the Katy Mills Mall location of the Simon Youth Academy. Kim Clayton teaches youth that many have ignored. I first met Kim through global collaboration with Flat Classroom and am excited to see this new venture in my friend's life!
Build Trusting Relationships
Some of them have a lot left to finish, some of them may only have one or two classes. But the common denominator is that most of these kids, because they have dropped out of school, they feel very marginalized and they feel very, sometimes, unworthy. They’re not very trusting of adults and especially teachers and administrators because most of them have had a very bad experience somewhere along the line that has caused them to drop out of school and feel like they just could not continue in a large school environment. All of the high schools in our districts are very large.
Remember that students who are struggling often feel “unworthy” as Kim says. They are not trusting of our adults. Before you can teach, you have to reach. Before you can educate, you have to relate. We have to work to connect with students and build trusting relationships.
Difficult Students often come from Difficult Circumstances
So they come to us with a lot of issues and some of them, to be frank are kind of unlovable. And the very cool thing is we have very small classes. My largest class last year was four students. And so I really get to know the kids, I get them to be able to trust an adult and all of the teachers that our academy are very good at understanding kind of what these kids need.
I’ve had students that have been in jail, I’ve had students that have children, I have students that have run away from home, many of them have been kicked out of their homes by their parents. And so these are the kids that when you have them in a traditional classroom are considered the bad kids. Most teachers do not want to work with these kids who might be acting up not for anything the teacher is doing but just because there’s circumstances in their lives that make it very difficult for them to learn.
VICKI: And I’m tearing up just as I listen because every child deserves love.
KIM: We tear up almost every day, Vicki.
VICKI: It just breaks my heart because, honestly, some of the kids I teach, anybody could teach. I can sit alone in a classroom with a book and teach themselves. And I feel like when I “earned my keep” as a teacher is when I reached those kids that everybody else has written off. And that’s all you have. So tell us a story about the difference you’re making.
We have to be the kind of teachers who reach kids, not write them off. Be a difference maker.
A Story of a Grocery Clerk Who Changed Course and Got Her Diploma
KIM: Well, let me tell you a story about one of our students who graduated this past year and I must add this was the first year of this program so this was our inaugural graduating class and we had 11 that would not have graduated had it not been for us. And so that makes me feel like I’m doing my job. But I want to tell you a story. [Name removed] actually came to us kind of half way through the year, she came to us through her boyfriend who is a student at our academy.
And he just happened to mentioned, well, by the way I have a girlfriend and she’s living with my family and she didn’t finish high school either. And so my principal reached out to her and came in and she only had a credit and a half to finish. And this poor little girl, very beaten down had been in the foster system since she was 12 years old, doesn’t have a home, has been living with the boyfriend and the boyfriend’s family for the past two and a half years since she’s been dating the boyfriend.
And was working at a local grocery store as a checker and really thought that’s what she’d be doing for the rest of her life. And I think she was just very shy, very meek, very deferential to her boyfriend and we started talking with her and realized she was incredibly bright, incredibly capable, she had just never been given a chance. And we found out that in our state if you have been in a foster system anytime during your middle school and high school age group you are entitled to a free education at a state college. And she did not know that and we did not know that.
When she found out that she was going to be able to go to college, if she finished high school, this really motivated her and really empowered her. We saw her just blossom.
KIM: The day she finished – our kids graduate, basically, when they finish. We have a graduation ceremony but when they finish they’re done. And when she finished she walked into my room with the biggest smile on her face and I just burst out into tears because you know that you’re making a difference when you see a girl go, “I’m going to college, Ms. Clayton.” And it’s like, “Yes, you’re going to college.”
And this is the girl who thought she’d be working at the grocery store for the rest of her life. And so that is why I continue doing what I do. It’s for those kids. And this girl is 20. So she had dropped out of school several years ago and coming back and finishing at the age of 20 which is just very cool.
Game changers. That is who we need to be. Like Kim, you can change the life of children and young adults.
A Pep Talk to Reach Kids Who Struggle
VICKI: So Kim, this is Motivational Monday and honestly I think every teacher has “those kids.” Those kids who you struggle to love or those kids who just have a hard time. Hurting people hurt people, and they’re hurting. And so they lash out.
And I just want everybody listening to be the kind of teacher who is like you, Kim, and goes for these kids and takes the gauntlet of the challenge of “this is somebody I’m going to reach. “
So give us the pep talk to do what it takes to reach those kids who struggle.
KIM: Well, my advice to you is just don’t give up. It’s so easy when you’re in a traditional classroom especially if you have 25-35 kids and you have that one child that is lashing out at you, that is causing problems or you have that one child that is quiet and you can’t reach and you know there is something there.
Find it in you to be with that child, to be what that child needs and to reach or to approach that child where they are rather than where you think they ought to be because a lot of these kids have home environments that we cannot even envision. I don’t know what it’s like to be homeless, I don’t know what it’s like to be in poverty.
And if we can just meet these kids where they are and be accepting of them, these kids will start to perform for you and they’ll start to open up to you and it just makes all the difference in the world.
You can make all the difference in the world. Just start by getting to know students. Then, you can teach them.
Reach the Unreachable Stars
VICKI: So at risk of somebody just thinking this is ridiculous, but I keep hearing that wonderful song from Don Quixote to reach the unreachable star, because these kids are stars.
KIM: That is true, they are stars. And just because they have dropped out of school – most of these kids are extremely bright, they have not dropped out of school because they are not capable, they have dropped out of school because they have had a bad experience. And we as teachers need to make sure we’re not part of that bad experience.
VICKI: Totally we need to be the one reaching the star, not making them unreachable.
VICKI: Remarkable educators, I don’t know what other motivation we all need to really go try to reach that unreachable star today. So I just encourage you, take that child who is your unreachable star and make an extra effort today just because you heard what Kim said.
Thank you to Today's Sponsor
Today's show is ponsored by Bloomz I've been using Bloomz for three years now and I love it. Go to www.coolcatteacher.com/bloomz to find out why Bloomz is the best parent-teacher communication system out there. I've included a comparison matrix with features to help you figure out what system is best for you.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)
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