Extra Credit


Enhancing Educators Capacity to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Being a teacher is a great responsibility that demands considerable capacity and competencies, such as - the skills, attitudes, knowledge, values, beliefs, ability to support and experience. Teachers are responsible for developing positive learning conditions and effectively address the diverse cultural, social and academic needs and demands of their learners. Being in direct contact with students, teachers have a very significant influence on their minds and behaviors. Teachers are capable of putting their students on a pass to successful futures. Although I already had an understanding of the critical role of educators, this article explores the matter in much more details and, therefore, I find it very insightful, thought-provoking and informative. The article rather complimented and helped me develop my ideas on the subject, rather than changed them.

Coggshall, Osher & Colombi (2013) explore such crucial issues as educators competencies, necessary to promote positive interactions with children, youth and their families, and approaches to enhancing those competencies. They argue that educators influence may be conducted in four general ways: educator-student relationships, educator attitudes and social emotional competence, ensuring conditions for learning, and educative approaches to discipline. They also stress on the necessity of implementing culturally relevant practices in classrooms, accentuating the mismatch between the number of students of color and that of the teachers of color. Considering high demands to teachers and the amount of responsibility implied by the profession, it is necessary to improve recruitment practices for teachers and increase teachers diversity. According to Coggshall, Osher & Colombi (2013), The most effective professional development opportunities for young teachers involve teachers active engagement, are collaborative and provide teachers feedback on their practice, such as collaborative coaching or lesson study (p. 442).

The importance of a positive teacher-student relationship is hard to overvalue. In order to reduce and stop the school-to-prison pipeline, teachers should pay particular attention to decreasing student anxiety; enhancing a positive, supportive and safe atmosphere within the classroom; perceiving all students as equally promising and talented, while neglecting every trace of possible subconscious prejudice and encouraging students to succeed, both in and out of school. Teachers should cater for intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of their learners choosing proper learning materials that would engage students, capture their attention and relate to their real-life experiences. Teacher attendance and emotional and social competence are vitally important when increasing the level of trust in relationships with students.

Teachers must understand the needs of their students, as well as the short- and long-term impact of their instructions on students learning and engagement. If teachers possess all the necessary professional capacities, they are very likely to help dismiss the school-to-prison pipeline. However, these capacities cannot be built instantly and must be cultivated throughout educators careers.

Youth Suicide Prevention

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Youth suicide cases appear to be a pressing problem in the U.S., especially for the age group of 10 24 year olds. Suicide rates vary by sex, race and ethnicity. In their article on youth suicide prevention, Gould & Kramer (2001) analyze the risk factors of completed and attempted suicide, and suggests a set of possible prevention strategies. Although none of the presented ideas were entirely new to me, I found this article informative, as it helped me visualize the situation by providing statistical data.

Among the most prevailing risk factors, are the following: psychiatric problems, such as previous suicidal behavior, depressive disorders and substance abuse; cognitive factors, which include association of hopelessness and suicidality, and poor inter-personal problem-solving ability. Stressful life events, such as interpersonal losses and legal or disciplinary problems, family factors, among which are parental divorce, less frequent and less satisfying communication between parents and children, family aggression and abuse; socioeconomic status that includes such issues as school and work problems, sexual orientation, and social isolation (youngsters who are not affiliated with rather school or work are more likely to commit suicide) all contribute to the rising suicide rates. Biological risk factors based on the level of serotonin in an organism and contagion, implying that suicide dramatized in the media encourages imitation is among one of the factors as well (Gould & Kramer, 2001, p. 10). Having established the potent risk suicide factors, it becomes possible to identify high-risk youth. For this purpose, Gould & Kramer (2001) identify the following main strategies: school-based suicide awareness curricula, screening, gatekeeper training, and crisis centres and hotlines (p. 12). The first strategy is built around an assumption that teenagers are more likely to turn to peers than to adults for support in dealing with suicidal thoughts; hence, it is important to facilitate self-disclosure, so that the youngsters are able to take responsible action. According to Gould & Kramer, this strategy proved to be not as effective as intended. The screening strategy includes such methods as self-report, individual interview and a second stage assessment. Gatekeeper training suggests education and training of natural community helpers adults who come to contact with suicidal youth in both schools and community. Among such adults are teachers, community workers, police, etc. Although Gould & Kramer suggest that this strategy has proven to be the most effective, I believe that it might be even more practical to combine all of the above in a single multi-strategic approach. For example, in schools this could be done by providing the necessary instructions to teachers, who could eventually apply all the methods and strategies in their classrooms, in order to achieve advantageous results.

Among the most effective risk factor reduction strategies are the following: media education, restriction of lethal means, postvention/ crisis intervention, and skills training. The latter implies the development of cognitive skills, coping, and problem-solving, based on the assumption that suicidal youth has deficits in these areas. In my opinion, this strategy could be effectively applied in classrooms, where the teachers work to create positive, safe and comfortable learning environment for every student, contributing to their harmonious and healthy personal, social and emotional development. Keeping in mind that suicide has many causes that are probably interactive, competent educators are most likely to detect and cater for the students anxiety, impulsivity and aggression, which can be regarded as indicators of suicidal behavior.

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