At-Risk Youth: What Can Be Done?
I realize that I went to the National Youth-At-Risk Conference earlier this month, and I have not written anything from it. Part of this reason is because I have so much else I have been wanting to write about. And part of this is that I am still processing what I learned.
For now, I will give my some initial thoughts. So, here are my top three take-aways:
- Poverty increases stress levels, which decreases brain function. Yes, I have written about this before (such as in Children and Poverty and the Brain, and Poverty, Stress, and the Brain). And, yes, there are plenty of exceptions of people who grew up in poverty who went on to achieve great success. But I heard talk after talk (and saw vast amounts of data) that illustrated this general principle. This decrease of brain function is often manifested in behavior that we often call “laziness” or “defiant.” We need to understand the source of the behaviors that we see, and focus on the core issue.
- Brains can change from negative function to positive. This fact was the most encouraging thing that I heard. Studies show that specific brain function can change in as little as 5 weeks. Of course, to reverse the decay of brain matter will take time and energy, but there is hope. We can do this!
- We need great teachers. We don’t necessarily need local teachers (though proximity does help when it comes to knowing the families of students). And we don’t need black male teachers to reach black male teachers (as explained by one of the presenters, who happened to be a black male). And we should continue to work at engaging parents and getting the community involved. But even absent all of that, having great teachers will make a difference in the lives of these students.
I plan to revisit these ideas in the near future (I hope).
I’d love to hear from you. What questions or comments do you have about any of these points?
- High-Quality Teachers
- Improving Our School Report Card
- Insight About Students and What They Need
**image courtesy of shofar via sxc.hu