NUMBER 179 • 7 JANUARY 2003 • STREETSMART KIDS
INDEX OF QUOTES
Despite the obstacles, developing an awareness of streetcorner games can make educators’ professional lives more rewarding. Streetwise kids are skilled manipulators who have found that they can "con" most of the people with whom they have come in contact. While these kids may like us, they will never respect us, and work for us unless they realize that we cannot be "conned." If we are naive and continue to fall victim to their "set-ups," we will repeatedly be made a pawn in their games.
Development of "streetsmarts" is an especially important task for educators because streetcorner youngsters view those who can be victimized as being unworthy of respect (Foster, 1986; McIntyre, 1992). Along with learning "streetsmarts," there are certain techniques, required of all teachers, that must be mastered and demonstrated to a higher degree by those who teach streetwise youngsters. These include making the subject matter interesting to students by relating it to their experiences and interests, and helping them understand why the material is important to their future success. Also included are modifications to ensure that learning and teaching styles match. Those teaching styles must include fun, interactive activities, and enthusiastic presentation in order to motivate students to participate and achieve. To further enhance their ability to work with these youngsters, teachers must add the traits of persistence, tenacity, assertiveness, and cultural and personal respect for their students (McIntyre, 1992).
Along with becoming streetsmart and modifying lessons and style of presentation, effective teachers of streetwise youth build and maintain strong personal bonds with their students (McIntyre, 1992). They do so by making themselves available to their kids outside of class time and by demonstrating authentic concern about issues in the lives of their charges. During these contacts, they are patient and attentive listeners. Back in the classroom, these consummate educators build a positive and supportive peer culture and avoid public punishment for wrongdoing, an especially important point, as public embarrassment disrupts the student-teacher bond, creates conflict, and destroys motivation to succeed in class.
Indeed, to maintain the respect of their socially maladjusted students, educators must avoid not just the ignoring and passive (read "wimp") avenues to discipline, but also the mis2uided educational folklore that claims we must "iron-hand" these youngsters with a rigid, punitive (read "prison guard") approach. With regard to the latter focus, what we have available to coerce students often is not half as bad as what many experience at home or on the streets. In either case, we appear powerless. Effective discipline with streetwise youth involves modeling appropriate behavior, using humor or distraction to nip misbehavior in the bud, and reacting in an understandable, firm, consistent, and confident manner when youngsters attempt to victimize others. Victimization tactics should be replaced with positive traits, such as courage and empathy, that are perhaps best taught in "manly" ways so as to be appreciated and accepted by our streetcorner youth.
Whenever we work on behavioral change, we must ensure that students are treated with dignity and respect. Master urban teachers use respectful intervention to avoid conflict and subsequent escalation. In conflict situations, they seek to de-escalate student-teacher tension rather than trying to overpower pupils and "teach them who’s boss." However, this negotiation is conducted in an assertive manner so that one does not appear weak or frightened. They compromise without "caving in." It is important for educators to maintain a calm and confident demeanor that does not appear either threatened or threatening.
It is also paramount that educators of antisocial youth promote prosocial behavior by conveying their belief in their youngsters’ ability to change and succeed. This belief in youngsters’ ability to "turn things around" has been reported by now successful, but formerly "at risk," youth as the one major thing that helped them escape the unfortunate life fate of most of their peers. Master teachers never "give up" on a youngster, and they recognize effort and progress, however small.
Macintyre, T. (1996). Earning the Respect of Streetwise Youngsters. Reclaiming Children and Youth. Winter 1996 pp. 40-41.
Foster, H. (1986). Ribbin', jibbin', and playin', the
dozens (2nd ed.) Amherst, N.Y: Foster and Associates.
MacIntyre, T. (1992) Teaching urban behavior-disordered youth. In R. Peteron & S. Ishii-Jordon (Eds). Multicultural issues in the education of students with behavioral disorders. Boston: Brookline