What Skills Can Teachers Learn from Teachers in a Correctional Environment?
By Hilderbrand Pelzer III
Author of Unlocking Potential
BEING A TEACHER is a great responsibility, and being a teacher in a correctional environment is an even greater one. A well-defined personality, confidence in one’s knowledge of what to do, and not having fear of the inmates are essential to working as an educator in a prison system.
Incarcerated people, including young people, come from many backgrounds. Some have not been taught how to speak to others; some will make crude remarks. The teacher must have control of the classroom, and that control comes from engaging lessons and much encouragement. Many incarcerated school-age youths have not had good instruction in the past. When they find a teacher really wants to teach them, their attitudes change and they become serious about learning and look forward to it.
Certain qualities and strengths are necessary to work comfortably in a correctional environment and focus on what a good teacher is expected to do: produce an educated individual. The following list identifies some “must-have” characteristics of an excellent correctional educator. It is not a short list!
Correctional education requires courage, tolerance, and knowledge of the world. One must know oneself to be comfortable in an environment that may seem repressive and at times dangerous. You are a living example—someone who performs your duty and believes firmly in education in a correctional setting. When inmate learners are shown respect, given ex- plicit directions, encouraged to learn and improve themselves, they come to believe that they can—and they do!
Do you think these skills can apply to your school setting? I want to hear from you.
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