Reflecting on the Monroe County Children’s Detention Center

In the spirit of double-dipping, my blog post this week will also be my reflection from my visit to the Monroe County Children’s Detention Center. I did not take pictures; it did not seem like the place to do so.

Both the tour and the discussion really opened my eyes to the intricacies to the criminal system as it applies to children and what that might mean for my future classroom and my practices. One new insight I gained through the experience was learning about the laws associated with minors in the penal system. The reduction of the population of children in detention centers means that there are more students than ever that are a part of the classroom who still have trials and pending court cases and dates. This adds another level of diversity in our classrooms now including students that may have been a part of the penal system. The result is students who are in and out of the classroom and may have gaps in their education, so that has to be addressed; the students still need to feel a part of the classroom and competent in the materials despite the missing school days, otherwise it can cause a disruptive class.

Another insight I gained was the type of education and the day-to-day life of the children in these detention centers. To be honest, I did not expect to see a lot of science work done. I was surprised to find that not only was there a lot science work up on the walls, but there was also a lot of good scientific discourse being used as well. I assumed that because of the circumstances the rigor and level of work would be vastly different, but that was not the case. There were pictures of students’ drawings of DNA molecules and a concept map about the different terms used in genetics. Looking at the student work I almost forgot I was in a children’s’ detention center, it just seemed like a non-traditional school building. The teachers who came in were RCSD employees and despite having to keep track of every potential materials used (since they would technically be contraband outside the class) and having a constantly changing class, create a really awesome classroom climate for these students.

As a science teacher, something I am wondering is how the students get their lab minutes or do any of the more intricate labs. The NYS relationships and biodiversity labs in particular require a lot of materials and rely on continuity in making the final conclusion. Since every student needs 1200 lab minutes to graduate, I wonder how that is accommodated in this setting. What would be the logistical pitfalls in doing labs and are they surmountable or are a lot of labs transitioned into a more paper-based form?

Another wondering I have regards the students who re-enter the classroom after time through the legal system for more petty crimes. What sorts of systems are in place to help these students come back into the classroom not just from an academic standpoint, but also a social one. It is already a difficult transition and when there are these constant interruptions in a child’s schooling, what can a school or a district do.

There was a lot I gained from our visit to the children’s detention center. The cultural pedagogy that I had been learning about came into play again, as many social factors came together to create yet another social identifier, one with its own unique challenges. But with all groups, we focus on the individuals and their learning and social needs. This visit help elucidate the problem, but there is a lot more I need to do before I help create a part of that solution.

So close to the end! Let’s do this!


One thought on “Reflecting on the Monroe County Children’s Detention Center

  1. Your experience sounds very eye-opening! I had a lot of students at my last placement that were on our roster, but that I never met, or met once or twice total. It is so hard to figure out how to catch those students up, and relieving that they are getting science education at the center!

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