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Teaching Science in Prison

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Teaching Science in Prison

Season 3 · Episode 10

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Description

Science education occurs in juvenile detention centers, as part of the schooling available to young people there so that they can receive their high school equivalency certification. Guests Rachel and Kasina talk about their experiences teaching science and other subjects to boys and young men in these institutions. They describe the constraints and opportunities in these classrooms and how they compare to schools on the outside.

The cover art for this episode alludes to the activity mentioned where a class forms a scale model of the solar system with the sun as a basketball.

Our closing music is “Yes And” by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Subscribe and leave episode reviews wherever you get your podcasts. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon or by buying a copy of the reference book Engineer's Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong. You'll also be supporting educational tools and projects like Chordinates! or The Calculator Gator. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.

Transcript

Pius: Youth in juvenile detention centers still take science classes. Let’s hear about it on The K12 Engineering Education Podcast.

 

Pius: Juvenile detention center, lockdown facility, treatment center. These are all different phrases for similar environments, and here we'll call it basically what it is. It's prison.  It’s prison with young people, and these young people still need to get educated. My name is Pius. I'm an engineer and your host, and today I'm joined by Rachel and Kasina, who’ve both taught high school science for youth in prison. What was it like? And what can we learn about science education from those experiences? Listen in, next.

 

Pius: I've got two special guests here, because we’re going to talk about a thing that I don't know very much about.

 

Rachel: It’s a good thing, though.

 

Pius: It’s a very good thing. It's teaching in prisons? Is that a great way to talk about it?

 

Rachel: Sure.  Teaching in a secure environment.

 

Kasina: Alternative learning institutions.

 

Rachel: Sure. Adjudicated youthful offender facilities.

 

Pius:  There are a lot of acronyms involved, is what I’m already learning.

 

Kasina:  Yes.

 

Rachel:  Big words.

 

Pius:  So listeners of the podcast have already met Rachel before probably.

 

Rachel:  Hi, listeners.

 

Pius:  They might not know that you actually have a background in one of these facilities.

 

Rachel:  I don't know that it's come up before.

 

Pius: So maybe you can talk about your experience briefly.

 

Rachel:  I’m going to try to make a long story short.  In the early 2000s, moved home to the to the East Coast where I'm from to help my mom take care of some family stuff, and didn't want to hang around the small town that I was living in. And so when things were kind of under control I just started looking for jobs, you know, in New York City and Baltimore, Boston, couple other cities. But I really kind of wanted to stay back East for a while and ended up getting a job in Boston working for a nonprofit.  And I was a science teacher in a secure treatment facility for adjudicated youthful male offenders.  So what that means is they have committed some sort of crime, and they have traveled through the court system, and they have been sentenced to long-term treatment, and usually this is dialectical behavior therapy or cognitive behavior therapy. But it's in a residential treatment center, because these are the kinds of boys -- and  they ranged in age from 12 to 20 -- who did things like shoot cops in the face or sell cocaine to six-year-olds on the school property.

 

Pius:  Were they tried as adults?

 

Rachel:  No, that's the deal. They are sentenced to these secure treatment facilities as youth. Some of them did commit crimes that were so heinous that once they turn 21, we call that aging out, and some of them were then transferred to adult facilities. And at that point they're not in treatment anymore. They're just in jail.

 

Pius:  We're going to get back to that.  So Kasina, I was wondering if you could talk briefly about your experience teaching and in prisons.

 

Kasina:  Right.  So I am pretty new to this.  I actually only started last semester. I joined the Adult Education division through Austin Community College, and I got placed as a GED teacher at Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center Juvenile Probation. So I work with students who come to the facility for long-term placement, and they’ll live there in the residential services for more than 6 months, many for a few years. They are all minors, usually between 16 and 18. If they end up in my classroom, it means that they come in and they've missed so much class up to this point that they don't have enough credits to finish a high school diploma, basically, before they get out, so they come in, and we work to get them a GED. So I am working with them on all subjects, all levels, and this is my second semester doing it.

 

Pius:  We have a range of experience in and out of Texas.  So we'll start with Rachel maybe. Since you focused on science back then, right off the bat, I mean you taught in public schools and other environments.

 

Rachel:  Yeah.

 

Pius:  What is unique about teaching in a treatment facility?

 

Rachel:  So many things.  So the kids are very different.  They come with a different set of skills. They come with a different psychology.  They come with a wider, I think, range of perspectives than what you might consider in an average public school. They come with typically a different level of maturity, as well, though, at least -- In the treatment center I worked in, a lot of our kids had been living on the street, essentially, or been running in gangs, basically since they were 9 or 10. So they might be 16, but emotionally they were 9 or 10 still. So coping mechanisms are always a concern. Again because this is a major city with some major problems and some real inner city gangs, placement -- you know just putting kids into the right classroom -- can be a challenge, because you have to find out if they have an outside problem with any of the other kids in the facility.  Because if you put a kid from ABC gang in a classroom with a kid from XYZ gang, there's going to be a fight, and it’s not going to be pretty.

 

Pius:  You add multiple classrooms, and you could decide who was going to work together.

 

Rachel:  Yeah, we had -- At the facility I was at, I want to say we had about 120-ish, somewhere between 80 and 120 boys total, and they were split across three different programs. and so we ended up usually having classes of 8 to 10 but we had you know about 10 of them. And when I say 10 classes, I don't mean 10 science classes. We had 10 classrooms, and there were 10 kids per class roughly at any given time.

 

Pius:  Okay. And since you only taught science, I presume you had other colleagues who taught the other subjects.

 

Rachel:  Yeah, we actually had two science teachers, two math teachers, an art teacher, and two English teachers, as well.

 

Pius:  All right.  I understand that’s very different from your experience, Kasina.  What’s yours like?

 

Kasina:  Well, this was all very new to me.  I'm coming in with no background in STEM education and only limited work with high school students, and all in foreign language, so it's been a learning experience for me, as well as for the students.  But I have one classroom, and it's always mine, so that's really nice.  We have materials that stay in there permanently. The students live in a building that's right next to it.  I come into a separate building, and then they come in from the building where they live long-term on their unit. And I have had anywhere from between 2 to 7 students at a time. 

 

Pius:  So one thing I noticed was that Rachel had said that she had freedom in how to group kids, for example.  Do you work in groups?  Especially for science classes and even math classes, I feel like the trend today is to get project-based learning and hands-on stuff.  Can you have group work and hands-on stuff in your program?

 

Kasina:  Group work is tough, if I try to split the kids up.  But usually the whole class setting actually works really well.  They'll keep each other going, and since I've only had very small classes, it's been really possible that we can all interact together, or their preferred model would be one-on-one.  They would all like more one-on-one time, and that's clear that in the beginning they resist the attention, but a couple weeks in, you can tell what they've been missing in their educational experience has been one-on-one time with the teacher.

 

Pius: How can you tell that?

 

Kasina:  Because sometimes they’ll specifically ask you to just sit there and work through things with them, and they realize how much more they like doing something if they can ask questions and get them immediately answered and get the immediate affirmation of getting something right.  It becomes really important to them for you to know how they're doing. You know, this person who hasn't wanted to do any work and has skipped years of school suddenly will turn around and yell across the classroom for you to hear that they did pretty well on a quiz they just took.  So that's different from other classrooms for me.

 

Pius:  That’s interesting.  And Rachel, you’ve been nodding.

 

Rachel:  That’s absolutely true. The kids that I taught, again they just hadn't been in school. There were tremendous gaps in their progress in their transcript.  They're all over the place, and because they're sentenced anywhere from 2 months to 2 years, I don't know how long necessarily they'll be there or what they'll be able to participate in, and they know that, and they know where they were in the public school.  Or what they used to say is, I know where I was on the out.  And they'll try to you know catch you up to speed with where they were and what they were working on last, and when you have that information, you're able to work with them a little more one-on-one.  And they love that. They thrive under that, and they will work so much harder when they realize -- or when you can demonstrate to them as an adult, I’m here for you.  I want you to succeed.  I'm going to give you some of those tools.  I don't know.  They recognize that you're being authentic, that you are interested in their success, and they will say, Can you come sit and just help me through it?  I mean, they say it in their own way, but that's what they want. They are working through it.  But they sometimes just need a pat on the back, or you got this, or some, you know, some more questioning. Elicit the responses from them.  And they do.  They dig it.  They thrive on it.  They do better and better and more and more.

 

Pius:  Would you say that’s different from, like, any kid, or is this something that's more pronounced, I guess, in a detention center?

 

Rachel:  I think it’s more pronounced.

 

Pius:  Because they’ve lacked it.

 

Rachel:  Yeah.  I wonder how much of it comes not just from a place of, look at me being successful educationally, but, look at me having a good rapport with another human being. At least for my kids.

 

Pius:  Sure.  You’re not just teaching science.  I mean you are, but you’re teaching --

 

Rachel:  Social skills.  Positive human interactions.

 

Kasina:  Trust. 

 

Rachel:  Yes.

 

Kasina:  A lot of it’s trust.  You can trust me that all I care about is you learning these things, and I will keep forcing you to learn it.  I mean, I think to a certain extent I have students who like when I get exasperated, because I won't let them get off task, and there’s sort of this playful banter, where, I’m not going to do anything.  But I need you to do this.  Why?  Because I need you to work on math.  What if I want to do this?  First you have to do the math, you know?  And then the next day, it's the same thing, and we work on the math.  And I think, you know, they resent it or get tired or bored, but they also appreciate that you’re not going to quit, that I still want you to do this math, and it's the only thing I want from you, is your success.

 

Pius:  Is that challenging to face that playful resistance?

 

Kasina:  I mean there are some times that it feels just like dealing with, what I would imagine dealing with any teenager is like, where it’s exhausting on a certain level, but there's also that rewarding feeling when you realize how much they enjoy just this interaction.  And knowing that they can rely on you to always take the same role.  I'm going to keep insisting that you do this work.  I'm going to keep believing that you will succeed, and just not giving up on that no matter how much they, you know, want to put their head down or draw or just not pay attention.

 

Rachel:  I think you absolutely nailed it.  I can think of a couple of specific examples.  It didn't happen in my classroom, but it happened in a couple of other teachers’ classrooms, where they would get so exasperated that they would give up on that one student, and then that student never ever responds to that educator again.  I mean, they're just like, you want to give up on me?  Forget it.

 

Pius:  Like, in prison, or you’re talking about just any --

 

Rachel:  Well, I’ve seen it happen in public school, for sure, absolutely.  But especially in this environment, it’s so important -- When that kid sees that level of consistency and commitment and trust and authenticity from an adult, that my expectations of your success are not going away, you can be successful, and you will be successful, because it's my job to help make you successful, and then if you find -- If they fight you, and you give up that fight, they're done with you. 

 

Pius:  Like, the way you describe it, I'm like, I don't know if I could do it.  How do you get that --

 

Rachel:  No, they’re sweet.  I mean, they’re criminals, but they’re sweet, right?

 

Kasina:  I think the way that it’s been working for me with my new students, they come in, and there’s sort of this, like, trial period. And they're very, very quiet in this time, and there’s not a lot of opening up, and then the first thing that usually happens is, we start off with a lot of tests.  We do baseline tests and then progress tests.  Then we do tests in different subjects to figure out what we need to work on, right?  Usually it’s not so much how far behind they are, but where are the gaps?  There are just whole subjects that will be missing.  They’re doing great on algebra, but no geometry, something like that.  You have to figure out where those are, and the way it usually looks is a bad test.  That’s usually my first opportunity to explain what I expect.  That I'm not disappointed in them, that this has nothing to do with how smart they are, this is what they're missing, this is what we’re going to focus on, this is what I’m going to make them do every day until they pass it, and then they can pass the test, right?  And it's just that sort of mentality, and I'm just going to keep doing it everyday, sort of that understanding.  And then there comes a time when they get tired of it.  The first time they say they don’t want to do anything, they just want to put their head down, they’re just going to leave.  And instead of freaking out, I say, yes you are.  You're going to come back, and you're going to do this math, and at the end of the week, you’re going to pass the test, and you know, that sort of --

 

Pius:  Consistency.

 

Kasina:  Yeah, the consistency.

 

Pius:  Solidness, or something.

 

Kasina.  Yeah.  And never -- I guess when they realize that there's really nothing else that you want from them, and that they don't have anything else to use.  There is no bargaining.  I believe in you, you're here to learn, you're going to learn, I know you can learn, and I can keep saying this for days and days and days, right?  And I think there's this reliability.

 

Pius:  So it sounds lie you, as teachers, you have to have some level of patience, which might be more than the average person.  Or something you develop.  I don't know.

 

Rahel:  I think it’s different.  So first of all, you're not dealing with 170 kids.  You have 60, maybe.  You have fewer kids overall.  You have smaller classes.  Just the expectations are different. There is no other agenda, I think, is kind of what Kasina was saying.  That I am here to teach, and you were here to learn.  I expect that you will learn, and you can rely on me to teach.  And that really is all there is.  So there is no bargaining.  There's no -- Because you're limited by safety constraints and things like that, there's also not a lot of that external, like, socialization. Like you said, project-based learning is very difficult.  So some of the activities that you would engage in, in a public school or charter school or even a private school, just don't occur, and you're left with nothing but good teaching solid learning.

 

Pius:  Can you give an example?  Because I’m thinking, okay, science class.  Normally we take microscopes and -- How do you do that?

 

Rachel: So I will say one of the good things about the nonprofit where I taught was that they just said you have to align your -- whatever curriculum you use, we’ll leave it completely up to you. There's a great deal of autonomy.  It just has to fit into the Mass Frameworks, and that was a long time ago, clearly, because it wasn't Common Core then.  But that left me a lot of flexibility, so I could choose biology or Earth and space science or geology.  I mean there were lots and lots of things to choose from, so I chose Earth and space science, because so much of that can be done without specialized equipment.  There was -- I wanted to do a scaling activity where the students would be able to sort of experience how big the solar system is, by making a model themselves.  So we had to use, like, a grain of sand and place it next to a basketball, and that kind of thing, and then the students became the other planets.  But that meant we had to go outside.  And what that meant for me as a teacher and an aspiring administrator was that I had to work with the residential administration staff to get an extra an extra residential staff person in the classroom on that day, because we had to transport the kids outside, which meant they had to go through two locked doors, and we had to have two staff standing out by the fence, because the range of where the basketball, which was the sun -- And the basketball stayed in my classroom.  And the farthest person, who was the planet Pluto, back when Pluto was still a planet, was about 220 yards away, I think, was the way I had the students do the math to scale it.  And so having all those complexities isn't always something you think about in a traditional environment.  You just take your kids outside, and they've already done their calculations, and you send them down the field, and --

 

Pius:  You don’t have to have someone watch.

 

Rachel:  I don’t have to call in extra staff and pay overtime.

 

Pius:  Was it still effective, you think, in teaching that way?

 

Rachel:  The kids were blown away.  They had never done math in a science class, because again, they hadn't been participating in education since maybe fourth fifth sixth grade.  So they haven't done math in a science class, or at least from their perspective, they hadn't.  And for them to do something that was hands-on and fun, and they got to go outside and it was part of school?  Oh my gosh.  Their perspective really was, wow, I didn't know the school could be like that.  So you know, there is that simplicity of just, like I said, teaching and learning.  And those truly matched expectations between student and teacher.  But it does come with its own set of drawbacks.  I couldn't have microscopes.  I couldn't bring in rock samples for students to examine, because they would be potential weapons. We couldn't do a lot with, for example, compasses, you know?  They have a very sharp pointy thing.

 

Pius:  Rulers? Protractors?

 

Rachel:  No rulers.  No protractors.  Because you can slice someone with them.

 

Pius:  Calculators? Computers?

 

Rachel:  We did have computers.  And we had very slow internet, and I had my students do a research project that in a normal or average -- or in a public school, might have taken two days or two 90-minute blocks, and it took my students about two and a half weeks.  But you know what?  I still have those projects.  I keep them in a folder, and I go back and visit. They're not all at grade level.  This was a 10th or 11th grade class.  But for these kids, it was their best work, and they were so proud of what they could do, because I allowed them the flexibility to be able to, and they had not been afforded that before.  Or maybe they had, but they hadn't recognized it.  They probably were used to being “failures.”  They probably were used to being unsuccessful.  They were definitely used to being absent.  They probably had heard over and over, you can't, or you're never gonna.  I mean, these are all hurtful, awful phrases, and if you hear it enough, you're probably going to believe it.  And so the most effective teachers that we had at our campus were the ones who looked at these kids, refused to be afraid because, I mean, I've got security staff in the room, and they were shooting cops.  I'm not a cop.  They don't see me as a threat.  And because of that, and because of those more simple agendas -- you will learn, and I will teach -- there was no reason for me not to allow them that opportunity. And if there were administrative challenges or barriers in the way, I would tell them that is my job to take care of.  I will take care of it, or we'll find something else to do.  Your job is to meet my expectations, period.  And they did, and it was amazing. That, I think, was what for me made working in that environment so rewarding and fulfilling.

 

[music interlude]

 

Kasina:  Yeah, so I've had two students so far who finished their GEDs.

 

Pius:  Congratulations, to them and Kasina.

 

Kasina:  Thank you.  With one I was only there at the end, and with the other, I helped him through all the subject tests. I think that’s one of the biggest differences between what I'm hearing from Rachel.  It’s just that since I'm in a classroom where the goal is sort of, unfortunately, teaching for the test, I have a lot of freedom, but there are a lot of things we don't do.  So there are a lot of projects we don't do.  There are a lot of things I can't bring into the classroom.  That's the same.  But luckily, and I'm going to brag about the Travis County system just a little bit here, that the supervisor at Gardner-Betts Nathaniel Whitfield is really, really awesome and hooks these kids up with a lot of different programs, as well.  I don't do a lot of hands-on science work with them.  When we do it, we do mostly concepts, right?  Science concepts for the GED is basically a reading test. But I will talk about that a little more later, because I have found that that has actually been really successful.  Anyways, more of the hands-on stuff comes when Mr. Whittfield can get them into robotics classes that they get to take, in addition to the GED classroom, so then they didn't they get those classes that they’re taking during the week.  There are computer classes that they take.  Some of them are software, but some of them are hardware, like engine repair and then computer repair.  So they really get to take these things apart and learn how they work, and they love those classes where they get to break things, put them back together.  They get really excited for those, and he puts them in there, basically, you know, as soon as he can.  A lot of them go on to take community college classes, as well, at the same time that they’re residents.  And then in my classroom since it's mostly conceptual, the way I tried to get them excited about it was showing them that in my classroom, they could actually choose whatever we would talk about.  So I had, like, you know, the test skills that they had to learn are the main concepts, and then they could choose any sort of subject to focus on. So for a long time we did just animals, all kinds of stuff with animals.  We used animals to learn about muscles and skeletons and cells and everything, but then we learned about food chains, you know?  You could use any kind of -- you could choose a specific.  We want to talk about sharks. One week it was, we all want to get really tough, so we got to talk about how you get a six-pack, so we would talk about calories.  But it was really fun for me, too, because then it was really this sort of engagement together. I was like, look, I have to teach you these things, but, you know, I have the freedom to do it however I want, so you tell me what you want to learn.  And they got into that.  They really appreciated being able to choose to a certain extent.

 

Pius:  It's like a game.

 

Kasina.  It was. That's what it was.  They were trying to see if they could get away with something, you know?  Would I somehow end up not teaching them any of the stuff I was supposed to?  Never happened.  I managed to teach them no matter what.  But it was fun.  And then they would get into it, and they would ask questions and get involved.  It was a really good experience.  Last semester we did more science, because I had a few who were near the end of their subject tests.  Right now we're mostly working on math, because I have a few who -- Well, I have four who have to finish their math test, so we've been doing a lot of math lately. They do have calculators, and we do have computers, and they love using the computer.  They always want to use the computer. They get to use Khan Academy.  And something about, again, just the one-on-one.  But they get to choose whatever it is, and that it responds, and we just -- II mean, they can't access anything else, but they love that.  They could do that, I don't know, for hours. It’s amazing.

 

Pius: That’s interesting.  I have to keep reminding myself that you’re teaching kids, so they’re used to the internet, probably, and Khan Academy-type-stuff, or no?

 

Kasina:  I think some of mine miss having computer access, and so it’s monitored pretty strictly, but they were using it at AISD if they were at AISD.  A lot of them who come into my class transfer their -- The first thing that happens when they come into the system is they go into the AISD day classes that are at Gardner Betts.  So there are a lot of students who are taking regular high school classes at the detention center, actually, just down the hall from me. But then their teams decide whether or not that's best.  They have a team of case worker, counselor, Mr. Whitfield is involved and then other staff.  Somehow they magically end up in my class.  I usually don't find out until shortly before they end up -- I just sort of find out the day before or that day, you’re getting a new student.  So then we have to figure out what we're going to work on, you know?

 

Pius:  I like, with your students, together you decide what you’re going to learn.  How much choice do you have in the environment?  Like the computers that are available, or if you can bring props, or if they can go outside to do some kind of special activity.  Do you have a lot of freedom in that respect?

 

Kasina:  In my situation, getting them outside would be really tough.  But I have a lot of freedom otherwise.  The materials that we use all stay in the classroom.  The computers and the textbooks.  So that's all pretty much up to me, and the staff -- I also always have a staff member -- And more bragging.  They've been really great.  They're really supportive.  I was nervous about that.  That was new to me, having another adult in the classroom all the time sort of watching.  But it's been really great for the learning atmosphere, too, because they usually have a really good relationship with the students.  Sometimes it's really strict.  Sometimes it's much more playful.  And it’s been neat to see all of those.  That’s something I didn't know before working in this institution, that there were so many people who could relate to the children or the students in so many levels in positive ways.

 

Kasina:  You said that you did have limited teaching experience before, but do you think that anything that anything you've done in the institution, that applies to outside, like in public schools in general?  Or are there any skills or tips and tricks that you think other people should know about based on your experience?

 

Kasina:  I think I never realized how much what seems like a difficult or disruptive or even sort of rebellious behavior is, I guess, to use the cliche, a call for attention.  I mean, what I've found out in the institution is just how much these kids want someone to sit there and care and be patient and have that sort of playful back-and-forth that you would expect from a parent or guardian or somebody who would just continue to believe in you and continue to force you to do the good, boring thing.  Open up the math book.  You are going to do it. 

 

Pius:  Rachel, do you have anything that helped you when you went off to other places?

 

Rachel:  Well, I think working in a place where -- You know, I mean, I'm small.  I'm short, right? And these boys were mostly big, big boys, and knowing that I could just walk into the classroom and still managed to earn their actual respect, which is really difficult from kids who run their own lives and live sort of a street life -- earning their respect is incredibly hard, and when you don't, it is beyond apparent, and it actually becomes a problem.  Understanding that I was capable of doing that, without needing to, as they would say, force it, I could just be a good teacher and a good person, and that was enough, and that was fine, really has helped me out when I moved back into public schools.  Because you still have kids who are in charge of their younger brothers and sisters, or they're in charge of cousins, or they might be transitional or homeless, and they're trying to manage their own life.  They don't need to be bossed by an adult, you know?  And understanding how to talk to them, how to care for them, how to still continue to teach and guide them really has been super helpful.  I think it's made me a better teacher, but it's also just made me a better person.  God bless those boys. 

 

Kasina:  They are pretty great.

 

Rachel:  They are.  They’re good kids.

 

Kasina:  I really --

 

Rachel:  I mean, they’re not always good people, but they’re good kids.

Kasina:  Yeah.  I always say -- I mean, I know that they're in there for a reason, for good reasons.

 

Rachel:  Yes.

 

Kasina:  But I did not expect them to be so funny or so likeable, you know?

 

Rachel:  And vulnerable.

 

Kasina.  Vulnerable for sure.  I think Rachel's absolutely right, but it's very rewarding, every day. It's exhausting. And, you know, it's sad at times.  In my position I don't know anything about exactly why they've ended up with me at Gardner Betts, and I like it that way.  But whenever I do learn things, you know, it’s always sad.  It's never good stuff that I learn.

 

Rachel:  No.

 

Kasina:  But we still have a good time in the classroom.  We really do.  In general, you know, we have tough days, but I would say that we have a lot of fun together.  And I think they would never admit it, they would never admit that they really liked it.  But I think sometimes -- like, we had spring break, and I feel like Monday when we got back was one of the easiest days I've ever had with them, because I think they were all pretty glad to be back in the classroom.

 

Rachel:  Yeah. They get bored. Like our kids, one of the sanctions that they could face was missing school. They -- I mean, no, they would turn their act around right then and there if they thought that they would miss school, because otherwise they sit in their room locked in all day, and so, no, they would rather be in the school, even with a mean teacher with high expectations who makes them do stuff.  And what I was going to say, Kasina, is, so not too long after I left that position in Massachusetts or in Boston, I actually saw one of my kids outside of the facility.  He had been released.  He had completed his transitional care, and he was working at a Target, and when I ran into him, he was actually on the phone with his girlfriend, and he was like, Miss Rachel?  Miss Rachel?!  Hold on baby, wait, I got to tell you, I just ran into -- Remember that science teacher I was telling you about?  She’s standing here! He went into a whole thing about how he had never understood the different, like, phases of the moon and how big the solar system was.  He was in on that activity.  And he said you're the only teacher that ever really liked teaching me, and I swear to God, I sat right down in the middle of Target and bawled my eyes out, because this is a kid who -- There are people in society who would say he's a criminal, he's no good, lock him up, you know, so on and so forth, but for a kid to be that enthusiastic over, you know, six weeks worth of science lessons, those people are wrong, and there is something there.  So when you when you run into those kids later, and you say, Oh they'll never admit that they enjoyed being with you and their time with you, yeah, they will.  Yeah.  And they'll be on the phone with somebody, and it'll be fantastic.

 

Pius:  What do juvenile detention centers or treatment facilities or prisons need to better educate or teach their students?  What would you need to better teach?

 

Kasina:  This is probably a cop-out, because the real answer would be, we just need -- we need these students not to end up in the juvenile detention center.  From what I can tell so much of it is that they didn't they couldn't stick with school before.  If they had been able to stay in school before, they’d still be there, right?  They wouldn't have wound up in the juvenile detention center.  I mean, more teachers would be great, but more teachers outside who, you know, who care about them and who have the time and the patience when they are small, but still -- but already probably difficult and disruptive.  And most of mine have been labeled special needs, you know?  If they could get more of those needs met I feel like they wouldn't have left school in the first place.

 

Rachel:  Yeah.  I think I would say anything that is preventive, but I would also say that we need adults to adjust their thinking and their behavior.  That just because you were raised a certain way or you were taught a certain thing, or you know, that you believe a certain set of principles, does not mean that these kids ended up where they're at because they deserve it.  And it is important if you want to stop the cycle, and you want to not, quote, use your tax dollars, to, you know, whatever, blah blah prison people something something, then you as an adult need to do the kinds of things that are necessary to either prevent it from occurring or take care of it in the moment so that it does not keep continuing in the future.  Which is probably harder, because I’m asking adults to change their minds.

 

Pius:  And with that, I want to say thank you so much to Kasina and to Rachel. 

 

Rachel:  Kasina, it was great to meet you.

 

Kasina:  It was great meeting you, too.  Thank you.

 

Pius:  Thanks for being on the podcast.

 

Rachel:  Bye.  Thanks, everybody.

 

[musical interlude]

 

Pius:  Thanks again to Rachel and to Kasina for talking about their experiences.  For more on the topics related to the conversation today, read this episode’s show notes, and click on some of the links.  You can also find these notes and transcripts at the podcast website k12engineering.net.

 

Pius:  What did you think about the show?  Email me.  Write a review on Apple Podcasts.  That would be really helpful.   Or tweet the show on Twitter @K12Engineering, or tweet me or Rachel directly. There is also a Facebook page for the podcast that you can follow, which is great for those of you not yet freaked out by this incredible monster that we as a society have engineered called social media.  You can learn more about connecting with us at the podcast website k12engineering.net. Our closing music is from the song, “Yes and” by Steve Combs, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.  The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio Pios Labs in Austin, Texas.  If you like the show, please let me know by donating a dollar on Patreon, by going to patreon.com/pioslabs, that's Pios with an O, to donate.  Thank you to all the current donors on Patreon.  It’s covering hosting and equipment costs this year, so that's awesome.  Thank you, listener, for thinking about education, engineering, and everything in between.  Listen in again next time.