The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "From ‘Unteachable’ to Graduate"
From ‘Unteachable’ to Graduate
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Making Schools Better

Pre-Reading Activity: 10 minutes
Write “Things Wrong” at the top of a piece of chart paper. Next to that, write “What Would Make Things Better?”

Ask the group to brainstorm some things that make it hard to learn at their schools. Write their responses under “Things Wrong.” Focus the discussion by asking “What keeps you from learning?” and “What makes you want to give up?” If they’re stuck, supply some suggestions, like “big classes,” or “feels like jail,” or “bullying.” Keep going until you have a big list.

Then tell them they are now the Board of Education, and they get to fix these problems. Ask for changes that would make school better, emphasizing that, yes, there does have to be learning! Ask them to identify specific things that could address the problems they’ve listed. Ask them what helps them feel the most interested and excited about a class. List their suggested changes under “What Would Make Things Better?”

Read the Story: 10 minutes
As a group, read aloud “From ‘Unteachable’ to Graduate,” by Chris Lee. Go around in a circle and have everyone read; give people permission to pass.

Group Discussion: 20 minutes
Revisit the two lists. Ask them to add things to the Things Wrong list based on what they read in Chris’s story [you get bullied for how you look; nobody asks why you’re crying or bruised; no help when you’re behind the others in reading or writing]. Hopefully the story will encourage them to share more about how they don’t necessarily fit in with other kids, and how that affects learning. Then ask them to add to the What Would Make Things Better list based on the story [principals and teachers who help you with things besides school; options besides punishment when you lose your cool; regular one-on-one talks with principal or teachers].

Point out that difficulty learning can stem from something people might not think of as being “educational” (like not feeling welcome or safe in their school). Give the group one last chance to add to the lists; introduce the idea of them sharing the lists with their own schools, or brainstorm some other ways to find support.
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