The Big Issues
1. The Nature of Corridors
Corridors College is not a mainstream or 'normal' school, in a number of ways. Some of the differences result from the clientele; others are a result of the aims and objectives of the school itself.
Not all of Corridors' students can attend school regularly. Some have issues at home, or a lack of any home or accommodation. Some have family problems, drug or substance abuse problems or physical and/or mental health issues that prevent regular attendance. Students progress at their own pace, and the school accommodates their progress accordingly. Some students are being coached and taught externally by
Corridors. These include young people in jail, young pregnant women and some who are full-time carers for younger siblings.
It helps if Corridors doesn't appear to students as a 'normal' school.
Many of the young people attending Corridors have rejected or been rejected by mainstream schools. They would not, by choice, return to schools that they had previously experienced. For one reason or another, their only remaining chance for an education is at a 'different' type of school.
State Schools tend to operate with a student: teacher ratio of approximately 30: 1. With its present level of funding,
Corridors College can operate viably with a ratio of approximately
8: 1 as we have a tutorial style negotiated self paced curriculum.
What is the Ideal ratio? In some situations, particularly where students have learning difficulties or are disadvantaged by health or environmental issues, a low student to teacher ratio is not only desirable but also essential. Some
Corridors' students require one to one coaching before inclusion in a class is possible.
What is a realistic/practicable ratio? Obviously, this will be determined more by funding than by experiment or considerations of best practice. However, it has been found that a ratio higher than
12: 1 causes difficulty in the Corridors' environment.
2. What are the developmental milestones of academic, emotional, physical, mental and personal recovery?
Academic recovery: Corridors provides literacy, numeracy; an ability to progress to, and achieve Year 10 and Year 12 levels that are recognised by the Education System. These levels allow entry into the workplace or further training.
Emotional recovery: Corridors promotes and encourages an ability to interact with peers and others without conflict or frustration, to deal positively with the normal highs and lows of day-to-day life without aggression or depression.
Physical recovery: A life without drugs or substance abuse; good nutrition, exercise, health and hygiene on an ongoing basis. Attention to the detail of staying healthy without excesses or lack.
Corridors provides meals and nutritional advice, arranges accommodation and guides students towards holistic health strategies.
Mental recovery: Facing problems without despair; solving problems as they occur, living in the present while facing the future; planning for the future without neglecting the present. Mental health is generally in the eye of the beholder. Young people with mental health issues seldom recognise that they have any problem; and require gentle help and guidance towards appropriate behaviour.
Corridors does this in a non-judgemental but firm atmosphere
Personal recovery: Corridors aims to promote and build self worth, self esteem and self value in its students, by gradually introducing them to personal responsibility and positive achievement
Recovery may mean different things to different people. Students usually attend
Corridors because they have a problem or problems that have made attending other schools impossible. They generally arrive with few expectations. Most have heard about
Corridors from friends. Most have little ambition and fewer goals. Their "recovery" can be slow, and take time.
For one student, it may be finding accommodation other than the streets, achieving Year 10 and looking for a job. For another, it is giving up heroin, using medication to control schizophrenia and finding her father again, with the possibility of reaching year 12 in the distant future. Academic, emotional, physical, mental and personal mean different things to different people; at a range of different levels.
Corridors attempts to help young people recover to the level that they want to reach, by any means available, with their welfare paramount at all times.
3. How do we build resilience?
What is resilience? The ability to stand up to the daily trials of life, job, position, status and circumstance and still be standing at the end of the day - and to do it again, day after day¡.
The "Ideal" resilient teacher: Teaching is a stressful job. Thirty percent of trained teachers do not teach for more than ten years. Many of these ex-teachers cite 'stress at work' as the reason for leaving.
Corridors College presents a workplace for teachers that is, perhaps, more stressful than most. How can we build "stress proof" teachers?
Selection: Ensure that teachers know what they are going
Training: Provide staff development in areas that are
relevant to day-to- day requirements of the job
Recognition: Acknowledge achievement, encourage
Leadership: Lead by example, delegate authority and
Maintain a sense of humour: A well developed sense of the
ridiculous helps; not taking yourself too seriously is vital.
The "Ideal" resilient student: Corridors College students tend to be more socially resilient than most other secondary students. Quite a few of them are street kids. Some have a history of conflict with authority and their peers. Most are streetwise, cynical and undisciplined. The resilience that they need centres on the ability to focus on school rather than survival; on an education rather than entertainment. How can they build resilience?
Facing challenges without fear of failure: Most of these young people arrive with low self esteem and all the self-defence mechanisms that it generates. By achieving small goals frequently, they learn to face larger challenges.
Achieving group identity: Becoming part of Corridors, and part of a stable peer group is a major step in developing a will to achieve more.
Identifying achievable goals: With help, most of the kids can identify where they want to be and work towards that. As they achieve simple steps, the goals become ever more achievable.
Community - Neighbours, Employers, Mentors, Authority
Community resilience is a willingness to tolerate and cooperate with Corridors College as an entity within the community.
Community attitude towards Corridors has a lot to do with its continuation and continued success. In its early stages,
Corridors College inspired a fair degree of community opposition - mainly to the idea of having a large concentration of 'unwanted' young people in the one place. However, when businesses saw a drop in local crime, and residents saw no increase in local noise, vandalism or disruption; community attitude softened and became tolerant, if not supportive.
Corridors relies on volunteers - mentors, helpers, administrators and others, for assistance wherever and whenever possible. This willingness to cooperate translates to opportunities for employment and further training within the local community. Since many of
Corridors' students are referred by agencies or by simple word of mouth, community resilience is essential to continued operation
Family resilience is a very important factor in lasting support and success. Many
Corridors students come from single parent families or very dysfunctional families. Some have never experienced a traditional family unit and are unlikely to in the immediate future.
Corridors encourages parents and family members to be involved with their kids in any way possible; to maintain contact and provide support whenever, however and wherever they can.
For some of the young people who attend Corridors, the school is the closest thing to a caring family environment that they have ever encountered.
4. Cultural ownership, by staff, of a social and emotional
- Staff training
- Staff selection
- Trial and application
5. Reproducing/ Cloning/ Franchising/ Corporatising the Corridors experience - Emotional recovery for cash
Corridors College's principal and its Chairman of the board Recent USA trip
- Client base
- Corridors focus
6. Relationship boundaries
7. The place of non-traditional adolescent pedagogies. E.g.
Adult non-traditional classrooms (Using nature/community as a classroom)
- Removing people from comfort zones
- Removing comfort
- Removing distraction
- Isolation from peers, familiar surroundings
- Peer interdependence and cooperation
- Initiative and independence of thought
- Challenges and difficulties
- Lasting effects
Whole body (holistic) learning
- Thinking and talking vs doing
- Neuro linguistic programming
- Challenge testing
- Sensory challenges and associations
8. Student Responsibility
- Peer tutoring
- Peer Mentoring
- Cleanliness and hygiene
- Meal preparation
- Student enrolment
- Student council
- Whole school meetings
9. The place and role of staff in mentoring and monitoring students
- Mentors and the high moral ground
- The distance of discipline
- Non-judgemental mentoring
- Mentoring vs coaching
- Mentoring plus coaching
10. Staff development in the culture of emotional recovery
- Staff exchange to the US
- In-house workshops
- Specific, structured training
There are a number of actions and options from this point!
- Operate an American style boot camp in Australia in the same way that the 'correctional institutes' are run in the US, offering places to American students
- Offer a 'reconciliation service' for US graduate students and their families, using and appropriate interdependence strategy in 'wilderness Australia
- Investigate whether Australia (WA in particular) is a big enough pond to operate a fee for service school in the same way as the US
- Contact US 'schools' and offer Corridors-type services to them on a fee for service arrangement; in Australia (or the US)
- Offer Academic, Vocational and Reorientation training services in Australia and/or the US under the Corridors banner
- Investigate whether American students would be allowed to study in Australia, whether qualifications would be acceptable; where and what qualifications gained in Australia could articulate to
- Investigate whether Corridors can tap into any source of funding from America