Supporting Our Itinerant Population One Classroom at a Time

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How can we better support an itinerant population?
I recently had the pleasure of working with members of District 75 training them in how to use the G-Suite. I knew D75 as supporting those students who may be caught up in the court system. I hadn’t considered how our students personal issues can make a tough teaching situation even tougher.

Here’s the bullet pointed list of what I recommend to support an itinerant population:
  • Use classrooms as units rather than full classes. Small chunks of assignments to complete are more reasonable to a population dealing with so much personally.
  • Pre-Assign all work in classroom before students. They can enter the digital class and see what is expected. So much else of their lives are unknown factor. Give them expectations they can know and meet. 
  • Give an index for students to refer to. A Google Keep they can copy or Doc/Sheet with check offs could help them keep on task. 
  • Naming conventions are needed for every post. Don’t just identify what it is but also where it falls in the order. 

Every student deserves a chance. They also deserve more chances after they screw up. It’s education after all and that takes trial and error. While sometimes our students create their own pattern of negative life choices it doesn’t mean we give up. District 75 is the unique district within all our districts supporting those students working to break out of their negative life patterns.
While working with the teachers it became clear that technology can solve many of the problems students and teachers face when the classroom isn’t always physically or socially/emotionally accessible. We worked through Google classroom not as a semester’s solution but as small bite size classes. 
Say you are a student no longer in the school environment you are familiar with, surrounded by teachers you don’t know and classwork you didn’t expect. At the same time you are dealing with something personal which may affect years of the rest of your life. I don’t think could not handle much school work in such a situation. Being shown a classroom of twenty uncompleted lessons is overwhelming. A view of a few days or a week or two of work is more reasonable. Those students starting over may also have a strong reaction to a mound of work assigned at once. Ultimately breaking up the assignments into chunks can provide a reasonable looking way to deliver content.
So why not design units of instruction as a class. Students enter and exit the classroom frequently and may be absent for longer than normal periods. While their lives drastically change around them they could use us as a constant to support them. While some students shift out of one “classroom”/unit others may remain and still others may join. 
So what do we need to support such a population? In my opinion, a way to deliver content in units to individual students. A GClass can be used to individually assign to students however this is a massive amount of work for the teacher. In using individual classrooms we can add students throughout the year. As they advance they can be shuffled to another GClass or to a GClass which may meet their needs. 
An index or clear learning pathway is also helpful to a struggling student. Create a Doc or Keep with an ordered path. Identify main assignments and secondary supporting understanding assignments. Copy the assignment links in classroom and link to the indexed items. This path can be used by students to navigate their education on an individual path. One thing was brought up by the team which I think can most help an itinerant population: Naming Conventions. If a student comes to class Wednesday they want to know what they need to complete from Monday and Tuesday. If we as teachers can be more cognizant of name our assignments with dates our students can better support their own education. If you are a teacher that excuses work based on the date you can better correlate attendance records. Students will know what is expected of them and be able to improve their success. 

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