Did you ever wonder why some students end up in alternative school? Read one student’s story to find out!

*This is a guest post, by Warren P., a 15 year old sophomore at an alternative school.

I hated going to public high school. The kids tended to group together based on income, but I never really fit in anywhere. And because I was a quiet student, my teachers often took my silence to mean that I didn’t need help. I was really shy and thought that asking for help would make me look stupid.

So eventually I stopped going to my old school. Everything started going downhill. It took the hardest toll on my mother, who didn’t know how to help me.

After a month or so of refusing to go to school and responding angrily to my mother when she tried to force me to go, the police were called. They took me to a behavioral facility, where I learned to control my anger. Although I didn’t want to go, I now know it was the best thing for me. 

But when I got home a month later, I still didn’t go to school. I just didn’t see the point. A few weeks went by, so the police were called again. They took me back to the behavioral facility for another few weeks. When I left, Children and Youth Services got involved, and I was given a counselor.

The Children and Youth Services arranged for me to start attending an alternative school. They told me that the alternative school was for students in grades 6-12 who needed “a small, structured and nurturing therapeutic environment where academic success is a priority.” All the student needed to do was be willing to commit to following the structure of the program and not need physical intervention to maintain the safety of themselves and others. 

At first I was very nervous because of the things I heard about the school and the kids that went there. However, my first day wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. It was clear that the teachers cared about the students just to the right extent— enough to get to know them, but without being nosey or asking too much. The teachers also spent a decent amount of time with each student. They’d break down lessons so that they were more understandable—yet they still managed to challenge each student individually.

At my alternative school, the teachers care about the kids who they are teaching and will take time out of their day to ask you about you.  At my former public high school, the teachers would spend more time with the kids who acted out.  I thought that was unfair. But at my alternative school, all kids are treated equally. Also, my teachers follow a “clean slate every day” rule. This is a great rule and one of my favorite parts of the school.

Now that I’m in my sophomore year, I do have several concerns about going to an alternative school. One is that getting into college will be much more difficult. There is no foreign language requirement in my school, so not taking a foreign language may hurt me when I apply to college. I am also worried that the academics at my school may not prepare me for college level work. I have the option to transfer back to regular high school, but I’m not sure if that would be the best move for me. I also wonder whether I’m learning enough to do well on my state tests, or if I’m getting enough credits to graduate with a full high school diploma.

I am 100% percent glad everything worked out the way it did. My life would be so different if things happened any other way. Now I’m in a school that I love and on the road to a great future. My mother is relieved as well, and we are getting along much better.  Since I started going to the alternative school, I only miss school for serious illnesses, and I am passing all my classes. It has been a life-changing experience for me.

But alternative school shouldn’t be the only options for kids like me. If teachers addressed the following issues, students like me would probably remain in public schools:

1. Teachers should approach quiet students to make sure they understand content.

2. Teachers should be able to recognize a student’s potential and help each and every student achieve.

3. Teachers should individualize instruction and work to engage their students with more than just lectures and notes. They should get to know all their students and work to establish a bond with them.

4. Public schools should recognize the importance of smaller class sizes in helping to reach each and every student.

5. Public schools need to realize that there are social factors that play into a student’s success, and they should do as much as possible to level the playing field for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Warren is a 15-year-old sophomore in an alternative school in suburban Pennsylvania. He enjoys sports, music, writing, and traveling. Upon graduation, Warren plans to pursue a career in the military

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