Teaching Title 1 • Part 1


Understanding Title 1 Kids

Read Part 2     Read Part 3

Four years ago I moved from a small middle-class town in Idaho to a low socio-economic area in South Florida. The culture was much different as you can imagine! Thanks to technology and virtual interviews, I took a job at a Title 1 High School before I had stepped foot in Florida. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. During the interview process I was asked a few times, “You know what a Title 1 school is, right?” and, “You are comfortable teaching here?” Of course I said yes (not really grasping what they were driving at!) and was ready to take on whatever adventure awaited me. Beyond what classroom learning for educators had taught me, how tough could it be? I only hoped to constructively impact kids by building relationships.

I am so glad to have been in the mindset to take on a challenge! As I began teaching at Santaluces Community High School four years ago it had 2,500 students, most of whom were Haitian, Jamaican, and Hispanic. The demographics were far different from what I had known in Idaho and the students’ cultural heritages were even more different. Kids from a Title 1 school often go through things most adults never face in a lifetime. They come from low income with few opportunities at home, many times with little parental involvement, and sometimes entirely removed from family presence. 

While I had a heart to reach these students and positively impact their lives, it took me some trial and error to find my way in doing so. Over the past four years of teaching at this school, here are three important things I learned that helped me better understand Title 1 kids:

  1. Title 1 Kids desire relationships with people who take the time to get to know them! Each class I taught had 40-55 students (about 200 everyday). There were many names I could barely pronounce, let alone remember, but I made it a goal to learn every name associated with a face at the beginning of each semester and practiced this to perfection. It is amazing to see how kids who often lack parental involvement light up when a teacher calls them by name and asks how they are doing. I will touch on this more in Part Two in this article series because I believe relationships motivate Title 1 kids more than anything. 
  2. Title 1 Kids have goals; sometimes they just don’t know how to get on the right track to reach them. I had countless students say they wanted to go to college yet did not know the requirements for acceptance nor what kind of work ethic it would take to get there. Since I mostly worked with Freshmen I saw a greater opportunity to speak truth into their lives. I wanted to help them see that just because things weren't easy at home that did not exclude them from going on to college to earn a degree. They could certainly make a better life for themselves. I helped kids dream about their goals, create a vision for their lives, and also helped them think practically about the steps needed to get on track. Teachers must make an effort to build solid relationships with these kids, because waithout a genuine relationship they won’t trust you enough to share their goals.​​​​​​
  3. Title 1 Kids need extra help believing in themselves. We focus on this in our speech - what we say and how we communicate with students each day. Many of the students I have been around only think and speak negatively about themselves. This could be because of friends, family, or even social media. Speaking face-to-face and giving them encouragement goes miles with these kids. I saw this first hand with the girls’ varsity basketball team, which I coached. When I took over, the team had gone 1-22 the prior year and no athlete saw her potential nor believed she could be good individually or as a member of the team. I had to preach to them as a whole and as individuals that they were worth more than they thought and had talent! It took two years to see some of these girls believe in themselves. Taking time to verbalize belief and encouragement to them meant more than it would to the average student.
  • By the way, in the 4 years that I was there this basketball team changed the culture and became one of the top 8 teams in the state and had 7 athletes go on to get college scholarships. All of these students never thought they actually had what it took until I got to know them, helped them with their goals, and encouraged them to do what they were good at in the classroom and on the basketball court. 

Title 1 students are undoubtedly my favorites. They love educators that truly care, and trust me...they know if your care for them is genuine. I encourage you to get to know your students, help them think critically about their goals and give them the tools to reach them. And lastly, encourage them with your speech!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can meet the needs of ESL students, register for The Connecting Link’s class: Meeting the Needs of the ESL Learner: Essential Knowledge for the Classroom Teacher

This Connecting Link course, The Growth Mindset and Appreciative Inquiry: Getting the Best from Your Students and Getting Them to Believe in Themselves, provides many strategies to support all students, including Title 1 students learn to believe in themselves.

Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Zoe Price
Zoe is a Title 1 High School educator in the Palm Beach County School District, Florida.

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