I've taught many students who were on specialized plans due to their behavior or infractions they'd received. In the Winter of 2015 I began a teaching residency at a school that hadn't met its adequate yearly progress goals in four years and was likely going to be gutted the next year. The fifth grade class I adopted had been abandoned, by their first teacher, who abruptly quit a month before, and then the substitute who had let them a week before. It was really two classes smooshed together and included a group of five boys who were struggling with authority and anger.
After seeing the curricula we were about to dive into, the teachers who had been there longer, including an aide that worked directly with the group of five, advised me not to include them in the program. The material was too hard, what was required of them not possible. I learned they each had come from very challenging home environments. A few them had no homes.
The teachers' insight showed me how deeply these students needed to be engaged at school. Needed to be given space to try, to learn, to face challenging and scary things and to succeed. All boys were given that space and chose to participate until the end. I hope the residency helped all students in that class feel capable, valued and empowered.