Tips for New Teachers in Corrections Education


I came across this article, Guidance on teaching in prisons and I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you are a new teacher in corrections, what are your thoughts? If you are an experienced teacher in corrections, do you agree or disagree with the opinons expressed? And if you were asked to share a few words of wisdom/ tips for others, what would those tips be?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and strategies. 

Kathy Tracey


A sidenote on the article - as a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher, I see a familiar siloing by an academic that is supporting their own field while using terminology that was a decade out of date when I entered the field to take shots at others...  This is not to say there aren't programs out there that are ineffective or out of date, nor am I arguing against having liberal arts classes. 

I'd also say that educationally and intellectually, the professor would likely have had a higher level of student than is the norm.

>On to your actual question...

Disruption - the only thing that can be counted on is NOT being able to count on something happening when you want it.  The catchphrases are that "Security is not convenient" and that "Everyone's job is at least 51% Security", regardless of your actual profession.  I work at an accredited school within the adult prison system and have seen everything mentioned in the article, plus a few more.  You have to be flexible enough to allow those interruptions to flow over both you and whatever plans you might have had (a recall was literally just issued, closing my class early and.putting afternoon classes in question).

Learning - the majority of students DO want to learn.  Many come with baggage ranging from peer pressure to the negative experiences that they've previously had with learning.  Some of the classes that I do are prerequisites for our Trade and Industry courses and while many only do them because they are required (to check off the box), most also recognize the need or value of computer/digital literacy skills.  

Isolation - on a daily basis, I interact with a classroom (computer lab) of 50 to 60 students and workers during 3 two hour class sessions.  The majority of my day is spent with those who live here - there is a concern by everyone (me and everyone above me) that professional boundaries be maintained.  Interacting with other staff is vital to remind you that there is a division and that while we can and should be empathetic, we need to be wary of becoming overly sympathetic with our students and workers...  The people we encounter are here for a reason.

Learning levels - the majority of my students, similar to what I expect the professor encountered, have a higher level of education and motivation than the majority of our general population.  Many of our population, for wide-ranging reasons, never finished high school (or middle, or elementary) or were just passed through the system and don't actually have the academic skills they should have left high school with.  Our academic teachers do the brunt of the work of preparing our students to pass the GED (or more rarely assisting with completing a high school diploma) before I ever see them.

I think that I'm starting to ramble so I'll bring this to a close...

Stay healthy everyone


I found the article to be informative and accurate, especially when talking about being flexible and resilient.

My point of view is somewhat different, because I'm a full-time GED-level teacher. Our state requires GED placement for anyone who does not come in with a GED or High School Diploma, so my classes are not optional. Sometimes this can lead to conflict, but we try our best to keep our classes positive and forward-focused with a growth mindset. I think those who teach optional classes may have an easier time in class because those students chose to be there (kind of like the high school teacher who only teaches electives as opposed to those who teach the basics that everyone takes).

Right now in the middle of Covid-19 mitigation, flexibility is a must. Our facility is day to day whether we will be teaching or not. But the other facilities in our department have been teaching steadily, albeit with some serious scheduling changes. We are considered essential employees, so we have been called to be creative and come up with ways to keep residents occupied during modified lockdown. 

So in regards to your questions, I'd say the article is pretty accurate if you're a college teacher coming in to teach a class. It's a little different of a picture when you're a daily high school-level teacher. Still a very rewarding job!!