There are those who would contend that the problem with schools today is a lack of formality. While that is something that warrants some discussion, I sit here, wearing shorts, running shoes, an untucked shirt and a sweater, with my kids all working studiously.
My students are the ones other teachers and administrators kick out of their classes permanently. Nevertheless, they are all working, asking courteously for new assignments and tests, all on a Friday afternoon.
When I mention that I am an 'alternative high school teacher,' people often reply with audible sighs, expressions of condolance, and the occasional thanks for my work with these kids. But what we have is not very different from other teaching situations...
Humans are humans. We all want to feel a sense of belonging, some semblance of boundaries and normalcy, and love. That's about it.
While there is much to discuss about content and standards in knowlege taught, it's really as simple as this when distilled to the essence. One's students will respond in kind.