How does poverty affect education? For the past 10 years I have worked in low income schools that receive title I funds because of the socioeconomic demographics of the school. And I started to realize and notice some misconceptions out there by others and sometimes even teachers that affect how we educate our students. My blog is based on my experience with teaching students in low socioeconomic areas and it is always a struggle. Oftentimes, they come to me below grade level and they are not where they need to be, and it is not small gaps that I have to bridge there are enormous gap that I have to bridge. I mean 2 to 3 year gaps. Once we had a discussion in a staff meeting on how can we bridge these gaps and found out there was so many myths and misconceptions out there about what was affecting how our students learn that we could not come up with a strategy.
What I have come to understand after years of working with schools in poverty areas is to never come in with preconceived notions. Listening to what administrators and other teachers were thinking I came up with a list of what I will call myths or misconceptions.
- First myth is that parents do not care about their kid’s education. This is because of their visibility around the school and afterschool activities, i.e. PTA, parent conferences, open house, etc.
- Second myth is that students don’t care they have no interest in learning
- Third myth is that students can’t learn because their resources are limited
- Fourth myth is that behavior problems due to their environment and the parents will not do anything about it hinder learning
Unfortunately we cannot change a poverty situation, however, we can change our thinking. We cannot assume those myths because we are not in their shoes and we don’t know what goes on in their homes. Although our students may tell us some things we should never assume things. Every situation is different and we shouldn’t judge. Because many of the parents do care but are limited in what they can do.
We as educators need to build relationships with our students and with their parents. Even if it is only by phone or email. I had a parent that I never saw but I talk to all the time and one time she was very upset and cried on the phone because she felt like that she wasn’t being a good parent because she could never come to anything, her job wouldn’t let her, she was fearful of taking off unless it was a true emergency, however I reassured her that I had her back and that as long as we kept the communication lines open we could work together to do what was best for her son. Because I knew that all jobs are not as flexible and understanding and putting food on the table was important. Her son ended up being one of my top students and I even had as my go to peer tutor to help out in class. Sometimes I stepped in and helped my students where I could and even sometimes even providing supplies and provide food.
Remember to always praise the students whenever possible for even the little thing because that may be the only praise they get for the day, not that the parents can’t or don’t it’s because they don’t have the time (work schedule) or they don’t think about this and the biggest most important thing is to listen to the kids. When you build those relationships you will learn a lot more than you even thought you would about your kids. They do have the ability to learn and when you build those relationships they will do whatever it takes to please you even though it is really helping them. So never assume, don’t judge, build relationships and praise whenever possible and number one again listen!