Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What You Can Do for Students Living in Poverty

You're just one person, right? 

You can hardly make a difference, right?


  • Listen to your disadvantaged students. They need a strong relationship with a trustworthy adult to succeed.
  • Work to boost the self-esteem of students who live in poverty by praising their school success instead of what they own.
  • Keep your expectations for poor students high. Poverty does not mean ignorance.
  • Make it clear that you value all of your students for their character and not their possessions.

These are just a few of the things that YOU can do to help a student living in poverty.

Check out those and other ideas here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Poverty Myth

This is another great article to assist teaching students in high poverty areas. Let's help eliminate  poverty stereotypes by passing this along to others.

Don't blame the student!! They didn't make the choice to be in this situation!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Helping These Students Succeed

This article is a wonderful resource for teaching in a high poverty school.

The article focuses on these teaching tips:
Building relationships- these students often lack long-lasting stable relationships
Understanding and controlling stress
Developing a growth mindset
Building executive function- working memory
Boosting engagement

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: How to Help At-Risk Students Succeed

Monday, August 5, 2013


As teachers, our priority is for students to learn everything we have to teach them. This includes math, language arts, science, social studies, proper behavior, etc. The list goes on and on.   Add to that the extra pressure of statewide testing and blame being laid on teachers and even rational human beings get sucked into school being the end all, be all. 

However, we need to understand that a good education is not top priority for a lot of families. Especially families in high poverty schools, such as mine. Imagine this: a parent comes in for a parent teacher conference to discuss why their child is struggling with reading. You express that their child needs to be reading every night for a minimum of 30 minutes. The parent responds by crying for a myriad of reasons: they are raising the child alone and have two (three) jobs to keep them afloat, they are homeless living in a car, their spouse is abusive and the police often visit their home, there is violence in the neighborhood (the only place they can afford to live), the other parent is in prison, an older sibling is in a gang.... 

We, as teachers, have no idea what is going on in these homes unless we reach out! You have to know your parents if you want to educate their children. Meet them halfway. What can you do at school with their child to take something off their plate? Think outside the box. Talk to a social worker or counselor. Do something. Be there. It's your job.  

Case in point: this is one of my previous student's poetry and priority in her life: 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The 30 Million Word Gap

One of the disadvantages of working at a high poverty school is the difference in vocabulary. Research shows that students coming from low income homes are exposed to far less words than their wealthier counterparts. This could be due to many factors: parents working double shifts, or night shifts so not at home; uneducated parents; single parents that have no one else to converse in front of the child; a lack of things to talk about, perhaps due to unemployment; cultural differences, such as being seen, but not heard; priorities other than the children, etc. These reasons, and many other, lead to the child being at a disadvantage with vocabulary.

I have seen this firsthand, obviously. I know that my own children were using words like children and neighborhood by the age of three. They spoke in complete sentences and understood how to have  a conversation with an adult. Whereas my students struggle with relatively basic vocabulary, especially my non-english speaking children. Case in point... this past spring I was teaching the basics of multiplication. Multiplication begins by understanding that it is simply repeated addition: three pairs of socks would be 2 + 2 + 2 = 6. We do many activities such as: how many legs would be on the playground if there were 15 kids? or If there are 24 feet in the pool, how many people are there?

One particular problem was to tell me how many toes there would be on three people. I "ensured" students knew how to complete the problem, then went about helping students with the addition. After a while, it became obvious that two students were struggling. When asked to show me their work, they went about showing me 2 + 2 + 2 = 6. I asked them how many toes they each have. They both pointed to their feet and replied "two." So, basically it wasn't the math that they were struggling with at all, it was the vocabulary. Neither one of them understood what "toes" were. Another student asked later what fingers were. The lesson here is: DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING! My assumption was that all of my students would know their body parts. I was mistaken. Don't make the same mistake I did. 

This is a great article about the thirty million word gap:

I have also included a flyer that you can print and post in your classroom. I think it is valuable. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Racism and Biases

So, I have told you that I teach in a high poverty school. But what I haven't told you, is that most of my students are Hispanic. I have students coming from Mexico, Ecuador, and many more places around the world. I only have a couple white children every year. I also have a few African-American children every year, but the majority of my classes are usually Hispanic.

I have found that Hispanic families value education very much. So, I am very appreciated by these parents. They appreciate all the time and effort that goes into teaching their children how to read, write, and speak English. Their appreciation comes in the form of kind letters and hugs at family nights. Those things do not carry a monetary value, but are much more meaningful. 

At the beginning of the year, I have my students write down their goals of what they want to be when they grow up. They write these on hot air balloons and put them on a bulletin board. The board's title is: It's not where you are… It's where you are going.  I direct their attention to this all year long and return their balloon at the end of the year. Anytime that things get hard and they want to give up, or even when behavior begins to be problematic, I call their attention to their goals. If you give up, then you won't make it. 

At the beginning of the year, I see the doubt in their eyes as I tell them that they can make it. They can go to college and that they can become whatever they want to be. However, by the end of the year, I have them firmly believing that they are as capable as any other student of reaching their dreams.

Lately though, I have been getting a little frustrated over the racism and biases that surround us. The Cheerios commercial that stirred a nationwide controversy is one reason. Adults calling each other names and degrading mixed families is appalling. I watched a worthwhile video the other day with children's reactions to the commercial and their response to the hatred.

Why can't adults be as understanding and accepting as our children? What difference does it make what color we are? Does that alone determine who we are?

Another recent story was the outrage of a Latino American singing God Bless America at an MLB game. The tweets were horrifying! This gentleman was born in New York. He is an American through and through, yet he is condemned for the color of his skin. What is wrong with our society?

It is hard to teach and inspire those from different backgrounds because sometimes the cards ARE stacked against them. 

I believe I'll be starting the school year off with a discussion of prejudice and a viewing of the Cheerios commercial. We are all Americans, regardless of race. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Are parents responsible for deciding their child's future?

We've all heard the argument of nature vs. nurture. Does a child grow to travel the same path as their parents if they reside with them or is a child capable of becoming more than the generations before them? We hear stories of students that have risen above the expectations of those around them all the time.

In fact, here's a recent news article about two such students:

It's all about ONE person that makes the difference. If you watch Grey's Anatomy, you will hear Derek and Christina talk about Meredith as their "person." This person is the one you talk to about everything. The one that lifts your spirits when you are down. The one that pushes you to excellence. The one that will tell you like it is. The one that you can count on, no matter what.

This is what our students need- a "person." Someone that believes that they can become everything they ever wanted to be. Not just superficially, but deep down inside. Children have the knack of seeing through the superficial "You can do it!" and "You're so smart!" They need a person who truly believes in them. You may or may not be every student's "person," but if you believe, truly believe, that your students can excel, you just may turn into their "person."

Not everyone is cut out for working with students in poverty. Are you? Check out this link to see if you meet the standard!