When thinking about the meaning of poverty I think about the people and families that do not have homes; about how they do not have the necessary food, shelter, and clothing. However there are other types of poverty that stem from finical poverty; emotional, mental, physical, and support system. Students that are living in poverty are often the students that teachers tend to not want to be around, because of poor hygiene, or because those students are considered “troublemakers.” Although, I feel that these are the students that might need the most love and attention. They need to see that there is someone who cares for them and wants to help them succeed. The placement that I am in this year for student teaching has really shown me the affects of poverty on students.
I have had the pleasure to be in two classes at the same school and same grade level, and the two classes could not be more different. I knew being in a non-Title I school, this year, would be a change from the schools I have been to before and the school I grew up in. My first class, this year, had only two students that I would consider to be in low-income poverty situations; the other students I would say were mostly middle class. This class has three Exceptional Children and the class has a wide range in achievement levels. My second class, this year, has a handful of students who I would consider to be in low-income poverty situations. This class is also lower overall and has approximately eight Exceptional Children in the class. Looking at these two classes and the research that has been conducted on students in poverty, I would say that they, overall, perform lower. An Article states, “Children of poverty generally achieve at lower levels than children of middle and upper classes. The causes are numerous and are related to both the social environment in which poor children live and the education they receive in school” (The Effects of Poverty 2005). The students at my school and my class might achieve more overall, because their school pushes success. The school is located in a good area and has many middle class families; it is not the same type of environment that they might be living in. An example would be the schools you see in movies; where the school is located right in the middle of all the poverty and the students have no way of escaping.
There are many factors that can have influence in the lives of students and their learning. “Factors such as the quality of student learning behaviors, home environment, past experiences with education, and teacher attitudes are among the many influences on student achievement” (The Effects of Poverty 2005). Most of the students in poverty have other concerns on their mind and school is often not a priority. Growing up in a middle class family, I cannot imagine not having a lot of the stuff I did, such as a nice place to sleep, eat, and so on. I also had a big support system, and I fear many children in poverty do not have them. Going to school, having to do homework, warding off potential bullies takes a lot of work and it is nice to have someone who can help you deal with any situation that you might have come across in a school day. Many poverty students do not have this system and it is a cause for why they may not feel the need to succeed, and why they fall through the cracks.
While researching poverty, the question about student engagement and students in poverty came about. Engaging students is an essential part to teaching them, because if they are not engaged they will lose interest. Many students in poverty appear as if they do not care and are unengaged, which most likely relates to the many other things they are worried and thinking about. Eric Jensen says, there are “seven differences between middle-class and low-income students show up at school. By understanding those differences and how to address them, teachers can help mitigate some of the negative effects of poverty” (Jensen 2009). These differences include: “health and nutrition, vocabulary, effort, hope and the growth mind-set, cognition, relationships, and distress” (Jensen 2009). Jensen is right on track with these areas where the classes differ, and these are the areas that students are focused on when learning is supposed to be occurring. Health and nutrition is very important to student success; not eating and drinking properly, can really affect how one thinks and their ability to concentrate and receive information. Many families in poverty do not have the resources to have the right about of food and water, and thus impacts student learning.
As teachers we need to be aware of our students and of their needs. It is important to get to know your students and what they need in order to succeed. Teachers need to reach out to the children that they often call down or ignore. We need to find ways that can help the students succeed in every way possible and make their learning experience one to remember.
Jensen, E. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may13/vol70/num08/How-Poverty-Affects-Classroom-Engagement.aspx