Thursday, February 13, 2014

Teaching with the Rules for Engagement

Today many of our students are faced with poverty, and it is a duty of the teacher to help them to become successful. Classrooms have more diversity within them and poverty is a huge diversifying factor. “There are seven factors that affect children in poverty are: health and nutrition, vocabulary, effort and energy, mind set, cognitive capacity, relationships, and stress level” (Jensen 2009). Jensen is right on track with these areas that children of poverty are faced with, 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’s brain development. Health also connects to effort and energy. We get our energy from eating and the types of food we eat. Many people in poverty do not always have access to the healthiest food choices. This can slow them down, and not just physically but more mentally. Therefore, their brains are less receptive to the information that they are learning. All of these factors relate to a student’s cognitive capacity and how successful they can be / want to be.

As a teacher, there are five Rules of Engagement that should be focused on to help improve success of student’s in poverty. These factors include: “upgrading your attitude, building relationships and respect, getting a buy in, embracing clarity, and showing your passion” (Jensen). Teachers need to find ways to incorporating these areas into their teaching to help engage students within their classroom, so that they can see past their struggles for a couple hours a day. First, a teacher needs to upgrade their attitude and show students that it is okay not to be perfect and to keep a positive attitude when you think you have failed. Next, teachers need to build relationships and a sense of respect with the students. In order to have respect, you must give respect and this is something teachers struggle with. Often teachers feel that since they are the “boss” of the classroom that they automatically have respect, but one really has to start by showing their students respect and then they will follow. Sharing a little bit about your life with your students helps them to connect to you as a person, not as just an authority figure.

Teachers also need to offer incentives to their students to challenge them to do their best and work hard, thus creating a buy in. Teachers can challenge students to use their imagination and expand their thinking; also make assignments that fit their skills and needs so that they can feel that sense of accomplishment. This also ties into embracing clarity and teaching students at their level and not confusing them. Express directions in clear simple directions and with fewer words, making sure they fully understand. Lastly, teachers should show their passion. They should focus on the students, remain positive throughout the day, and interact with them personally.

As teachers we need to be aware of our students and of their needs, and what we can do to help them. It is important to get to know your students to help reach this goal. 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

Jensen, E. (2013). Rules for Engagement. In Engaging students with poverty in mind: Practical strategies for raising achievement (pp. 20-33). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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