Child Poverty On Edcuation

Arkansas is ranked number three in top highest poverty rates within the US according to the 2014 census data presented by the National Center for Children in Poverty. It is clear that poverty is an issue we will see in our classrooms as well as our communities. As educators, we must understand where are students are coming from before they get to us. If we do not educate ourselves on what our students are faced with, then we will ultimately fail them in their own education process. Getting to know your students and building a secure rapport with your students should be your first step in educating them. If you don’t know your students, you cannot understand their struggles. The differences between middle-class and low-income students is a harsh reality that you will see within your classroom and you must know the symptoms and how to combat it to truly give a good education to these students.

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In reading the article and book by Eric Jensen, I found it very difficult not to tie a lot of what was said to the childhood I experienced for a short time. Looking back I relate to how poverty can affect our students physically, emotionally, and mentally, which in turn can cause detrimental outcomes. It’s a clear logical map that all abilities are hindered without proper nutrition and care. Intelligence is directly linked to a child’s overall health (Gray & Thompson, 2004). This is critical for myself as a future teacher to understand because those children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from is far from focused on learning spelling words or the order of operations. These children that are hungry, fatigued, and so on are checked out from learning and the number one solution many teachers have proven to turn to is punishment for their lack of involvement. Studies show that average high schoolers spend 25% of their day sitting in a chair, and that 5th graders spend 91% of their time alone and listening to the teacher (Shernoff, Csiksszentmihalyi, Schnieder, 2003 and Pianta, Belsky, Houts, Morrison, 2007). Through this we see than an overwhelming amount of students that are disengaged in their learning. Instead of establishing interactive and engaging lessons, these teachers are teaching through direct instruction instead of in ways most likely to increase student focus and enthusiasm for learning. Because these students are disconnected to their learning, a lot of times these students tune out from their education. This usually results in taking away recess. Ultimately, this is a flawed judgement because recess brings more oxygen to a child’s brain, which in turn can lead to better learning (Winter et al. , 2007). If we do not get students up and active in their education, they will always take a backseat to their own learning. As a future teacher I plan to engage my students in learning through activity. I want each student to feel passionate about the lessons and know that there is potential for each student to do well.

In many ways we know that children at or below the poverty line are less fortunate than others, but what is staggering is the fact that those from lower socioeconomic statuses have immensely low vocabulary as well. Kids from low-income families are less likely to the know words that a teacher will use in class or the words presented in their text (Jensen, 2013). The effects of this can make or break a child’s educational outcome. Building student vocabulary is the starting blocks for understanding and enriching their education as a whole. Vocabulary goes beyond just words but also flows into nonverbals as well. We must teach these students not only their academic terms, but how to use them appropriately, and the effectiveness of what good communication and understanding can bring to their lives. Expanding their academic vocabulary pushes them toward being able to use the words they know to provide context to words they don’t, simply perpetuating future knowledge too. Being able to communicate elevates memory, cognition, and their learning all together. I believe that vocabulary and reading need to be integrated into every discipline that the student is exposed to. I plan to do this is my future math classroom and through all other things I may teach. Disciplinary literacy will be implemented in my classroom, not just for my gain as a teacher, but also for the gain of my students to be able to think, learn, reason, and understand like true mathematicians. I want each student to feel as if they have potential and I want them to know they have the opportunity to play on an even playing field. If students feel unintelligent they will be less likely to participate in class. I want my students to question the lessons and the world around them. I want my students to feel responsible for knowing truth from fiction and be able to not just believe what someone says because they said it but because they have to knowledge and ability to check if it’s true.

There is a stigma that those who are poor are poor because of a lack of effort. Yet, research shows that parents from poor families work as much as parents of middle- or upper-class families do (Economic Policy Institute, 2002). This stereotype follows these students, just like it did with me. The problem that faces these students is that they see themselves as outcast that are stuck in a “way of life” because that’s how society makes them seem. These students, like myself, struggle feeling like what they do will ever be good enough to escape the “impoverished” identity they have been given. There is strong correlation between low socioeconomic status and feelings of depression (which helped explain things for me). It’s all about knowing your students to realize that the reason they can’t focus isn’t just because of you as a teacher. Students who live in poverty are very conscious about what practical things motivate them. The teacher needs to make relatable connections to the student’s worlds. These students already feel so separated from society that they must feel connected to their learning to truly mobilize it. If a student is not putting in effort to learn what you are teaching, they are ultimately telling you that you’re not engaging them. You aren’t making the learning practical to their lives. As a future teacher I want to make instruction a real-world scenario that students feel connections with. I want my student’s classroom goals to reflect their real life goals. You have to let these students know that someone is in their corner. When teachers give more positives than negatives, they optimize both learning and growth for students (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). The idea of a safe learning environment is key to this.

The students that come from these backgrounds usually have little acknowledgment or encouragement at home. Teachers are more than just educators to the students. They are moms, dads, and advocates who let the students know they matter. I know the teachers who pushed me to do better than my circumstances are those I will always remember. You have to make students believe that there is hope for them. For students to be engaged in the classroom they have to have encouragement to motivate them to do more than to live in mediocrity. Even when there is negativity in a student’s behavior or learning, the teacher needs to pull out positives. This does not me to award or fill student’s heads with the idea, “doing what you are supposes to results in praise,” but that putting in effort and working towards success is worthy of appreciation. If students think failure is likely because of where they are in life, they’ll probably not bother to try to do better (Jensen, 2013). At that point, it is the teacher’s job to let every student know that there is a light over the hill and they have to ability to reach it. As a future teacher I want to use differentiated learning with my students, so each student can realize that they are “smart” and that they can do well if they truly put in effort. We should be accepting of the fact that everyone is afraid of failure, but that failure results in learning in ways you never expected to. If we set kids up with the idea of being perfect than we not only squander their creativity, but also their enthusiasm. I’m a firm believer that tests do not determine your abilities. Teachers must positively encourage these students to put effort in. This idea must be reinforced daily so students can gather learned responsibility for their education.

Behavior issues is one that is predominate in students who come from less fortunate backgrounds. Many times these students who struggle cognitively and socially will act out or shut down. As teachers, it is critical we are aware of this and how to combat it. As someone who students will spend a large portion of their day and their lives with, we should be teaching students positive social and emotional responses to situations. In lower levels I know many teachers will have students act out scenarios. Even with upper grades, it’s important to focus on interactions between people. This can be achieved through group work or collaborative learning. Students need to be able to give and receive criticism in positive ways in preparation for their futures outside of school. One of the most important things I gained from the article was that “cognitive capacity, as well as intelligence, is a teachable skill” (Buschkuehl & Jaeggi, 2010). This is so crucial for educators to understand. All teachers, including my future self, need to understand in all its entirety that we cannot give up on students, even if they want to give up on themselves. Teachers are equipped with so many options and outlets for teaching these students better strategies to improve their abilities. Social and emotional skills are one that are pertinent to a successful lifestyle not only in the work force, but also in every day interactions and relationships.

Again, I plan to differentiate my instruction for that very reason. Educating these students who want to give up needs to start small, and then build once something is mastered. It may take mounds of patience, but these students deserve it. The students should come first.

Understanding what poverty is and the effects it has is something every teacher should be educated on. Three-quarters of all children from poverty come from a single-parent caregiver home (Jensen, 2013). This is important because those single parent caregivers are most likely under a lot of stress. The more stressed the low socioeconomic caregivers are, the less attentive and positive they will be toward their children. This will undoubtedly effect how the child view self-worth and relationships. By showing students what positive relationships look like and by providing them motivation, there will be an increase in participation and learning. A teacher teaches beyond the curriculum. I plan to be a role model for these children. My goal is to show them positive relationships are achievable even in simple ways. Again, we can go back to the idea of teaching them how to react socially and emotionally through roll play and conversations. Low-income parents are usually less likely to be able to adjust their parenting demands for the higher-need kids (Paulussen-Hoogeboom, Stams, Hermanns, & Peetsma, 2007). Taking the time to demonstrate how much you care about your students and expanding their knowledge of showing caring tendency to others will strengthen their self-worth and increase their ideas of being good enough. It’s like with anything else, you must practice what you teach and also teach it consistently. As a teacher, this is where knowing your students can make or break the classroom relationship you have with them. If you show students that you care about them, they will be more inclines to listen and learn from you. This should be a goal.

Children that come from these poverty situations are likely to experience more amounts of stress than those in higher socioeconomic classes.

The stress these students feel like where their next meal is coming from, will there be running water to shower with, or will we have presents for Christmas are things that affect students throughout their day (trust me, I’ve been there). Learning is stressful enough on students in and of itself. To give students an outlet for their stress we need to have them focused on learning and succeeding. Providing positive feedback for their success, improvement, and progress towards their learning goals is a way to do this. It not only encourages them to do better at their work, but it also shows them that they have the ability to escape those stressful situations and the thoughts surrounding them, even if just for a moment. Music can also have an influence on their stress levels and behavior. These types of distress affect brain development, academic success, and social competence (Evans, Kim, Ting, Tesher, & Shannis, 2007). This stress can make students act out in ways like aggression or disinterest. If we give students a positive outlet for the things they are feeling or thinking, I believe that they will be more apt to learning and also have a better outlook on attending school in general. Many students see school as a way to escape the world around them, so why not give them the tools to make it a reality. Though how we educate them, they have the chance to see a way to overcome their situations. As a teacher, it is your duty to understand this and address the issues. I plan to do what I can to help these students feel safe and reduce their stresses. I want to incorporate coping skills into lessons and projects. I will make my class and open and fun environment where students can question their learning through activities. My goal is for my students to gain a since of responsibility for their learning. The only way this can happen is if I show my students they matter and they can.

I plan to stay in Arkansas, at least the first 4 years of teaching, and fact of the matter is, no matter what part of Arkansas I teach in, there will be student’s immerged in the poverty epidemic. I have to be knowledgeable and flexible about my students and how to teach them. To be a successful educator I need to understand the effects of poverty and also tools to help me combat it in my classroom. My goal is to foster leadership among my students and teamwork. I want my students to walk out of my class with confidence in relational thinking not just in math, but also in real world situations. They will have strong communication skills because I will help guide them in positive conversation and questioning. This article and book has not only developed my knowledge of just how prevalent this issue is, but also how mind boggling the effects can be. Eric Jensen has thoroughly researched the effects and gives great tips throughout. Ultimately, you have to know your students if you ever plan to make a difference in their lives. Understanding the differences that low socioeconomic students are disadvantaged with from as early as birth will change how I manage and differentiate my classroom.

10 October 2020

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