Friday, October 14, 2005

The Poverty Piece

I mentioned in a previous post about the in-service thing we had on poverty, and a reader asked if I learned anything new. Well, the answer is sorta yes. See, I was one of the presenters.

It all started last year when The Principal sent out an email for those teachers interested in a research based project to find ways to work with and help our at risk student population. Mrs. Eagle and I fired back answers saying, "sign me up". One thing that came up during one of our research meetings was that the district was going to be hosting a workshop put on by aha! Process Inc, an organization started by Dr. Ruby Payne. Dr. Payne married a man from poverty and has made it her life's work to research, write and educate people on poverty issues.

Let's just say that was probably one of the very best seminars I've ever attended. I learned a lot. A whole hell of a lot. And it actually has changed, in some ways, how I teach and what kind of assignments I give. The key is that I understand my kids more and can find ways to show them to get out of the generational poverty, get off their butts, and realize they can escape it through education and hard work. As they hear me say all the time "You're momma isn't gonna take care of you forever and believe me, the taxpayers won't either."

Some things I found interesting...

Kids in poverty don't do homework. They often have no place quiet to work, they aren't always sure where they're gonna be sleeping, or if they're eating, no one is available to help them with work, and it's just not a priority in their lives.

Kids (and adults) in generational poverty have a circular way of thinking while middle class people have a more linear - organized - way of thinking. It's easier for middle class kids to organize, plan, and get things done. People in poverty tend to react, and have trouble planning beyond the next minute. They're pretty good at emergencies, however.

Women in poverty often stay in abusive and dangerous situations because the boyfriend-of-the-month is the rent payment. The BOTM will beat the snot out of the kid, but she won't leave as she needs a place to stay. However, relationships are everything with people from poverty (middle class like things) so to protect the relationship with the child, she'll come storming down to the school raising holy hell for no reason whatsoever but to prove to the kid that she still loves him/her.

There's a whole lot out there on the subject...tons of stuff. And a lot of it makes sense, and it has made me see my kids a little differently. What's sad is that so much of how poverty and lack of education affects a child plays heavily in the first five years of life. In other words, before we even get the kid into school. And it's all uphill from there.


Yellow rose said...

It *does* make sense. So, besides understanding the situation better, how do you think you will adjust your assignments and expectations for your classes?

I know our local Boys and Girls Clubs offer after school study hours so that the kids who need and want to get their homework done actually have a place to do it and someone on site that can at least handle basic help. But then we're already talking about movivated kids.

Yellow Rose

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Well for one thing, homework doesn't count for much because there are kids who can't do it due to their circumstances. Then again, there are a lot making excuses for whatever reason (too busy playing video games). So a kid could basically not do any homework and still pass if they actually tried and did everything else.

Take home projects are another thing. We're trying to give them time to do things in class, and provide some limited supplies (school has no money either). Also, on anything that requires purchasing supplies (a model, for example) make sure we announce the assignment prior to the first of the month so people can perhaps buy supplies when they have a fresh paycheck.