Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

Currently my school division is asking to increase the school budget by $2.84 million in order to improve the quality of public education and increase the accreditation rate.  This would include hiring 20 new positions consisting of reading specialists, math specialists, transitional teachers, gifted program teachers, supervisor of literacy and CTE/elective teachers.  Only 50% of 3rd graders read at grade level.  If the budget is not approved athletics, fine arts and governor’s school will be cut.  My school district is 4th in the state for free and reduced lunch.

Eric Jensen explains in his books Teaching with Poverty in Mind and Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind the effects that poverty has on the brain.  He explains that in a study conducted with more than 1800 students it was found that school engagement was the major factor in whether students stayed in school or not.  Student engagement and student achievement coincide.  Research has shown that for every 2 percent disengagement rises, pass rates on high stakes test drop by 1 percent.  Jensen explains that teaching students in poverty will expose every weakness a teacher has (Jensen, 2013).  Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds face emotional and social instability.  This does not mean that students cannot be successful.  It simply means that once educators have a better understanding of the challenges that these students face they can then help the students succeed.  Jensen explains that the areas of the brain that are affected by exposure to chronic poverty include the areas that are responsible for working memory, impulse regulation, visuospatial, language and cognitive conflict.  Jensen also offers the following in his book;

    1. 5 Rule for Engagement
    2. 5 Actions to Create a Positive Class Climate
    3. 5 Actions to Build Cognitive Capacity
    4. 5 Actions to Build Deep Understanding
    5. 4 Actions to Elevate Energy and Focus
    6. 5 Actions to Automate Engagement

With each one of Jensen’s above mentioned ideas he also offers suggestions on how to achieve the goals.  The suggestions that are given in his books aren’t really anything profound but his ideas really made me stop and think about what I could do in my class room and a future administrator to help students in poverty succeed.  His suggestions do not require spending money to purchase items for the classroom or extra PD .  His suggestions are intangible and they all begin with a change in attitude.



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