Sunday, March 8, 2015

Final Thoughts on Teaching with Poverty in MInd

     I am thankful that I read this book and was reminded about how many different problems/concerns our students could be bringing to school on a daily basis.  It is easy to focus on what we are trying to teach our students and forget the fact that they have many things on their plate in addition to schoolwork.  If a student is worried about where they are going to get their next meal, if their electricity is going to be shut off, or if they are even going to have a place to call home etc., school can be the last thing on their mind.

     Furthermore, I had not thought about the extent that poverty can cause cognitive lags.  When we found out in class that there can be a thirty two million word gap over four years between children living in welfare homes compared to children living in professionals' homes........I was shocked.  These students would be going to school on a very uneven playing field.  The good news is that according to the book, brains are designed to change.  However, it's a bit scary to think about the gap that we are trying to overcome.

     One of the important successful school-wide factors that grabbed my attention and gave me hope that we can make a difference is relationship building.  I think the staff and our school as a whole is consciously working to make sure that we form these relationships and that we don't have any students that are being overlooked.  This is a great step towards meeting our students' needs whether they come from welfare homes or professionals' homes.

     At the very least, I believe reading this book helped make me more aware of what our students can be up against outside of the school's walls.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chapter 4 - Schoolwide Success Factors

     As teachers, we don't know what our students are bringing in their backpacks when they get to school.....was there a fight at home, did they have breakfast, do they feel safe, are they physically doing well etc.   We know what we expect of them in our class, but that's only a snapshot of what they experience in their entire day.  I would hope as educators that our entire staff would want to do what is necessary to try to meet the needs of our least with what is in our power.

     I think Rugby Public School is working towards meeting more of these needs with every passing year.  One of the really positive steps, I think, was when we did the activity where we put a sticker on the pictures of the students that we felt we had a relationship with beyond the normal classroom interaction.  I'm very interested to see the results of the students' survey and how the data compares between staff and students.  Making sure that we take the time to form these relationships with our students and that every one of them feels that they have at least one staff member in their corner is so advocate of sorts.

   The possibility of having a school social worker, psychologist, etc, more readily available to our students in the future if finances allow, would be such an asset.  I feel that our student body has a variety of needs socially and emotionally.  Unfortunately,  they are not always able to get the help that they need because of transportation issues in the home or a variety of other factors.  Sometimes I get the feeling from this book that the school really needs to be the support system in most areas of our students' lives....especially the ones who are living in poverty.  The fact is that if they are not getting these needs met and the schools can find a way to help meet them, why wouldn't we want to give them these resources.

    I look forward to seeing what other steps we will take at Rugby to continue to work towards school-wide success.  If we have positive staff relationships and staff-student relationships as we continue moving forward........exciting things can happen!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chapter 3

My biggest takeaway.......the examples at the end of the chapter that are considered extremes that will not work:

  • Focusing only on the basics (drill and kill).
  • Maintaining order through a show of force.
  • Eliminating or reducing time for arts, sports, and physical education.
  • Increasing and intensifying classroom discipline.
  • Decreasing interaction among students.
  • Installing metal detectors.
  • Delivering more heavy-handed top-down lectures.
     It's really easy to get caught up in the mind-set that we need to do "whatever it takes" to help our students reach a certain level of proficiency in our subject matter.  However, we need to make sure that we check how we are trying to help our students reach that level of proficiency.  Are we using one of the extremes above and if so is it actually working against us, instead of helping us reach our students.

     I know personally when I get overwhelmed and frustrated, it's easy for me to get focused on pushing the basics and not always disciplining my students in the most productive way.  I need to remember to periodically check the way that I'm teaching against this list.  Plus, it's important to not use these extremes with any of our students..... not just the ones that are living in poverty.  

     I have to admit that the example that deals with not eliminating or reducing time for the arts, sports, and physical education hits home with me the most.  Over the years, I've had students not able to come to my classes at various age levels because they were struggling in other subjects.  I can understand the importance of these students needing extra help in certain situations, of course, but at times it can be used excessively.  I may be one of the few classes that this student feels successful in and if it that is taken away it really helping the student overall?  

     I'm not a music teacher that believes what I teach is the most important subject in my student's education.....not in the least, but I don't think it's a positive move when taking my class away is used as a form of punishment.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chapters 1 & 2

      I knew that students in poverty dealt with many responsibilities and concerns on a daily basis.  These concerns often do not include getting to school on time, finishing homework etc.  What I hadn't thought about was the extent that cognitive lags could effect these students because of their socioeconomic status.  These cognitive lags can cause a snowball effect......poor academic performance leading to lower expectations which in turn can undermine a student's self-esteem.

     Furthermore, Jensen caught my attention when he stated that even when low-income parents do everything they can for their children, their limited resources put kids at a huge disadvantage.  What choice do we have as teachers but to try and help these students as much as we can!

     The first two chapters of this book have helped me have a wake-up call of sorts to what some of our students may be dealing with in their lives.  I have attended workshops and read other books that discussed this subject, but I think it's easy to get too focused on ourselves.  We can get so caught up in our own lives (jobs, families etc.) that we can easily forget to think about what some of our students may be facing outside of school.

      For example, the students that display:

-"Acting-out" behaviors
-impatience and impulsivity
-gaps in politeness and social graces
-a more limited range of behavioral responses
-inappropriate emotional responses
-less empathy for others' misfortunes

Are we taking the time to think about why a student may be showing any of these types of behaviors?  I know there are times where I have to take a step back, and think about how I want to handle an inappropriate behavior in my class.

      I look forward to discussing what we can do to help these students......