Welcome to my blog:) Since I am so far away from my friends and family, I want to keep you updated on the fun and trials of my new job. Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, and the tips/ideas you may offer!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Understanding Poverty

I have begun reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph. D.

What an insightful book!  If you have time to read it, I would seriously suggest it.  I am borrowing this book from the school I work at, but I am seriously considering going out and buying it.  Then I would let my mom read it, and she isn't even a teacher, but she thinks she'd be interested in it too.  Well, that's what she said before I talked her ear off about it at lunch today.  Hopefully I didn't bore her!  I could seriously recognize my students while reading this book.  If your school is thinking about doing a book study, this would be a great one to consider!

First in Chapter 1, Payne talks about the resources that individuals may or may not have available to them.   Then there are several scenarios for the reader to consider and decide what resources the families have available to them.  I think this is a great exercise to write down on a scrap paper to compare at the end of the chapter and discuss with colleagues.

Physical Resources - As a teacher I have sent pencils, crayons, and pens home with my students so they can complete a 5 minute piece of homework.  This is because I have had students return uncompleted homework saying they didn't have a pencil at home.  I never want that to be a possible excuse for my students.  I can't imagine a home without writing utensils, but after reading chapter 1, it sounds completely believable.

Financial Resources - On the other hand a couple of scenarios involved teachers who assigned projects that required the students' families to purchase large amounts of supplies, which may not seem like a burden to middle class families, but when you're struggling to put food on the table $10 in school supplies does not seem worth it.

Another example required going to the library because the family didn't have any books at home, but they did not have enough gas to get to the library, so the student could not complete this assignment.

Knowledge of middle-class hidden rules (Resource) - The head of the student services department at my school has said she never gave homework because that was the least of her students' concerns.  I can also see this, but if we are expecting our students to abide by the middle class hidden rules (completing a task by the deadline, turning something in, perseverance, etc.), we need to teach students these rules and how to accomplish these rules.  I do not expect my students to do hours of homework, but I think finding 5 minutes to practice their math facts with a worksheet (or a paragraph story with 3 questions) and writing utensil that I have provided is completely manageable.  This past year I didn't have any consequences for incomplete homework, but I did have sticker charts for students who completed homework.

Support Systems (Resource) - Most parents in poverty do not know how to help their children with homework or how to seek help for their children.  This is why I make sure that the homework I do send home is something the student can ABSOLUTELY complete on their own, it is simply practice to increase the students' fluency or automaticity and develop responsibility.

How/Have you had to address the homework issue with your students in poverty?  

Other resources include emotional, mental, spiritual, and role models.  Do your students have many resources available to them?

Until this exercise in this book I'd never considered how few resources some families may have.  This is something I will definitely keep in mind as I continue to assign homework.

Let me know if you have read this book and what you think of chapter 1.  If you haven't read this book, please leave feedback on these two questions any way.  I feel like the more input I get from outsiders the better I can wrap my head around this.


Christina Bainbridge said...

I LOVE THAT BOOK. It *so* puts things into perspective!

As for homework, I think we just have to keep in mind that if a student doesn't do their homework (especially at the elementary level)- it is a parent issue not a kid problem!

My current district is over 70% free-and-reduced lunch so this book was super helpful in helping me think about things I didn't otherwise consider.

One thing I think is so important is that the book talks about social norms for each socioeconomic level and how, in order for people to move to a higher level, someone from that group first has to act as a role model so they can even learn the societal norms. It's so interesting.

Another great book is "Star Teachers of Children in Poverty".

Mrs. Bainbridge's Blog

kjohnson4 said...

You make a great point about it not being a "kid problem" but a "parent problem". I feel the same way as you though, it really puts things in perspective. I think my school has about the same free/reduced lunch percentage. It makes me wish I had read this book sooner, but maybe it wouldn't be so meaningful without certain students in mind. Thanks for your perspective!