Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen
What sparked your interest or challenged your thinking within the readings and/or class discussions?
Several things come to my mind as I write this today. One thing that is clear to me is that all people, youth included, desire mutual respect and positive regard. If students feel valued and cared about by the adults teaching them, they are more likely to care about what the adult is teaching. But here’s the bottom line, we can’t just tell them we care about them, we must show them we care about them. Unfortunately, many of the students we are concerned about falling through the cracks are those who have been lied to over and over again so they are less likely to believe the words “we care about you”.
I feel fortunate that I taught previously in a low income school district. I learned much from that experience, from the students and from the community. Though extremely frustrating at times, there were many rewards as well. It took a couple of weeks my first year before I gained the trust of the two main powerhouses in my 6th grade classroom, but once I confirmed in their minds that I was honest and trustworthy because I said what I was going to do and I did what I said my classroom environment changed drastically. I’ll never forget the second day when one of those girls said to me, “Mrs. Sjol, you’re a Christian aren’t you?” to which I replied, “Yes, I am”. I learned early on that those kids had been lied to more times than you could imagine and that they had previously seen some inappropriate adult responses to the antics that they attempted, even from the adults in the school. They had been able to get THREE teachers the year before I arrived to quit or get fired and they were on a mission to do the same thing with me. I told them often that I was going to hang in there and that they couldn’t do anything to make me give up on what I knew that they were capable of. My expectations were high and I made positive phone calls home and established a rapport with their parents so that when/if I needed to call home for any other reason, the parents knew that I was not the white teacher who was judging them or their family but instead wanted what was best for them. It didn’t take long and within a year there were parents requesting me to be their child’s teacher. I truly believed that building that positive rapport with the parents was key and this enabled them to be more comfortable in the school setting themselves since many had negative feelings toward school due to their own personal experiences.
I think it’s great that we model and encourage healthy activities in our high school building. The music concerts, the plays, the art club, the speech club, open gym, family game night, and all of the sports activities and more all contribute to model those healthy activities that families are far better off being involved in. Encouraging every young person to be involved in these activities and helping provide scholarships for the uniform, clothing or the equipment would be another thing we could do. It’s great that we already have families who help provide for some but we sure know that there are more; there are students who would be involved in extra-curricular activities but are not due to the expense that is involved. The question is, how would we go about promoting this or even qualifying students in a respectful way that would maintain their dignity.