Teachers need to understand how poverty can affect a student in the classroom. Some students who suffer from poverty may come from homes with very young, single or low educational level parents. Their parents may be unemployed, have substance abuse problems or generally may not be good role models. Students might live in dangerous neighbourhoods or suffer from homelessness. They might move areas often; their parents may have had bad experiences with schools themselves and see schools as threatening institutions and do not value education. Perhaps they come from households where the parents are family orientated and loving, their only problem being lack of money. Teachers need to understand the family background to understand how to best assist the student. Teachers must be aware of the problems and difficulties poorer students face and make allowances and adjustments to the curriculum to provide them with relevant learning without detracting from other students needs.
Pellino (2007) writes of the lack of confidence many children of poor families have and how many see the curriculum as irrelevant to their lives. She suggests modifying the curriculum in interesting, simple ways that will have value to all students in the class. This may include doing work on the effect of poverty, getting involved in community projects such as soup kitchens or simply studying the question “What is poverty?” It is important that these activities be followed with both group discussion and individual reflection to help children think critically about their experiences (Chafel, 1997). A good education is often the only means of breaking the cycle of poverty for poor children therefore a teacher must provide a curriculum that is relevant and challenging to motivate students and increase their opportunity for higher education and greater opportunity in life.
Many students from low socio-economic households feel they have no choice or control over their destiny. They may be depressed, have a fear of failure or low expectations of their academic ability. An important task for teachers is to help students develop conative attitudes (Pellino, 2007). These are a desire to improve their life and an understanding that it is indeed possible through the creation of goals, plans and perseverance. It may be beneficial to develop conative attitude exercises designed to help students identify what is important to them personally. Incorporating personal reflection in the curriculum may be beneficial (Pellino, 2007). This could include encouragement to write journal entries imagining what they would do if time and money was no object (Waitley, 1996, cited by Huitt, 1999) and then reflecting back on a mission statement.
Students from low income families often need help to develop self-efficacy and a desire to be proactive in their life (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998; Emmons, 1986). These are traits that are often lacking in low achieving students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds (Huitt, 1999). It is important for teachers to develop lessons that result in success to show students that they are capable of altering outcomes and do not just accept what life throws at them (Pellino, 2007).
I found Karen Pellino’s paper to be extremely helpful. It is comprehensive and includes an extensive reference list that directs the reader to a vast array of articles for further study.
Baumeister, R., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252-1265. Retrieved from CSA Illumina 14 June 2008.
Chafel, J. (1997) ‘Children’s Views of Poverty: A Review of Research and Implications for Teaching’, The Educational Forum, 61:4, 360 – 371. Accessed from Informaworld 15 June 2008 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131729709335282Emmons, R. (1986). Personal strivings: An approach to personality and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1058-1068. Retrieved from CSA Illumina 14 June 2008.
Huitt, W. 1999. Conation as an important factor of mind. Website for Valdosta State University, GA. http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/conation.html. Accessed 14
Pellino, K. (2007). The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning. Teachnology. Retrieved 14 June, 2008, from http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/teaching/poverty/print.htm.