Thursday, May 26, 2016

Poverty...what does differentiation have to do with it?

As I stated in my last post, I am current involved with an independent study.  I am primarily using various Eric Jensen books.  Eric Jensen is one of the gurus of taking brain research and applying it to teaching strategies.  As a former teacher, he gets that we need to understand our students but also need strategies.

Why am I studying this?

Last year, I had several children who were in poverty or close to poverty levels.  Behaviors were rampant in my room....disregard for authority to the point where a discussion with another staff member ensued about how they as 5th graders were smarter than any adult.  So why should we listen to them.  When the staff member interjected after 17 minutes of this "talk" that adults have wisdom that comes from experience.  At this point, the 6-8 students leading this "discussion," turned on her. They accused her of being a liar. "You said we could always say whatever they wanted without her judging. See adults are all liars." That is an example of the attitudes of some but not all of my students.  Motivation was LOW even with all my best engagement strategies.  Self doubt, anger and control issues were norm in my room....the list could go on.  Even with all of that, I cared deeply for these kiddos! However, felt unprepared for what they needed.  Hence, my independent study to give my belt a few more tools. 

Why do you need to know this?

Poverty is all around us.  Teachers therefore need to stop making excuses like "well its the home life," or "they will always just have issues."  WAKE UP!! In Eric Jensen's book Poor Students, Rich Teachers, he spends two chapters helping us see the URGENCY of this social issue.  "Percentage wise we have about the same number of poor as in 1964." (ch.1, pg 3) I will not bore you with all the numbers but lets just say...I was surprised!! Then with a quick question, I found that my district is at 64% Free Reduced/42% free lunch status.  I am NOT in a urban setting.  This is Nebraska.
     "So, what? Other than they are in my classroom, what does it mean to me?" You may be asking yourself. Well, first off, they are in your classroom! Secondly, when poverty increases then tax base decreases.  Who/what pays your salary?  Jensen goes into all of this much deeper.  Not convinced, read the first two chapters of the book mentioned in the paragraph above.  

      We need to understand how poverty effects the brain and hear the GREAT news: 


We have the power to improve this issue.  

So, lets do it! 

The forthcoming blogs will be insights on how to make tweaks to your teaching in order to change the future.  I plan to share which strategies I am going to implement and hope to have a "book study" style conversation about those and other strategies that we can use.  This is just another way to differentiate for what students need.  Meeting them at their step and giving them the tools to climb the steps of academics. 

COME JOIN ME....LETS CONQUER THE WORLD of POVERTY one classroom at a time!!!