Many Americans believe that the major problem within public education is the lack of focus within the administration of a school. They even go as far as to blame the teachers for not providing the adequate time and skills needed for their child to grow and learn on a day-to-day basis. This type of mentality is wrong. As much as we can over analyze the various policies and red tape that go behind the scenes in these schools, it is imperative that we become more aware and cognizant of the overarching problem that has plagued our schools for years, poverty.
Poverty, in itself, is a very uncomfortable topic. It is a dark cloud that looms in the backyard. It is a whisper that passes by individuals who, rather than confront it, tiptoe around the idea whenever they hear it brought up. But, like it or not, it is a conversation that we need to start having. For many of our schools, especially those that are failing, poverty is right behind it. Many of these well deserving students are held back at incredible opportunities to grow because of lack of funding or lack of resources. This should not happen.
But why is it happening? Why is this a problem?
More than 16 million children are growing up inpoverty in which 22% of all children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level of $23,550 a year. Research has shown that children living in poverty have a higher number of absenteeism and dropout rates than those coming from middle class or higher.
Now how does this affect the classrooms and how can we solve it?
Lacking the Foundation
For our students, children who grow up in low socioeconomic conditions typically have a smaller vocabulary than middle or higher-class children do, which increases the risk for academic failure. Much of this attributes to lack of exposure. Whether the words are spoken or read, low socioeconomic households will in most cases, to be able to provide their child with that elementary foundation. In the classroom, this lack of exposure can impact various lesson plans and achievement for both the teacher and the student. To resolve this type of problem, educators should try and incorporate vocabulary practice on a daily basis. The more exposure to new and unique words can enrich the student in successful ways.
Many teachers, especially new teachers into the field, find many students in low-income areas to be behaviorally difficult and inattentive to the work. As much as we want to blame the student, we need to understand their background and their stories. One reason why many student seem unmotivated at the school work is a lack of hope or optimism related to their outside problems. Low socioeconomic students often deal with problems bigger than themselves. Whether they are financial hardships or absent guardians, these types of negative problems can take a toll on the mentality of the student causing them to act in a very brash and hasty way. One thing a teacher should do to aid the situation is to build a relationship with the student. Establishing any type of relationship with the student can benefit you as well as the overall classroom. In addition, providing positive reinforcement can give the child the necessary confidence to perform at an academic basis.
Many disruptive home relationships often create mistrust in students. Parent or guardian figures that have often failed students at home can project to adults at the school. Classroom misbehaviors are likely to increase because of these at-home instabilities. The best way to handle this type of situation is to develop a relationship with that child. Understanding, listening, and talking with a child can provide you a strong advantage especially later down the line.
Performance on Exams
Studies have shown that children from lower socioeconomic background often perform below those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds on state exams. Many students coming from specific communities are found to struggle with the core subjects such as reading, math, science, etc. In addition, many of the schools that the students attend lack the necessary resources and teachers to provide them the foundation to develop these core skills. What a school can do to help nullify this problem is by strategically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each of their student. By having this type of data, a teacher is able to break down lessons so that his students can be successful.