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As educators, we come across a vast number of students from all walks of life. In Statistics On How Poverty Affects Children in Schools, author Jana Sosnowski shared, “Approximately one in five children in the United States live in poverty, according to the American Psychological Association, a status that affects more than housing status and food supply.” This is something that has triggered lots of talk about educational reform.
Many circumstances students living in poverty encounter are beyond their control. They can face many challenges that affect their brain development, emotional well-being, relationships with others, and school achievement. When serving in schools with students who are living in poverty, it is important to know how to do our best to help and empower our students.
When you have students who are living in poverty, compassion is important. But, it does students an injustice if you do not hold them to high expectations. As educators, we want our students to do their best and succeed in our class and life. Holding students to high expectations allows them to work toward reachable goals that can empower them with intrinsic motivation. This is important because once a student leaves your class, hopefully, you have instilled in them the power to work hard toward their goals and rise to the occasion.
Many times students’ experiences can be limited due to their means and their parents/caregivers experiences. It is integral to show students the world around them and open their eyes to what the world has to offer.
Finally, be sure to connect learning in the classroom to real life experiences. This will truly enhance your students’ perspective as they learn and move through life.
Building relationships is a key aspect when it comes to a creating a positive learning environment. It also helps foster mutual respect and trust with your students and their families. One factor those living in poverty often face is high mobility due to unstable living situations. Be a source of consistency. Let your students and families know they can trust you and make them feel welcome.
If you’re interested, we have a PRO Learning Pack dedicated to building positive relationships. You can explore a variety of activities for building trust and engagement including how to use art processes to build positive social and emotional skills.
Students who live in poverty can have trouble focusing in school because of things troubling them in their personal lives. It’s important to teach positive social and emotional skills that can build trust, respect, community, and personal growth. These skills can also help students learn to regulate their feelings and transition to a mindset ready for learning. Let’s take a look at three ideas.
A great way to teach students how to regulate their emotions is to take a step back and do some breathing techniques. If your school does not already teach breathing techniques, you can easily do this in your classroom.
3 Strategies to Try:
A Calm Down Corner is a space in your classroom that allows students who are not regulated or in the proper mindset to begin learning to go and regulate themselves. You can have students use a stress ball, glitter bottles, or breathing techniques to begin to calm down. You may also want to have a self-reflection sheet available to help students process their feelings.
One way to build community is through classroom circles. This technique involves students getting in a circle and sharing based on a prompt given by the teacher.
Here is how it works:
In general ed circles, sometimes this technique is practiced daily. However, if you are a teacher who doesn’t see your students every day, you could try implementing it once or twice a month.
Making sure you have a classroom that exudes positivity and community is important. Be sure to teach your students to be compassionate and respectful toward one another. It can be helpful to have specific conversations about not judging others, especially on outward appearances. Team building exercises, modeling kindness, having mutual respect, and sharing the importance of accepting others are great ways to make this happen in your classroom.
Overall, students living in poverty are just like other children, but they can encounter limitations and barriers that make it harder to learn. We must do our best to make sure each child knows how special they are and that no matter what problems they may face, there is someone who loves and believes in them.
What tips do you have for teachers working with students living in poverty?
Do you use social-emotional strategies in the classroom?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.