More faces, more poverty

First of all, I want to be clear that I understand poverty crosses over into many, many lives.  I live in an affluent town. A town with a food pantry that is routinely emptied.  People in this town are foreclosed upon, bankrupt, lose homes to tax liens.

But what I know is the environment in which I work. Last week we had to serve lunch in the classroom because the cafe-gym-atorium was being used for a play.  I had 22 students in attendance that day. Twenty-one qualified for free lunch.  One child qualified for reduced lunch. Zero pay full cost. What’s the poverty percentage for that 21 of 22? Ninety-five percent. If you’ve never seen the income requirements for free and reduced lunch click here.

Poverty and the trauma that results in families is a complicated thing. I am not an expert, I am an observer. And from what I observe some very vulnerable beings, 9 year olds, thrive – or try to thrive – under some very appalling conditions.

Ruby Payne has written an exemplary book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I read it over and over to try to get a handle on the cultural differences, the hidden rules of poverty, of the middle-class, of wealthy people. Each time I do, I uncover something more to think about, some way I can be more effective, more understanding of the challenges facing my students – 95 percent of whom are well below the poverty level.

It is a book I recommend to educational colleagues. Understanding is power.

One thought on “More faces, more poverty

  1. I have just completed Ruby Payne’s book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate course that I am currently taking. After reading the book, I did have a few aha! moments I can say that some of the desriptions of those in poverty, and middle class and wealthy class as well, seem a bit extreme on both ends, but the book does provide a framework from which to build upon. It is not the end all of books on poverty and how to adjust the classroom to include all students without focusing on what the student cannot do but what they can do. My dealings with the impovrished student is different. I am the School Nurse. I do see first hand how an unhealthy student can struggle in and out of the classroom. But that does not only include poverty stricken students. Obese students and generally unhealthy students struggle just as much. My goal is to try and provide those students and families living in poverty a baseline for preventative care and healthy living practices. I can only hope that this will contribute to their success in the classroom and the world!

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