POVERTYS IMPACT ON LEARNING AND THE BRAIN TEACHING WITH POVERTY IN MIND: WHAT BEING POOR DOES TO KIDS BRAINS AND WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO ABOUT IT BY ERIC JENSEN ERIN ENNIS EDUCATION 635
WHAT IS POVERTY? chronic and debilitating condition that results from multiple adverse synergistic risk factors and affects the mind, body and soul Teaching with Poverty on the Mind -Eric Jenson, pg. 6
TYPES OF POVERTY: 1) Situational: result of a disaster, job loss, divorce or death and usually temporary or unique circumstance 2) Generational: passed from one generation to the next because they lack the ability to get out 3) Absolute: homelessness, day to day survival, lack necessities 4) Relative: differs from area to area based on standard of living 5) Urban: in cities, due to stress of surroundings such as crowding, crime and inadequate services 6) Rural: higher rates than urban poverty, less access to assistance and services, less jobs
CYCLE OF POVERTY Parent(s) are poorly educated Parent(s) work long hours for low pay & no/poor benefits Poor health conditions Stress Poor attendance/academic performance Lack job skills
POVERTYS IMPACT ON HEALTH Emotional Social Stress Cognitive delays Safety Undiagnosed disabilities, vision and hearing impairments
WHAT ABOUT POVERTY IMPACTS LEARNING? How does it impact these things? Poor environmental conditions: exposure to polluted air, water, crowded and unmaintained living conditions Malnutrition Lack of healthcare: availability and low cost Poor pre and post-natal care and higher rates of teen pregnancies Higher rates of chemical and alcohol dependency Higher rates of abusive households
CARDS ARE STACKED AGAINST THEM Impoverished households: higher rates of single income/single guardian families work long or irregular hours children spend more time home alone watch more TV and engage in less extracurricular or enrichment activities no one to supervise behavior and look to peers for social support no homework assistance parents with poor school experience are less likely to make education a priority instability frequent moves leave children without a sense of attachment and can cause a feeling of isolation Parents are unaware of resources available to them All adds up to higher attendance problems and drop out rates
PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES OCCUR IN GENES. STRESS TRIGGERS CERTAIN FUNCTIONS TO SHUT DOWN AND OTHERS TO BE ON SUCH AS FIGHT OR FLIGHT Environmental Stress Receptors on cells Messages to genes Turn functions on and off
Source: Adapted from "Neurocognitive Correlates of Socioeconomic Status in Kindergarten Children, by K. G. Noble, M. F. Norman, and M. J. Farah, 2005, Developmental Science, 8, pp. 7487. Figure 2.6. How Do the Brains of Children from Poverty Differ? Jenson, p.34
STRESS: anything that disrupts the balance of the body Children with poverty frequently suffer from chronic and/or acute stress (constant or trauma). Weakens the developing brain: Learning centers: Prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are most impacted by cortisol, the stress hormone Shrinks neurons in the frontal lobe- the area used for impulse, determining outcomes (planning) More impulsive as a means of survival: fight or flight Impacts the capacity for learning and memory Memory is emotional versus declarative (traumatic events versus learning information)
IMPACTS OF STRESS: Lower attention and concentration levels Lower creativity Lower memory capacity Lower social skills Lack of motivation Higher rates of depression Poor behavior and academic performance
IF THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE FOR THE WORSE, IT ALSO CAN CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
WE NEED TO START OUT BY UNDERSTANDING WHO ARE STUDENTS ARE. Perceptions of children of poverty in schools: They lack manners They act out Parents let them do whatever they want They dont care Rude Poor thing Low achiever, so the bar remains low
POVERTY AND PERFORMANCE Low expectations Low self esteem Poor performance Not willing to risk trying again Academic failure
High expectations Good performance High self esteem We, as teachers, can implement change in the brain!
We need to understand how poverty impacts the lives of children We need to know our schools community and know our students We need to take notice! Is there a pattern of absenteeism? Has behavior changed? Who are our students friends with? Where are they going when they leave our classrooms? Did they eat breakfast today? Did they get enough sleep? How did they get to school today? Are they clean? Do they seem healthy? We need to hold all students to high standards. We can not pity children from poverty. We need to be prepared to fill in the gaps that life has left them.
Jenson, p.18 We have to teach the whole keyboard and fill in the missing notes
MOVING FORWARD: These children lack attachmentsWe have to seek out ways to connect with them There lives may be unstableWe have to establish routines and stability Low SES parents tend to be authoritarianWe need to create cooperative learning disciplinariansopportunities They come from poor living conditionsWe provide a warm, safe environment They lack social skillsWe foster them through a nurturing school culture They lack access to enrichment activitiesWe provide them during school, after and before school whenever possible They lack homework helpWe provide homework clubs and tutoring
Children from poverty lack basic skills and we have to teach them how we expect them to act: Model polite behavior Practice addressing each other in class Group projects Instill a feeling of ownership our room Include in decisions about class rules, projects Create a culture where belonging means to be academically successful Seek opportunities to make them feel important and instill self confidence Offer choices but keep expectations high Stay calm and positive and let this be ingrained in the climate of the classroom
THINGS THE SCHOOL CAN DO TO REVERSE THE AFFECTS OF POVERTY Knowledgeable and collaborative staff and team determination to implement change Open communication and consistent, frequent means of evaluating students Change curriculum: create time enrichment activities art, music, physical education block time for homework cooperative learning among faculty reschedule school plays, conferences, etc. to accommodate working parents schedules Change dcor to make less institutional: bright colors, air flow, green space, clean Incorporate stress reducing activities: yoga, meditation, physical fitness Provide parenting education and get out into the community to promote it Make the school a center of activity for the community Provide meals to low income students including breakfast and a sack lunch for the weekend. Children cant learn if they are hungry.
WHAT WE CAN DO CONTINUED: Go out into the community and ask for help. School budgets, especially those in poor areas, are tight. Get creative and dont be afraid to ask for support from area businesses. -Local on site physician who comes in once a week -Local dentist visits once a month -Area college students volunteer as tutors -Local artisans come in to do work shops -Local restaurant/bakery/grocery store owners help provide meals for the weekends
OUR GOAL IS TO GET KIDS TO STAY IN SCHOOL AND SUCCEED IN LIFE. Final thoughts: IQ is partially genetic, but 60% is influenced by living conditions, nutrition and early childhood development experiences. The brain can change. If stress is reduced, new cells grow and a chain reaction of learning can occur. High rates of tardiness and absenteeism lead to high drop out rates. Make students want to be there. School attendance is directly linked to standardized test scores the more they are there, the higher the scores. Use fluid intelligence: apply known skills to learn new things. Children in poverty, like all children, need to be able to relate to material. Here, though, you may have a taller wall to break down. Adaptability and variety will have to be in your arsenal. Be patient. Dont condescend to the student or their family. You need to be approachable and welcoming. Be accommodating. Be understanding.
DONT JUDGE. OFTEN TIMES YOU WILL HAVE NO IDEA THAT A CHILD IS LIVING IN POVERTY. IN TODAYS ECONOMY, MORE AND MORE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES ARE FINDING THEMSELVES SCRAPING BY. THE STRESS OF WORRYING ABOUT MONEY IMPACTS THE WHOLE FAMILY. LEARN TO PICK UP ON THE SIGNS OF STRESS AND DO WHAT YOU CAN TO IMPEDE ITS IMPACT ON A CHILDS BRAIN.
There is a direct correlation between socio- economic status and race in this country that can not be ignored. I did not address this here as time is limited. Race and ethnicity all contribute to the pool of the impoverished and one can not discuss either of them independently. They are part of the cycle of poverty exemplified in the racial disparities of test scores and incarceration rates.