Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Child Poverty...

Today I am linking up with One Wee Voice – Child Poverty campaign.  Every morning I drive 30 minutes from the comfortable neighborhood where I live, and my children go to school.  I drive across the city to the neighborhood in which I work, and have worked for the past 10 years.  

This neighborhood has many names…affectionate slang from those who live and work here and appreciate this part of town…dismissing slang from those who don’t understand and judge….sometimes they’re the same name, it just depends on who’s using the term.  I teach in a middle school in a neighborhood with high poverty.  Today about 85% of our students are on free or reduced lunch.  Many are a transient population, often moving once or twice during the school year.  Many don’t have cold weather clothing, school supplies, or food.  

Think about the school where your children spend their days.  At my school:
  • We have a clothing bank inside the school that is accessed during the day by counselors and staff to make sure children have clean, warm clothes.  It’s open to families in the afternoons and during our monthly family nights.
  • We are building protocols for children to access the new medical and dental clinic that just opened at the community center across the street.  We will be able to help kids access medical or dental assistance during the school day.
  • We serve a free or reduced price breakfast and lunch to most of the student body daily.
  • Teachers have drawers full of healthy snacks and they’ve learned how to slip them to the kids who need more food.
  • We buy sweatshirts and gloves, scarves and hats so that kids can be warm on their way to school.
  • We give away books and feed families at our Family Night’s.  
  • We have cupboards full of school supplies and backpacks so that kids are able to attend classes prepared.
  • There is anxiety in the days leading up to a long school break because many children don’t know what they will be eating or where they will be sleeping during those weeks.
  • Almost every child has a story that will break your heart.

At the same time we have to be careful not to let those facts become the excuse…we can accept that those things are but we cannot allow them to cloud our resolve to teach.  We cannot allow those facts to keep us from presenting children with a rigorous educational curriculum and helping them find the resolve to learn.  It is very easy to get sidetracked by someone’s story…to allow pity and guilt to move in and take over.  When that happens I no longer see the resilience in the child…it’s hard to hold him or her accountable to learning about the Conservation of Matter when you know what they saw at home last night.  And so…I hold their stories in one part of my heart but with my voice, I push them to learn.  I help them find some relevance in the academia because I believe that education is the way out of poverty.  I believe that to my core.  I work every day, usually behind the scenes, so that our kids can find the resilience and strength and courage to leave poverty behind.  


  1. I'll bet your students love you! I remember the teacher I was volunteering for once upon a time saying the exact same thing... you cannot get stuck on the story... push them to move out of it. My hat is off to you.

  2. That post just touches my heart. That must be incredibly difficult to not want to bundle them all up and take them home, feed them, give them warm clothes and just love & pay attention to them. You're doing an amazing job and making such a difference in their lives!!!

  3. As a fellow teacher, I appreciate this post so so so much. And do you want to know what resonates with me most? The fact that you mentioned that anxiety increases leading up to extended breaks. I've worked in poverty stricken schools, and affluent schools, and this remains constant. While we look forward to the break, there are so many kids with good reason not to.

    Thank you for contributing.

  4. There are some fantastic ideas that your school has put in place. I do not understand why more schools do not take this approach.

    I've not seen it at all in the UK schools most of them (primary and junior) do not even have canteens, so there isn't even an opportunity for free/reduced meals. I dropped by from One Wee Voice. It's a really good post, very thought provoking.

  5. There hasn't been a school year in which I find children I would love to just take home with me. Thank you all for stopping today.


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