A Poverty of Expectations?



This morning I once again had the great privilege to join in the #supefriends Saturday morning podcast.  In addition to being a virtual dose of espresso, it is a wonderful group of diverse thinkers and thought provocateurs.  This morning’s topic was poverty in education.  Throughout the conversation I was left with a dichotomy of thought.

For students in which school serves as their retreat and haven for safety, shelter, assured food, and supportive adult relationships, I believe Maslow would dictate that these fundamental needs must be at the forefront of these student’s experience.  Yet therein lies the challenge.

  1.  If our expectations for these students are lessened due to the impoverished world they experience outside of the school house, have we not contributed to the vicious cycle of not asking these students to strive to reach their full potential so as to enable them to improve themselves and their situation.
  2. But, if we are to hold these students to the high expectations of self-actualization and reflective growth and development, are we being blind and naive to the impact that a child’s environment outside of school has on their learning inside of school?

Our conversation wandered (as it oft does) to the realization that poverty comes in many forms.  And while there are definitely distinct challenges associated with students who are living in households that are under the socio-economically defined poverty line, there are also students that face poverty in other forms (poverty of love and affirmation, poverty of physical and/or mental health, poverty of voice…etc), and therefore bring these challenges with them to our classrooms each day.

In the end the strategies that were most professed in our morning discussion were not unique to this population, rather they were moral obligations for all teachers in this noble profession:

Form, foster, develop and celebrate relationships with each of your students so that they will feel welcome and supported to share their interests, their dreams, and themselves with you and with the class.


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