Eric Jensen is one of my favorite authors in regard to the topic of addressing poverty. His approach made a great deal of sense to me. Brain based approach to the problem seemed to be the solution! It made sense to me and still does! There are many more layers to resolve and address, but from the educational lens brain-based is the best!
“Poverty is transforming the brains of children and adults at an alarming rate and with devastating results.” -Horacio Sanchez, The Poverty Problem I just began reading this book, and I will share more from it as we continue to work. Poverty is a problem that has been with us for decades. Our country went through the Great Depression, we have had recessions, and now a global pandemic. I believe solutions have been tried to “fix” the idea that this problem was temporary and was never to be a way of life. Instead we have some “fixed” mindsets we need to address.
Policymakers will have to make some changes as well as some others, but education is the one holding the biggest key to the door to solutions. “The solution to the problem will require creative new strategies firmly rooted in neuroscience research. Education has to have a sound strategy to address poverty that include modifying school climate, instruction, curriculums, social and emotional training and support services.” -Sanchez, The Poverty Problem
Let’s start with a school focus first and Jensen’s SHARE factors for school-based. I will remind you they are Support for the Whole Child, Hard Data, Accountability, Relationship Building and Enrichment Mind-Set. As a former principal of a high poverty middle school, we did this book as a staff book study. We did several things to prepare as we went along. I will provide you with all of those materials and updated ones as well. The first step before you begin is to allow your staff time to understand what poverty is, remember the why they became a teacher, how they see students, families and each other. I have activities we will do together and you can do with staff.
Support the whole child. What does that mean or look like? Children right now are experiencing trauma. The world for them has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. They could have stressors from different things; we are never sure. Why don’t we ask them? Students are almost always left out of these conversations! It is my biggest plea to everyone, please stop! Education is something we do with children not to them. Survey the children, interview them or whatever you feel is the best way to get the answers. Meet their needs! Let me tell you what I did with the help of my teams.
Our social worker, psychologist, teachers all did some questioning with kids they had relationships with. I spoke to kids and families as well. Then I began to make phone calls to organizations and friends I had within those places. We made space available in our school, created a working schedule and two outside agencies came in to help children. We had a drug and alcohol counselor and a mental health provider. We were beginning to do some solution meetings with the county truancy officer, along with agency help to work with families to get what was needed.
Survey or interview students on what their needs are
Connect with outside agencies to see how they can support your school
Establish a family council if you do not have one to find their needs. Check my resource page on my website for materials to help. I will continue to add to the resources on the website.
Thank you for being the solution daily!