How do you address the needs of of students from poverty, minority students, or other obstacles to achievement in your classroom?
Tara, Science in the City:My students are mostly from poverty, minority, etc. I have a few strategies that I utilize to try to help them achieve.
1) I try to make the curriculum as relevant to them as possible. In many cases, it does not appear relevant to them at first, but I see part of my job as to help make those connections for them.
2) I try to show them other success stories, or examples of their own success so that they feel that achievement is possible.
3) I try to be flexible with deadlines, and timelines, but still uphold the standard (they have to do the work, but some flexibility may be required in how/when they do the work). For example, homework may not happen if they are homeless, but a motivated student may still find time to come in during a lunch period or after school and complete the work in the next week.
Kimberly, OC Beach Teacher:I try to be culturally aware and promote a respectful, courteous classroom. However, I have definitely made mistakes at times. When I was a younger teacher, I expected my African American students to look at me directly in the eye when I spoke with them individually. I learned that it was a cultural norm for many of them, especially males, to avoid eye contact with me in these situations.
In our English class I have also used the PBS feature, “Do You Speak American?”, to teach students about language. This series is excellent for helping students understand linguistic differences and respect for various dialects. We have had discussions to better understand audience and purpose in communication and the use of code-switching in academic or professional environments.
Dawn, Algebra Simplified:At the end of the year when a majority of students are looking for the nearest trashcan to throw out their class notebook, I ask for old notebook, folder, and paper donations. (Truthfully, I’d take anything they would give me.) You can find all these used school supplies hoarded in my cabinets. The beginning of school year sales get a little of my business as well. (Maybe I just can’t resist that spiral notebook for 17 cents!) This allows me to freely share with students throughout the year. Students have to have paper and a pencil on their desk when the bell rings. If you didn’t bring any, no sweat; just get what you need from my cabinets and be ready to learn at the bell. While this doesn’t solve all obstacles, a student doesn’t have to be hindered by not bringing supplies.
My own teenage encounter with poverty shaped my unique approach to help teens equip their brains to leapfrog past personal disadvantages. Caught on the street alone at 14, after my mother died of cancer, I found on-going inspiration to move past poverty from teachers who welcomed, engaged and included all capabilities that appeared at their tables.
By helping disadvantaged students develop all eight intelligences they literally learn from inside poverty to do what the best teachers helped me to do when I found myself homeless. This method was tested in inner city schools where I saw teens become the change they sought, and developed. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Learning-from-Inside-a-Brain-on-Poverty-Through-Multiple-Intelligence-Tasks-922642
Clair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget: Our school always provided basic supplies, and I always made sure my students had paper, pencils, and a place for their work. I also bought my own pens and pencils as well as recycled old folders and spiral notebooks. I even picked up pencils in the hall or parking lot to put in my cup for the next day.
Work that went home wouldn’t come back, so I didn’t set them up for failure– everyone got a folder where they could store their work between classes. I kept the folders in my file cabinet (and recycled the manilla folders without drawings the next year) We did work in class and included a lot of projects, to allow them choice and flexibility.
Attendance was one of the barriers to success– we didn’t even have bus service to our program, so students relied on their not-always-reliable friends and classmates or their not-always-reliable parents to get to class. So if they actually did the work, then I generally did not penalize them (There were a few classes that, as a whole, were so bad about submitting work, that I implemented deadlines and small penalties to motivate them, and it helped.) Using free e-texts for most of my readings meant that if a student wanted to work at home, I could send home a printed etext without worrying about if it came back. My goal, always, was on helping them successfully complete their work– if they don’t do the work, they’re not going to learn.
Sara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:I have taught almost exclusively in Title I schools with extremely high levels of poverty. One thing I did was take advantage of any and all super sales on school supplies. I was the queen of Staples penny deals (though I didn’t see them this year). Between myself and my family, I’d buy 100 notebooks for $10 and pass them out throughout the year to students who needed them. I still haven’t exhausted my pencil supply two years later- though I was stingier with those.
With regards to race- I once worked in a school with some students who decided to be very vocal with their racist comments. I always shut it down immediately but it made me very uncomfortable. I just always make it clear that everyone is welcome and safe in my classroom- any race, any religion, any sexual orientation. I have banned “trigger” words (n-word, retard, and gay) and have it explicitly spelled out in my college syllabus. But in my teaching methods? I change nothing. Good teaching is good teaching.
Lauralee,The Language Arts Classroom:My students are often hungry. I attempt to keep grapes or other perishable, non-messy items on my desk. That way students can grab a handful as they walk by. They are normally excited to get fruit!