Every child deserves a fair shot at a bright future, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Yet, the harsh reality is that billions of children around the world are living in poverty, facing numerous challenges that can hinder their educational journey:
There were 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2021-22. That’s 29 per cent of children, or nine in a classroom of 30 [Source: Child Poverty Action Group]
In the United States, the poverty rate among children saw a sizeable increase, more than doubling from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% last year [Source: United States Census Bureau]
Globally, the numbers are even more sobering: 1.2 billion children worldwide are living in poverty [Source: Save The Children]
Teachers, as the unsung heroes we are, play a pivotal role in helping these children overcome adversity and reach their full potential. This is supported by the fact that the number one way to get children out of poverty is via good education. Nearly 60 million people could escape poverty if all adults had just two more years of schooling, and 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all adults completed secondary education, according to UNESCO.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how teachers can make a significant difference in the lives of children living in poverty, along with some practical strategies that can be implemented in the classroom.
#1: Build Relationships
Take the time to get to know your students individually. Learn about their interests, backgrounds, and challenges. Building strong teacher-student relationships can make a significant difference in the lives of students living in poverty. They need to feel like someone cares about their well-being and success.
#2: Flexible and Differentiated Instruction
Recognize that students in poverty may come to class with varying levels of preparedness due to circumstances beyond their control. Embrace differentiated instruction to cater to diverse learning needs. Offer additional support, extra time, or alternative assignments as needed. Flexibility in your teaching approach can help students catch up and stay engaged.
#3: Provide Access to Resources
Some students may not have access to textbooks, school supplies, or a quiet place to study at home. To bridge this gap, provide necessary resources in the classroom. Create a lending library, offer extra copies of textbooks, and keep a stash of school supplies for students who may need them.
#4: Encourage a Growth Mindset
Instill a growth mindset in your students, emphasizing that their abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort and determination. Teach them to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth rather than seeing setbacks as failures. This mindset can empower them to overcome obstacles they face. One my favourite techniques for implementing a growth mindset is Subtle Reinforcement.
#5: Breakfast and Snack Programs
Advocate for and participate in school breakfast and snack programs if they are available. A nutritious meal can make a significant difference in a student’s ability to concentrate and learn. These programs can help ensure that all students start their day with a full stomach. When implementing such programs, it’s important that poorer students are not singled out via a voucher system, or some kind of list for free meals that they must sign. Go for a campus card system instead and make it available to every student. Load credit onto the cards of poorer students and secure funding through scholarships, charities and community schemes.
#6: Connect with Community Resources
Reach out to local community organizations and social services that can support students in need. These organizations may offer tutoring, mentoring, or even access to free or low-cost extracurricular activities. Collaborate with these resources to provide additional support to your students.
#7: Teach Financial Literacy
Include financial literacy in your curriculum to equip students with essential life skills. Understanding how to budget, save, and make informed financial decisions can empower them to break the cycle of poverty in the long run.
Teachers play a crucial role in the lives of students living in poverty. By creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment and implementing practical strategies, we can help these students overcome obstacles and succeed academically and beyond. Remember that every small effort can make a big difference in a student’s life, and together, we can create a brighter future for all our students.
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High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK). Richard is the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know
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