I know that many of you work with families/students who come from poverty. One thing we need to remind teachers is that what we’re really fighting is not “kids not wanting to do the work” but a mindset that is not easy to overcome when it’s being reinforced at home…and now…we do not get to take students away from that and work on a Growth Mindset. A book that changed my teaching practice forever was A Framework for Understanding Poverty – A Cognitive Approach. This book focuses on the mindset of those in poverty and how that mindset affects why they feel that “life is done to them”. That they feel they have no control or cannot control their lives. Therefore, in moments like this when life literally is being controlled by others, they are in a “see told you so” mindset. Then schools tell them they have to do this assignment and that assignment and now school is being done to them without their control. When humans feel like they do not have control over decisions in their life they react in one of two ways. They either fight to get control back or shut down. Those coming from poverty often choose to shut down. No homework, no learning, not trying. Why try when you can’t control it and you can’t control the outcome, so why even try. So what do we hear as teachers “I don’t care, I’m gonna fail anyway”.
When we give students ownership over their learning, especially the path (choice) of what they learn we give them power. We say “Hey, you get to choose something in your life, even if it’s between these 3 options”. Kids respond, families respond and they start to feel like they have control over something….even if that something is just school work. When we give choice in a crisis situation like we are in now we are not only supporting students but we’re supporting families in giving them back something they can control…in this case..what assignment I can help my child with.
For those educators who didn’t understand this before this crisis, this is going to be an uphill battle. I did not come from poverty and I struggled to understand this mindset as it was not one I was raised with. I’m lucky that I’m married to an amazing school counselor who constantly made me focus on this fact, made me read that book and it forever changed the way I approach and understand that, it’s not that they don’t’ want to do the work. They don’t know HOW to think about doing the work. Someday ask me to tell you my apple story over a beer-it was when I finally got it.
If nothing else, my hope is that we can help educators see that by giving students ownership over the path of their learning we are supporting all students but especially those that come from poverty and homes that do not have the mindset that is needed to “do school.”