Understanding Poverty in Education


Understanding Poverty in Education

Reflection Paper – Discussing how an understanding of culture and values of poverty may enable educators to help students and parents

In most learning institutions, there are many students living in poverty. Most teachers are middle-class people and may not be able to connect with the poor students. Children from poor backgrounds, just like the middle-class and the wealthy, deserve the best that can be offered in the education systems (Templeton, 2011). In order to connect with the children and parents living in poverty, educators need to understand the experiences, culture, and realities of these students. This will also help them to understand the perceptual differences between students with resources and those with limited resources.

Quite often, most people only relate poverty to financial status. The ability of individuals to leave poverty is dependent on other resources such emotional, mental, spiritual, physical resources, and financial resources. Emotional resources enable students and parents to cope with uncomfortable emotional situations (Payne, 2005).  It is easy to avoid poverty when these resources are available. In addition, emotional resources are necessary when individuals change their social classes.

Mental resources are vital as they help in getting information and utilizing it in the promotion of living conditions. Reading, writing, and counting, are essential elements of the mental resources that are necessary for fighting poverty. Through studies, students avoid poverty in future as education makes them self-sufficient.

The help people get from a Supreme Being in associated with spiritual resources. When educators understand this, they can help students and parents by letting them know that there is always a purpose for living since life is a gift from God (Payne, 2005). Therefore, there is no need, for students and parents to see themselves as hopeless even if they are poor.

Having a healthy body that functions well is a fundamental physical resource that should not be ignored. In addition, support systems are also critical in fighting poverty. When we need help, the people whom we turn to are part of support systems resources. Students require people they can look up to when they are sick, and people to assist them with their difficult assignments.

Relationships or role models are other resources that are significant for understanding poverty. All human beings have role models to nurture and guide them in their lives. Individuals learn how to live emotionally from their role models. For students, parents and teachers can be their role models (Payne, 2005). Dr. James Corner noted that no learning occurs without significant relationship.

Knowledge of hidden rules is necessary for all individuals who wish to live. Hidden rules are present in poverty, middle class, and in wealth. These rules are the unspoken understandings that exist among people in various classes (Payne, 2005).  When moving from one class to another, it is necessary to have a mentor. This will give one an opportunity to learn the hidden rules in that class.

To understand poverty well, educators must also understand the three aspects of language namely; registers of language, outline, and arrangement (Payne, 2005). Most of the main issues in schools and businesses are related to these aspects. They are, however, different in poverty than they are in middle class. The registers of language include formal, frozen, consultative, casual, and intimate.

According to research, poor and minority students lack access to formal register in their homes. These students lack the vocabularies necessary for the formation of sentence structure. Written communication, therefore, has little meaning to poor students (Payne, 2005). Significant relationship between the educator and the student is necessary for acquisition of language. When this form of relationship lacks, then the instructions given to students must be more direct and clear.

Educators, who understand the hidden rules in the different classes, can help students affected by poverty. Students or parents living in poverty have learnt the art of defending themselves physically and can live without secondary needs such as electricity and phones. Students are also cautious in preventing theft of their personal items (Danziger, 2009). They also know where to get free medical clinics and can do without cars.  This clearly shows the lack of tools to those living in poverty. Students from poor backgrounds may lack access to books, pens, rulers, and other tools necessary for promoting their learning environment. Educators can, therefore, understand the level of poverty in their students when they discover some of the hidden rules in this category.

Lack of facilities such as electricity and food may affect the performance of students in class since they might not be able to study in the evening. Lack of enough food may affect the concentration of students in class (Lusted & Smith, 2010). Parents and students from a poor background know what to do when they do not have enough money to pay for their bills. Therefore, an educator should be keen to understand such students when they miss classes due to lack of school fees. Some of the hidden rules for the middle class include parents’ ability to take their children for extra curricular activities such as piano classes or sports.  When educators realize the students who receive such service, they should understand they are not poor (Layman & Villani, 2004). Middle class students have the knowledge of setting a table and can even place an order in a nice hotel.  Such children may understand the best brands in clothing and visit the stores that sell their family brands. Middle class parents also help their children with their homework and advise them on the best colleges to attend in the future. In addition, such parents own cars and can use various tools in their garages. Most decisions and actions for the middle class relate to work and achievement.

The knowledge about the hidden rules for the wealthy class is also beneficial for educators as they can identify such students and parents. Wealthy families may have more than one residential house and have favorite hotels in different countries.  In the wealthy class, people are more concerned with financial, social, and political connections.

Most of the assumptions made by educators about their students relate to how they understand hidden rules. Educators should understand the hidden rules of all the three classes as attitudes portrayed by students and parents often reflect their culture and values (Payne, 2005).  Understanding the culture and values of poverty will make educators comfortable when handling poor students and parents instead of being frustrated and disappointed.

Educators should understand that students or parents who are poor do not believe they are poor. Even those who are from wealthy families believe that there are more wealthy people and never acknowledge they are wealthy. The knowledge of the cultural values and hidden rules for the different classes of people enables educators to identity the poor parents and students. After the identification, they can offer them the necessary help in education.



Danziger, S. (2009). Understanding Poverty. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Layman, L., & Villani, C. (2004). Best Leadership Practices for High poverty Schools. New          York: R & L Education.

Lusted, M., & Smith, B. (2010). Poverty. London: ABDO.

Payne, R. (2005). A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, Tex: AHA Process

Templeton, B. (2011). Understanding poverty in the Classroom: Changing Perceptions for            Student Success. New York: R & L Education.