how different experiences affect students. The challenge then is figuring out
what to do to help students navigate a
world where expectations are different
from those they find at home. Teachers
I’ve talked with have come up with a
variety of solutions.
For example, learning not to interrupt
or speak loudly is important for a child’s
ongoing success in school. One teacher
handles this by asking students to write
comments on sticky notes and stick
them on the board for her to respond to
before the end of class. Another always
speaks in a soft voice to show that quiet
voices can be heard, too. The louder the
student speaks, the softer the teacher’s
box that any child could take clothes
from. (The teacher “found” some of the
clothes at a local thrift store.) Another
told a student that his child had outgrown an outfit and he thought the
outfit would look great on this pupil.
Students may not even know that their
clothing is a problem because they do
what is expected at home.
One school handled the homework
issue by providing homework assis-
tance to students who arrived on early
buses or left on late buses during their
sleep time. Other teachers allow stu-
dents to stand up when they need to
stay awake. Some teachers direct the
entire class to stand up for stretching
or brain-activating exercises when
students’ energy seems to be flagging.
When one teacher discovered that a
student could not sleep at night because
of a noisy environment, she offered the
student earplugs. Another educator
realized that having nutritious snacks
helped a student stay awake.
Raymond’s dad may get off work at midnight, and because Raymond wants to spend time with his father, he is awake late into the night.
waiting time before or after school. One
teacher arrived early or stayed late to
help students with homework when
Some schools build homework time
into the school schedule. Other schools
experiment with providing students
with technology that taps into children’s
natural curiosity so they discover new
ways to learn. It’s counterproductive to
to allow a student who lives in poverty
to not complete the tasks expected of
all the students in the class. A teacher
needs to be creative to help the pupil
find ways that work for him or her.
Sleepy children cannot be good
learners. One school arranged for
certain children to have first period as
A New Perspective
In addition to those factors already
mentioned, children in poverty might
also face a lack of hygiene supplies or
other basic needs, frequent moves, and
substandard houses and neighborhoods.
It’s important for teachers to be aware
of these possibilities before making
snap judgments about the reasons for
students’ actions. The concept of funds
of knowledge can open up worlds of
understanding when we are willing to
acknowledge that our funds of knowledge
are not the same as everyone else’s.
Bringing teachers together in small
groups to brainstorm how different
experiences will affect their students
and then sharing ideas for helping is
extremely empowering for a faculty, and
it benefits students without turning
them into objects of scorn. It can be a
challenge and a delight for teachers and
students to find ways to connect and
form relationships so that all can learn
and benefit from one another. EL
1Gonzalez, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C.
(2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. New York: Routledge.
Beth Lindsay Templeton (beth@oewo
.org) is founder and CEO of Our Eyes
Were Opened in Greenville, South Carolina. She is the author of Understanding
Poverty in the Classroom: Changing Perceptions for Student Success (Rowman
and Littlefield Education, 2011) and the
children’s book A Coat Named Mr. Spot