or cannot do. Reframe your thinking to recognize
the strength it takes for a child who had to find a
couch to sleep on last night to simply make it in
the school door.
In our rush to create silent classrooms and push
test preparation, we lose sight of the complexity of
children’s lives, and we lose our delight in knowing
how they, feel, reason, joke, or concoct ideas. In
just 10 minutes, you can encourage students to
write from a prompt like “I am from ________”
or “I used to______, but now I _____.” Read
their pieces to a small group or to the entire class.
Elementary teachers often have a daily circle time
and even in secondary school, you can pull the
chairs into a circle at the end of class and ask students about their plans for the rest of the day or a
This listening is an important part of your job.
Listening means slowing down or stopping, even
for a minute as a student lingers by your desk. It
means having music playing as you work in your
classroom in the morning and nodding to a student
who comes in early. If you let that student relax
there most mornings, he might make it a habit to
talk with you before each day begins.
Don’t Tolerate Teasing
By establishing clear classroom guidelines,
including no teasing about clothes or possessions
and talking with students about what these guidelines mean, you’ll establish a climate of safety.
Effective guidelines state positive behaviors, such
as, Be Physically Considerate, Be Verbally Considerate, or Try New Things. Talk about what
concepts like consideration mean; for instance,
showing verbal consideration includes not taunting
or hurting anyone’s feelings. When you spend time
up front working on behaviors, you save time the
rest of the year. Classes become communities, and
discipline problems diminish.
Connect Curriculum to Students’ Interests
When possible, connect the content you’re
teaching to things students are fascinated with,
like a song or video they keep talking about or
the pollution in their neighborhood. By tapping
into learners’ concerns, you can develop bridges
to literature, science, or math. You might engage
students in projects connected to community
issues or problems, like cleaning up a playground
or advocating for a bus for summer programs.
Students can write letters to the editor, ask scien-
tists to come in and talk about pollution, or find
journalists who will talk to the class about issues in
their city. Such actions give low-income students
a sense of agency and possibility. You might also
infuse their families’ traditions and talents into
classwork. Financially poor students often come
from families rich in culture.
Advocate for impoverished children by speaking
up about which students are tracked into general
Sources of Grants for
Projects and Materials
RGK Foundation awards grants for projects in
k– 12 education (math, science, reading, and teacher
development) and after-school enrichment programs.
the foundation is interested in programs that attract
female and minority students into steM.
National Geographic Education Foundation
provides professional development and education
materials connected to geography education.
American Honda Foundation supports youth and
scientific education projects, including those that
offer unique approaches to teaching youth in minority
and underserved communities.
Dollar General Literacy Foundation funds
programs for youth and adult literacy, school library
relief, and preparation for the GeD. Dollar General
Grant programs support nonprofits in u.s. states in
which company stores are located.
The ING Foundation awards grants to nonprofits
working in education, particularly physical education
and for programs addressing child obesity.
Teaching Tolerance makes grants of $500 to
$2,500 for projects designed to reduce prejudice,
improve intergroup relations in schools, and support
professional development in these areas.