Advocate for low-income kids to receive gifted
Get more teachers into the neediest classrooms. A principal who states publicly that
having five classes each containing 45 students
is unacceptable—and that he or she will work to
change these conditions—wins teachers’ trust.
Offer After-school Programs and Services
Work with teachers to find groups like the YMCA
to provide volunteers for your school, so students
have supervision and stimulation—including
physical activities, art, and academic activities—
more hours in the day. Local groups, businesses,
and cultural venues will often contribute if
approached by the principal or superintendent
(see “Sources of Grants for Projects and Materials”). Consider providing wraparound services
for your low-income students, such as access to
medical and mental health professionals.
Make clear that as an administrator, you’re in this
for the long haul and will work on long-term solutions to inequity for children in your district. It
is important that your entire staff knows you will
persist in getting the services and programs your
Toward Vibrant Classrooms
These are just a few ways educators can ensure students aren’t marginalized by poverty—without
making students feel they are a “problem.” Each
school district will need to explore what might
work in its unique situation. But my hope is that
no school ever becomes a place where sleepy
children are yelled at or where teachers lose our
human compassion. Let’s create vibrant classrooms
that tap into the brilliance of each child. EL
1Many documentaries and public television programs
(such as A Place at the Table, Viva la Causa, and Why
Poverty) show what life is like for families living in
poverty—for example, the realities of doubling up with
relatives or taking two bus rides to get groceries.
Julie Landsman is a consultant on equitable education. she is the author of many books on education,
including A White Teacher Talks About Race (r & L
education, 2005), and is the coeditor with paul Gorski
of The Poverty and Education Reader (stylus, 2014).
There are so many ways it’s felt wonderful to
make a difference in kids’ lives. The first one
is that they show up the next day. They have
courage, after how hard school has been for
them, to come to the schoolhouse door the
next day and step over the threshold. Not only
that, they’ve stepped over the threshold into my
classroom; they’ve decided my classroom is a better place to be
than the hall. Wow, love that!
I can see it when my students tell me they actually did their
homework. Or when they raise their hands and want to shout
out an answer to a question I’ve asked. Or when another teacher
down the hall tells me, “Hey, your student mentioned something
interesting that’s going on in your class.” Or when I’m talking to
their parents and their parents tell me, “My child told me about
something they were doing in class. My kids never talked about
school before.” Or when my students say they want to go to
Or when I meet a student in the street years after I’ve taught
them, and they remember something that happened in class.
There’s a great line about that from Rickie Lee Jones—“You
never know when you’re making a memory.” When they tell you
those things, when they offer you those little nuggets, you think,
Oh yes, I vaguely remember telling that to you five years ago. The
thing is, you know they’re carrying something you gave them. It’s
incredibly fulfilling. It’s addictive.
Jeffrey Benson is founder of Leaders and Learners consulting. he is the
author of Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us Most (AscD, 2014).
Making a Difference
About . . .
Click the screen to see what
Benson and other educators
told ASCD about making a