Curious... What is your experience?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by pwhatley, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    As most of you know, I teach in very low income urban elementary schools. Last year, I had one student consistently bring supplies. My school did not supply the amounts needed (of anything), so I ended up purchasing about 90% of the supplies for my classroom - from pencils to paper to journals to bottled water, crayons, glue, and so on! I know that I sent lots of materials to school with my daughter, and continually re-supplied her (and offered materials to teachers throughout the year) in spite of our often tenuous economic situation. My students often have one or two uniforms that are not regularly cleaned and never ironed. Many of my students do not bathe regularly, and 100% are on free lunch. Ironically, some of these same students have $200 shoes, IPODs, and gameboys. Their parents (those that have them - many live with grandparents) have cell phone numbers that change with alarming frequency, but I have not always been notified of the numbers, leaving no way to contact someone in an emergency. For many of my students, the only meals they will have are those they get at school. A bag of chips may be supper that night.

    I'm not b**ching, I promise. I love my kids, and I DO have some parents that REALLY try. I have been in situations very similar to many of the families I serve. I just see the posts about kids paying school fees, stocking supplies, snacks brought from home, etc., and think of my babies - one of which I bought a coat for last year. All of my students took pictures last spring and took them home, yet none paid for them despite repeated requests from the school. I know that I am not the only one teaching in such a situation. If you are, I would love to know and to read about your experiences. What have you found that works or does not work? For myself, I refuse to have anything but the highest expectations for my kids. I do not make excuses for them. What about you?
     
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  3. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    My school is about 70% free and reduced lunch. Some students at my school are extremely truant (out for 25-40 days during the school year), and some move for a few years and come back at a later time. In my room, most bring supplies, though I still have a lot for the students. I specifically have many pairs of scissors, lots of glue, and a decent amount of paper and pencils.

    Some students struggle big-time with responsibility, so I created a communications center in my room this year with a mailbox, student mailboxes, plastic drawers with items in it, and a magnetic calendar that sticks to the whiteboard in the area. I really have everything I need in that area.
     
  4. 1stGr8

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    My school is very interesting. About 60% is EXTREMELY wealthy. Huge houses, parents are lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc. Then the other 40% is exactly as you described as we have low income housing projects that are districted to our school. So my experience is interesting because I both ends of the extreme and nothing in the middle.

    For my students who are similar to yours I just try my best and demand that they do the same. Often school is not a priority for them. Their parents don't read with them and don't encourage them to read. Now of course this isn't all, but this is my general experience. Also, as far as supplies go I just try to be grateful for what does come in. A lot of those kids don't send anything but the way I look at it is if it's dinner Monday or school supplies I'd rather they have dinner and I'll buy their scissors. I find that what works is relating to them. Getting to know them, their culture, and meeting them on their level. Then once they know you aren't judging them you can gain their trust to have them preform as you need.
     
  5. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    The only difference between your school and mine is we can replace urban with rural. Our supply situation is something akin to what you describe. Scrounging, making do, and buying it yourself happen a lot. Children come without needed supplies. Some because they can't afford it and others because they have other priorities.

    Ideally, I think there is enough money in our district and our parent's pockets to get us through. Maybe not in style, though. Unfortunately, we live in a less than ideal world. Somehow, we get through in spite of the lack of necessaries.
     
  6. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I really appreciate your responses, and I promise that I am not griping! I love my kids and chose to teach in the economic areas in which I work. I have always just been very curious and am really interested in what other people's experiences are!
     
  7. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    I am at a rural school, by the way, though about 20% of our students come from higher income housing developments. There's a huge range at my school, but we're an awesome community and come together quite well!
     
  8. futureteach21

    futureteach21 Habitué

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    I work in a "lower middle class" neighborhood so I'm not on the same page as the rest of you. But, I have done some volunteering in a school adjacent to project housing. It's so sad what those kids face everyday. All I can say, is your students are lucky to have you Nana! I would like to teach in a low income school at some point in my life. I think it would be a good experience for me.
     
  9. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Although I don't overtly bring religion into it (it is a public school), my husband and I consider it a mission. He's involved in a prison ministry, and sees first-hand what happens when these children are allowed to fall through the cracks - at least those who survive!
     
  10. 773 Miles Away

    773 Miles Away Comrade

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    Aug 7, 2009

    FYI - when I mention below about my annoyance regarding those that gripe and complain.... I am speaking about my observations of teachers I have come across in my own school... not the posters here or the OP for that matter :) Moving on....

    I teach in an urban area and went to a college that has an education department that is geared specifically for preparing for you for urban schooling. That being said, I feel that all too often people gripe about the complexities of urban schooling. They are so poor... dinner is often not on the table... they don't have the best clothes to wear... broken families... crime... poor upbringing. And this is all too true.

    What I notice in my school is that sometimes knowing these "statistics" makes the faculty slightly jaded towards teaching in general. At times I sense they are using it as an excuse for poor achievement. Albeit, I know it is a significant factor of our poor test scores... it is not a be all end all... which is what some other teachers make it seem like. I am often turned off by some of my colleagues who sometimes "boast" about the poverty of our school as if that gives our school more "street cred... aka teacher cred".

    Regardless, it is certainly well worthy information but it should definitely not stop there.

    As a result, my main strategy is that once you enter my classroom you are in a new world. It does not matter how rich or poor you are, you are here to learn and it will be done. I don't use fancy equipment... I hardly have a working projector. Our school only recently started installing dry erase boards and my kids (and myself for that matter)nwear winter coats during the day come December. But we don't need power point or smart boards or even fancy paper or crayons. I buy penny pencils and we used whatever lined paper we can find and we do the work... and (SURPRISE!) it's not boring either!

    We have set routines and procedures and they are consistent ALL year. I don't even rotate their seating arrangement unless absolutely necessary. I already anticipate the concept that they will not get help at home for homework and they will not be encouraged to read at home and will probably not have parents that read to them. So I don't make that part of my lesson. As a result, I make sure that higher level thinking happens ALLL DAY LONG in my room. The hw I do assign is mandatory and they all do complete it (once they realize my consequences...bwa ah ah.. hehe). BUT the hw is easy enough that they should not need help... it is simply routine practice to keep things like their times tables fresh in their mind.

    My general motto is Keep It Simple. I have realized that my kids do not need fancy gadgets and whistles to get through the day. And if they don't know it exists, they don't miss it. Best example, my neighbor teacher spent so much money on fancy games for free time and for indoor recess. Granted, when you looked in there there was so many fun things to play with... like Toys R Us in the classroom... Being a new teacher, I didn't have those things, nor did I have the money to get them. Yet when we had indoor recess my students were never ever bored. They played hand clapping games... drew mazes on blank paper and had friends navigate through them... they even went through a phase where they would make their own word searches on lined paper and would leave them for friends to search. And they never once complained that they didn't have board games and hand held electronic game devices or whatever... they were more than happy with the bare bones set up because it was still fun for them.

    All in all... the warm safe consistent (and academically agressive) environment is probably a breath of fresh air from their home life and that is my personal key to success.
     
  11. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    773 - Thank you! You made me cry! It is so very refreshing to see that someone else who really cares for these children actually believes that they CAN achieve! I wish, however, that we had "met" long before now - I could have used a shoulder during my first year last year! LOL
     
  12. Blue

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    Back in the "old" days, no one had computer games, electronic games, white boards, or Toys R Us, or TV. We used our imagination. We were creative. We went outside (for more than an hour a day) and played--tag, hide and seek and ,yes, Cowboys and Indians. We explored and climbed a tree. If we were lucky, we had a bike to ride. Or we made a scooter out of bike or skate parts.

    Some people spend a great deal of effort to live the simple life. Children who live the 'simple' or poor life are often more happy and creative, and you can see why.
     
  13. CFClassroom

    CFClassroom Connoisseur

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    I've actually had a variety of experiences.

    I started teaching at a magnet school in FL that was built in a VERY low income area. They focused on math, science and technology. Half the students came from the surrounding neighborhoods and were very much like the population you describe. The other half were bused in from VERY wealthy neighborhoods. The refreshing thing was that at the 2nd grade level the kids couldn't tell the difference.

    After that I moved home and took a position in a low income, inner-city situation. It was rewarding and yet so frustrating at the same time.

    I left after two years because I got married and moved to the area my husband was living. I now work at a suburban school where the kids all come prepared with supplies and aren't hurting for much. I am not spending my own money. I don't deal with the distractions that come with the inner city areas and I have the support of parents.

    I will say my job is SO much easier. I will also say it is less rewarding. I love my job, but there was a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that I was the sole joy that some of those kiddos were experiencing and that I was providing them with a safe, nurturing and structured environment each day. It made me happy to know that I believed in them and that it made a difference.

    What really strikes me as ironic and unfair is that I make much more money in the "easier" positions than I did in the "challenging" ones. Esp. since I was buying the supplies...and like you said often coats for the children.
     
  14. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    I taught at a school much like yours Nana for eight years early in my career. They were tough years, but the most rewarding.
     
  15. knitter63

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    My experience is very much like yours, 1stgradeNana. I used to wonder about my student and parent priorities, until I saw a wonderful speaker-Ruby Payne. She changed my perspective on how I teach my urban, low income students. Like 773-I still have high priorities, yet I keep it as simple as I can. I don't expect my students to read at home- I make reading as exciting as I can inside my classroom. My students do their homework, but as for projects, we do them in class-and boy, does the creativity flow!!
    So many of my students (as many, many people in society do-regardless of race or socio-economic status) live for the here and now. They just don't see the value of long term education-if they can't have it now, they skip it. I don't harp on the value of an education as an adult, I make it worthwhile each day they come to school. I also agree with 773-test scores are not the be all, end all of education. Those people don't see what occurs each day in my classroom.
    As for supplies, I keep a small amount of extras on hand, but I don't have the money to supply all. So, for instance, last year, I received very little kleenex. When we ran out, I went to the custodian who gave me a roll of toilet paper. We used that instead. If someone didn't like it, they came to school with a box of kleenex to share.
    As I said earlier, Ruby Payne changed my way of thinking. It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes-I am a middle class working parent. I think of that each time I hear the complaining. My response often is: we can't change their priorities, but we can work hard to change their world when they come to school. ;)
     
  16. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    I'm not the least bit religious and I am not offended by your comment. I may not share the same beliefs as others, but I know that stewardship is the most important thing I can do.

    So, I, too, consider it a mission. I am happy to be able to help these kids ;)
     
  17. DaMaddHatter

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    I work in an inner-city school. We serve 4 public housing projects, and we have 96% free and reduced. I agree with a lot of what I have read on here, and I mainly just wanted to chime in.

    What I notice in my school is that expectations are very low. The school would tell you that they are high, but this is just one of the many deceptions of urban education. Our school will say they want every child to go to college (which is a false expectation anyway), that they expect every child to behave and to excel academically. But none of this is true, because I have learned that expectations without consequences for the violation of the expectation is useless. With consequences, expectations are just nice words that sound good in a newspaper article.

    Much of the behavior in our classrooms is atrocious. I am not talking about excessive talking or being overly energetic, disengaged, etc. I am talking about students of nine or ten assaulting each other and teachers; using profanity; walking out of the classroom; stealing from each other and from teachers; etc. Administration tells students, "You will not hurt anyone" or "you will not disrupt our learning."

    But what if they do? Earlier in the last school year, a third grade student threw a stapler at a teacher, hitting her in the stomach. That student was returned to her classroom later on THE SAME DAY. The teacher, to her credit, refused to allow the boy back in. I am no fan of suspensions, but what about ensuring the safety of staff and students? Examples like these can go on and on...

    "But they can't help it. All they see at home is violence." This or some other form of cop-out is what the administration will tell us after each infraction is punished with a "stern warning" and little else. But, if a child is held to no greater standard than what they see at home, will any progress ever be made?
     
  18. DaMaddHatter

    DaMaddHatter Rookie

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    And we walked to school--didn't matter if we lived 10 miles away or how deep the snow was! And that's the way it was AND WE LIKED IT!:D
     
  19. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    It is so very uplifting to read your replies! I know we all struggle, but at least now I know I don't struggle alone! Keep 'em coming! Oh, and the P at my new school is almost militaristic regarding discipline. He came from the projects, and I've been told, makes and accepts no excuses from his students! YIPPEE!!!!
     
  20. LiveNLearn

    LiveNLearn Comrade

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    I have had a similar experience. I find it ironic that 95% of students are on free lunch, but can always come up with the newest phones, Ipods and Halloween costumes.
    It seems that the priorities at home are completely backwards. It is a vicious cycle that repeats itself through the generations.
    As a single mother, I have taught my daughter the value of hard work and budgeting. That is the only way that I have been able to make a better life for myself and my daughter.
     
  21. maroki

    maroki Comrade

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    I teach at a school with a 92% free and reduced lunch rate. This will be my fourth year there, and I can't imagine myself teaching anywhere else!

    We create school supply lists, but I never say or do anything if students don't bring supplies. I thank the students and the parents that do bring supplies, and I supply the rest. I don't buy the expensive supplies, but I do buy enough that each of my students receives their own supply tub and supplies at the beginning of the year, whether they brought supplies or not. They love to have something of their own and something to be responsible for at school.

    I recognize that many of my students come from hard home lives - they are living in poverty, coming from domestic violence situations, are homeless, are required to take care of their 4 siblings while their mom/parents work, etc. I try very hard to create and maintain high expectations, in addition to a consistent schedule and routine so the students always know what to expect at school. Many of my students don't know what is coming next in their lives - where their next meal is coming from, if they'll have to move next month, etc. and I've found that creating a safe, consistent routine works very well for the students.

    As another poster mentioned earlier in this thread, Ruby Payne (she wrote A Framework for Understanding Poverty) is an excellent resource about working with kids of poverty. My school had a workshop about her work yesterday and although I've read her book before and implemented a lot of her strategies, the truth of her work never fails to strike me. I highly recommend you read the book! It has explained a lot to me about how my students and their families live (survive is a word used frequently in the book) and view school and the world.
     
  22. maroki

    maroki Comrade

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    In Ruby Payne's book (I mention it in my above post), she discusses the world view of people that live in poverty (especially generational poverty), in middle class and in wealth. One of the most striking things she notes is that people who live in poverty often think money is to be used for entertainment, while middle class and wealthy people view money as a means to further achievement and success, through making connections and acquiring possessions. People who don't live in poverty often (although not always) have a hard time understanding that view of money, as their view about money is completely different.
     
  23. janney

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    I have found this to be very true, but if we don't encourage students to get their parents to spend money on education rather than fancy shoes and video games, are we just perpetuating this cycle of thought about money? I know that this year (my second year) I am going to be more diligent about getting the required supplies from the parents. These kids need to see their parents taking an interest in their education.
     
  24. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I think that this year (my second), I am going to be more diligent about trying to involve my parents. Perhaps if they visit the classroom, talk to me (in person or on the phone), etc., they will come to value their child's education (and future) more.
     
  25. janney

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    :yeahthat: That too 1stgradeNana. It was eye-opening to me last year after a school wide parent survey to find out that parents did not think we were communicating with them unless there were phone calls. It didn't matter how much we communicated through notes, etc. unless there were many, many phone calls and conferences, they didn't see it as communication.
     
  26. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    My mantra for years was, "Service is the rent we pay for living."

    I taught in a hard core school for ten years, it was challenging, the kids were tough, and I was a "token" white teacher. I loved the kids and most of the teachers. I made six thousand dollars less than the district I'm in now. I often think how unfair the pay difference is.

    I only have 20 gifted students per year now. I earned my Masters, got the huge raise, and a much, much better position. It's nice especially since I'm older, but my teaching stories aren't as passionate as they were and my rewards aren't as stellar. I'm very happy where I am now, but those experiences molded me and made me stronger and empathic.
     
  27. Bumble

    Bumble Groupie

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    Last year I taught in a very tough area. Kids were forming gangs as young as 3rd grade. There were fights and screaming on a constant basis. I LOVED the other teachers I worked with. We are all very talented, but received no support from administrators. The kids knew they could get away with anything because there were no consequences. Last year my major issue was getting in touch with parents. I left messages on the phone, sent letters home via the postal service, and had a community leader knock on student's home doors (when it was VERY serious) and I got nowhere. Most of my students knew I couldn't get a hold of their families so they did what they wanted to do. I even had uniformed police officers come in and attempt to scare my 3rd/4th graders. It didn't work whatsoever.

    This year I'm integrating the academic content into life skills/social skills. I feel that a lot of our kids don't have these skills.

    I always make sure I have pencils, copy paper, and the necessities. I demand these things from my school because we are a Title 1 school;therefore, we have extra funding for these things. Don't let your P tell you they don't have those things if you teach in a Title 1 school.

    I ended my first 1/2 year of teaching last year feeling accomplished. I feel like I can handle anything now. I think back and think about the little things that I have changed and that makes it worth it. I may had only taught 10% of the time, but that 10% was awesome considering I was thrown into the classroom in Jan. I just know what I'm not going to do for classroom management.
     
  28. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I've had parents who couldn't read the notes.

    I have to agree with the other posters who have said things about ipods, cell phones, fancy cars etc. But not clean uniforms, late to school, no supplies.

    They always had their field trip money though.
     
  29. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    and they always have signed permission slips, too! On a more serious note, I had one student last year whose dad is incarcerated for life - she hadn't seen him since she was 4. I had another whose mom was arrested for shoplifting and had her parole revoked, and another who had the "Jump out boys" storm his house around midnight and arrest both parents in front of him and two younger siblings for grand theft. Remember, these are FIRST GRADERS! Is it any wonder they fall asleep in class, eat like there's no tomorrow (for them, there might not be one!), and don't know how to blow their own noses?
     
  30. Lynnnn725

    Lynnnn725 Connoisseur

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    I am reading these posts and am in culture shock. I've seen the movies and all but to think that there are really situations like this breaks my heart. I teach in a very affluent school and have different issues (tragically- the kid suffers as well) but a total different world.
    Usually when I think about what I'm teaching it is a bunch of curriculum stuff. Every now and then there's a student who obviously needs more TLC but nothing compared to what you guys are involved in.
    I wanna hug you guys for the work you do! Any I'm not even the "huggy" type.
     
  31. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    LOL, Lynn! Thanks!
     
  32. Securis

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    Aug 9, 2009

    While this is very humorous to me, there is some basis in science for what you speak of. I did some reading on "executive function" or basic decision making skills. What I read stated that, as children we form impressions of our boundaries and associate the schemes of play onto our world later as adults. Through imagination play, we learn what a rule is by developing our own order and following it. We embed social structures by inventing our own.

    The study sited a test done with three age groups, the ages have slipped my mind, but I think they were 3, 5, and 8. The test was simple. Children in each age group were asked to stand still. 50 years ago before the advent of all our wondrous technologies, children ages 3 failed the test, ages 5 could perform but for limited times, and ages 8 could hold still indefinitely. The test was performed again and ages 3 still could not stay still, nor could ages 5, and ages 8 had difficulty.

    The death of culture can be blamed on our need to make life easier.

    OOPS! - Thread Hijack, sorry. It's relative, though.
     
  33. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    It's a whole different world in the inner city. I had a child watch her uncle being killed.

    I stopped to help with a car accident close to school one morning. Come to find out, it was the new music teacher, she'd been on the job for only 2 days when she hit ice & then the curb making her car inoperable. I called the school to let them know that I wasn't leaving her & that I'd be late & have the get the music teacher a sub. We got to school about 1/2 hour late. Given where this happened, everyone had to drive by us. One of my students saw me. He was telling people that the reason I had a car accident was because I was drunk. (He was a 2nd grader.) We questioned him about it, come to find out he'd been in car accident with his father, when his father had been drunk. So his experience was you have car accidents when you are drunk. Gave me a whole new outlook on this particular child.
     

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