Why Poverty Matters

...and why schools can matter more!

What is Poverty and why it matters?

Poverty, defined as the absence of needed resources, can have both short- and long-term effects on health, development, and success in life. Poverty can have a negative impact on brain development and school achievement. Children in poverty are more likely to born be premature, have low birth weight and disabilities.
Key resources needed for success may be financial, spiritual, cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. Students who live with limited resources may need unique supports in order to reveal often-hidden potential. Educators who understand the potential impacts and are ready with specific strategies will be better able to help every student achieve at high levels.

Session 1: Building Relationships

Research indicates that strong and supportive relationships with students has both immediate and long-term positive impacts, both qualitative and quantitative. When a positive relationship is established and maintained, a student is more likely to attend school regularly, put forth greater effort, encounter fewer disciplinary episodes, and achieve at higher levels.

Session 2: Decrease Stress

Toxic stress alters brain chemical production and blood flow. While stress is identified as a brain disorder that can hinder students of all demographics, under-resourced learners are more likely to experience traumatic stressors, which, in turn, can create roadblocks to learning. Educators who understand the impact of stress and can recognize symptoms are able to apply and teach stress-reducing strategies that will help students perform better in school and live more productive lives.
Amy Cuddy: 30 Seconds on Power Poses

Session 3: Increase Status

Why is status important?

Status precludes the ability to learn; it impacts a student's ability to cognitively focus. Students need to feel noticed, valued, appreciated and have a sense of belonging in order for learning to take place. Increased status changes brain chemistry by increasing dopamine which improves mood and motivation.


Key Status Questions

  1. Do I feel safe at school?
  2. Do I belong or fit in with others?
  3. What is my status with others?


Who has status?

  1. Athletes
  2. Popular students
  3. Smart students
  4. Members of a student group
  5. Students valued by teachers

Big picture
Other ways students may seek to increase their status through risky behaviors such as:


  1. Drug use
  2. Gang affiliation
  3. Disruptive or attention-seeking behavior
  4. Teen pregnancy

Education & Learning