Praxis Project

Daniel Pupulin

Addressing the Ignorance of Income Polarization in Toronto Schools

Key Questions

Is it important that teachers in Toronto schools, particularly schools that are located in communities that demonstrate a significant deficit in family income, address the reality of their students’ financial backgrounds and their inherent impediments?

Should teachers be more aware and considerate of the impact that poverty and income polarization has on the students they teach?

Do students believe that it is important for their teachers to be aware and to address the reality that in certain school settings there is a large gap in income between the teacher and the students?

Would students benefit from a more open and frank dialogue about poverty, income polarization, and how these issues affect them on a daily basis?

The Audience

The audience for this project is the staff of a secondary high school located in a low income neighborhood of the city of Toronto.

The Dilemma

  • There is a massive and growing disconnect between the wealthy and the poor in the city of Toronto. While the high socio-economic group is shrinking, the gap between and the lower group itself is growing.

  • In many of the city’s neediest and most challenging communities, an ignorance on the part of many teachers with regards to the socio-economic realities that affect the life and educational achievement of many of our students. In the high school setting in particular, one that lends itself to a more impersonal approach to education, many teachers are unaware (by both choice and ignorance) to the very different experiences that their students face daily.

The Literature

Canadian Council on Learning (2006). The Social Consequences of Economic Inequality for Canadian Children. Ottawa & Vancouver: Research and Knowledge Mobilization Directorate of the Canadian Council on Learning.

Hulchanski, D. (2010). The three cities in Toronto: Income polarization among Toronto’s

neighbourhoods 1970-2005. Toronto, ON: City Centres Press, University of Toronto.

Walks, R. A. & Bourne, L. (2006). Ghettos in Canada’s cities? Racial segregation, ethnic enclaves and poverty concentration in Canadian urban areas The Canadian Geographer, 50(3), 273–297

The Students

  • The students for this study were chosen from all grade levels and all academic abilities.
  • The students were given a series of guiding questions (see above) to start their discussion. They were allowed to record their answers in a private location to ensure that their answers were honest and authentic.
  • I have taught/coached/moderated all of the students, therefore I have a preexisting relationship with them, which I believe allowed them to be fully honest and genuine when answering the questions.
  • They were also encouraged to include any other information (aside from the questions) that they felt relevant when charged with telling teachers what they (the student) thought or wanted the teachers to know.

What the Students had to Say

Daniel Pupulin

Mayah - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

Daniel Pupulin

Jemima - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

Daniel Pupulin

Joel - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

Daniel Pupulin

Richard - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

Daniel Pupulin

Theresa - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

Daniel Pupulin

Ukpene - Praxis Interview by Daniel Pupulin

General Observations

  • Teachers need to be more understanding of their students' unique circumstances.

    • Not all students have the same resources at home that their teachers assume they have, and this affects their ability to complete assignments.

    • Students feel that school and teachers can be quick to 'shut them out', both from class (being late for class) and after school is over (making them leave the building by a certain time).

    • Sometimes students feel disconnected from the material/course they are in, would rather spend their time with friends/working (more relevant).

    • Poor home settings/environments that are not conducive to completing work/studying (space, large families, other responsibilities at home).

    • Lack of home support/parental involvement in their learning. Although their parents do care about their learning, it is much more incumbent upon the individual student to take charge of their learning.

    • Many students work in order to assist and/or support the family. Students also feel that the lack of relevancy of content/curriculum makes the reality of work and money more appealing.

    • Transportation issues, including poor bus service, over crowded buses, short-turns etc...that make it difficult for students to arrive at school on time.

    Next Steps (implementation)

    A school workshop will be run where the information gathered will be relayed to the staff. The ultimate desire would be that discussion would take place around school and classroom policies that would better reflect the needs of the students.