TTEE2 Hot Topic Email Discussion

Article Discussion: The Myth of the Culture of Poverty


  • What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
  • Do you think poverty impacts your classroom? How?
  • Are there strategies that you have incorporated into your classroom that helps combat the impact of poverty with your students?


I am certain that poverty impacts my classroom. What is difficult though, is how to assist poverty stricken families without singling them out. I would hope that most of us, if not all, as teachers try to keep an open mind and not pigeon hole these students into stereotypes...

"defining students by their weaknesses rather than their strengths." It is difficult to know what to do exactly for poorer students without taking something away from the class as a whole. If you are not supposed to have pre-defined notions, then you should assume that they can achieve high standards. Focusing on the poorer student's strengths, to me, is what we do for every student. Obviously, we wouldn't intentionally focus on weaknesses. I assume they would want help with the items they need help with though...

It is very thought provoking. I agree with some points and disagree with others. Tough topic indeed!


8th Grade Science

Greenville Junior High


Poverty is very evident in my classroom. Kindergarten students will come to school not wearing underwear, socks and even coats or long pants. Phone calls home results in parents stating they're unable to afford even these basic needs for their children.

Recently, students were invited to a Payless Shoe store to pick out a pair of shoes and a bag of socks. The notes from home the next showed very thankful parents!

GES Kindergarten Teacher


I like the approach this article takes in its effort to combat the myth of the culture of poverty. It really does start with us as educators, to attempt to dismiss the stereotypes or preconceptions we may have about people living in poverty. I have hard working students from all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds as well as lazy/apathetic learners. It is my job to try to help all my students see the value of their education, by making it rigorous and relevant to each of them, no matter where they go after the bell rings. I think the real challenge is to try to convert those students who are active non-learners; those that make a conscious decision not to learn. Once again, they come from all walks of life, and force me to evaluate the meaning of what I instruct on a day to day basis.

"Wisdom is the power that enables us to use knowledge for the benefit of ourselves and others."

-Thomas J. Watson


I found the comment section of the article almost as interesting as the article itself. It appears the author may have stepped on some toes. That might not be a bad thing.

I've attended a few Ruby Payne seminars and it opened my eyes to the reality of poverty in the classroom. I'm glad to have had my eyes opened to the reality of what some of my students are living with.

One of the biggest changes I've made in my practices is to place much less importance on students having their homework sheet signed by parents each night. It just didn't seem to be fair to give 7 and 8 year olds consequences for that. I still hold them accountable for the HOMEWORK, just not the signature on the homework sheet.

But, I have always felt that it wasn't "poverty" vs "affluent" parents that signed or didn't sign. I didn't see it to be related to socio-economic status.


p.s. On a side note: I just remembered a conversation I had while I was in jr. high. One of my friends commented on me having a rich family. I was amazed that she thought that. We raised most of our own food, didn't drive fancy cars, wore hand-me-down clothes, didn't have AC in most of the house, and the only vacation we took was a fishing trip each summer. Don't get me wrong. . . It was a great way to be raised. I just didn't think of myself as "rich." I wonder how our students would classify their situations?


  • "Poor people are unmotivated and have weak work ethics." I totally agree that this statement is a myth. I have found that many of my lower income students work as hard as they can to do well in school. I believe this may be one of the few ways in which they are able to feel a sense of accomplishment or control in their lives.

  • "Never assume that all students have equitable access to such learning resources as computers and the Internet, and never assign work requiring this access without providing in-school time to complete it." This is something I try to incorporate into each lesson. I have found that there are always 1 or more students in each of my classes who just can't complete computer based assignments without being able to work on them at school. I also give all students in my study hall access to computers so they can work on an assignments.

Terri, Social Studies Teacher

Greenville Jr. High


Interesting article. Poverty does effect our classrooms everyday. Children come to school each day hungry, tired, lacking proper clothing, insecurities, and problems that surround their home life. Poverty is the situation they live in, it impacts every facet of their lives. But, it isn't a determining factor of who they are. It doesn't mark them as inferior, or incompetent of learning. On the contrary, history has taught us that poverty is like a thorn protruding from roses. Children can bloom and grow as does the rose. George Washington Carver was a wonderful example of a child in poverty who made a difference to the world around him then and now. Poverty does limit opportunities and privileges offered to them. Even in our own school district those in poverty are at a disadvantage. Some of the areas, stem around parent teacher conferences. I had two parents unable to attend a face to face conference due to lack of transportation and lack of child care. Each day three plus students are denied milk during snack break. These are the same children who live in poverty. Even, these same children are denied lunches when parents fail to keep up with payments. Technology advancements continue the separation. As the district strides toward technological communication the poverty families are left out of the loop. Many students from our classrooms don't have computers in their homes. Technological homework opportunities puts those students at a disadvantage in comparison to others who have that access. Poverty is always going to be present in our society, but it shouldn't be the criteria for a student's success. I have never looked at my students worth according to a dollar value. It's my belief you can be whatever you strive to be. I grew up in a single parent family, in the projects, without a lot of material things, but I still had a dream and desire to become a teacher.


My overall impression of the article is this. Coming from a single-parent, impoverished family myself, I always felt that the students who were motivated to learn were less likely to be negatively impacted by the actual classroom activities. Poverty was always less of an issue than effort and motivation. I do understand that issues such as lack of child care, in which older siblings must become the care-givers, are important for teachers to understand. Students who must act as parents/care-givers/babysitters at home often have more struggles in the classroom. My personal awareness, based on my own childhood experiences, have made me more sensitive to some of these issues.

Poverty impacts my classroom due to the lack of parental involvement in education and, often, less technology in the home. What I have done in my classroom is to either decrease the amount of homework, make certain the homework given is more meaningful, and increase the amount of time given for working on homework in class. I have also made certain to give access to technology to students whose home situation may make it difficult otherwise.

I guess I need to have someone observe me, since I don't really feel that my treatment of students, either individually or as a group, is changed by their level of poverty, per se. I understand that poverty-related issues may impact my behavior if I am unaware of them.


I feel that poverty has a huge impact on my classroom. This in turns effects my instruction, because a lot of times my students are hungry and tired. There are several students in my class that receive almost all of their calorie intake while they are at school. I often give my students snacks during the day to keep them focused on the academics and not their stomachs. I also have students that take on the role of parent at home to younger siblings because mom or dad is having to work several low paying jobs to make payments. There are also several students that do not have the proper clothing to wear to school and are embarassed at what they have because it is too small or torn. I feel that poverty plays a very big part in my classroom instruction.


I really enjoyed how the articles discussed myths about poverty. Just because one student is in low poverty and another student who as all the money they need does not mean one will be smart and will will be below average. I do feel that it can stress the students out more if they are in low poverty because some students come to school worrying if they go home will there be food. This is a sad truth. I believe school can be a great place for the students to strive and see what they can achieve. In my classroom I make sure all students get equal opportunities and have access to what they need to complete any work. I give each child a warm welcome as they enter my classroom!


Miss. Sarah

Greenville Elementary School


I spend a lot of time playing the role of cheerleader for students that are impoverished. I have also found that many times these students need to have someone show them the way to success, if only momentarily. On many occasions this support system falls outside the realm of education. I also stress to them the positives in that we do live in a land of opportunity and that the key to social mobility in the upward direction is through education.

Harold File

7th and 8th grade Social Studies & Science



I found this interesting . . . GES is offering after school tutoring to students due to not meeting AYP. The tutoring is offered to students in grades 2-5 and is based on free/reduced lunch qualifications.

I imagine the guidelines from this program come from NCLB. But, based on this article, we should base the enrollment offer on academic performance, not socie-economic status. And, as I look the list of students I'm sending the offer to, I see several that don't need supplemental help. But, others NOT on the list could definitely benefit.



A little information on the tutoring being offered.

Tutoring is being offered ONLY at GES because of their AYP status and yes, Jane is correct that it is only being offered to our free/reduced students due to NCLB regulations and because Title I funds are being used to pay for the supplemental services.

Title I is a grant whose aim is to close the achievement gap for students of poverty. When our elementary schools were targeted assistance schools, we could offer reading interventions to ONLY students that qualified for free/reduced and are in need of interventions. Now all of our schools are school-wide programs because the school poverty levels are above the 40% threshold (As of December: Pocahontas 63.52%, Sorento 56.68%, and GES 50.64%) and we are now able to provide services for all students and teachers during the regular school day. The tutoring is a support above and beyond the regular school day and curriculum and there are strict guidelines concerning the required program such as having an independent provider separate from the school, etc.

That being said, Jane, you are correct that as the article stated, just because you are living in poverty, that doesn't mean failure. It can put you at risk for failure...but there are many situational crises that put students at risk for failure that have nothing to do with poverty. Unfortunately, for the tutoring program, living in poverty and attending GES are really the only criteria for eligibility and not academic need.




Other Resources:

If you are looking for other resources on poverty, check out your school and the district professional libraries:

Payne, Ruby. Framework of Poverty. Book and DVD sets including Jodi's Stories & Rita's Stories.

Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What being poor does to kids' brains and what schools can do about it.