Sunday, June 14, 2009

Is there a pedagogy of poverty?

In his article "The Pedagogy of Poverty vs. Good Teaching", Martin Haberman states that many urban schools that serve poor students practice a traditional, regimented, teacher-centered form of teaching that seeks to control students more than educate them. Do you believe that, in general, schools in poor neighborhoods offer a qualitatively different kind of education than those in middle class or wealthy areas? If so, in what ways? Why does this happen? And what can teachers in poor communities do to teach differently?


  1. It would be very difficult for me to compare quality of teaching in under served community schools as to the quality of teaching in rich neighborhood, because I only worked in one place. From what I hear, teachers who work in poor communities very often complain about spending their time on disciplining students, or to avoid waste of time, they conduct classes that are very often teacher centered.
    Teachers, and especially those, who just started their career, are not immune to all
    the obstacles of teaching in poor schools.

    I think that it is just a matter of a teachers getting use to the school that they work in and to the culture of the students who attend the particular school. Even those schools located in poor areas could have a good quality of education, if the teachers, students, and administration work together to achieve the common good. Teachers sometimes have to step out of their everyday routine and try something new. Not everything have to be according to books. I believe that good quality education can be provided to students in poor neighborhoods as well. We just need to keep on trying and experimenting what works best. There is a proverb that my father use to say " every stick has to ends", meaning that there is always more than one solution to the problem to be solved, and we just need to find the right one in order to achieve the best.

  2. New Trier high school has one of oldest style of advisory systems in the state. During sophomore year students meet their advisory who will be with them until they graduate. Advisors are grouped according to gender. It is mandatory that the advisory make a house visit each year to meet the families of their students.
    The high school is located in an area that receives $20,000 of state funds per year per student. Because the property values, income level, and most importantly education of the residence are at a high level, the demands for quality education is not expected but demanded.
    Students carry that attitude with them in class. I had an opportunity to take a group of my students to the school in April. My students were amazed with the programming and resources that the school had. An interesting observation was made by a student when she observed the student-to-teacher interaction that took place. She thought it was funny how students “told” their teacher how to “teach”. Other observations that shocked the children where how students were able to walk about class when they wanted to and how they were allowed to write or disengage from the teacher lecture.
    I attempted to explain that the students who were walking around had an understanding with the teacher. If they needed time to themselves they could do so just as long as they did not disrupt the learning of the others. Also students who were not engage in the lecture were allowed to learn and engage themselves in their own learning. Teachers were not being “told” what to do, but the students were teaching what they already knew to the rest of the class. The school is far from perfect the Latino and black population is less than 8% and more than 40% of those students are not meeting state standards.

  3. I would not say all urban schools but alot of them are not offering the students as great of an education as in wealthy neighborhoods. Most of the time there are teacher-centered classes trying to control students because the students are out of control theres all types of gang violence and the teacher is probably more concerned for their safety then giving them options. Schools in better neighborhoods usually have better parent participation. When the parents and community are involved in the school and help out in the school the children seem to form a sense of pride for their school. Teachers enjoy the environment have better class management. Teacher also shows a sense of pride in the school because he/she is treated with respect. As for the poor schools parents could careless about the school never darken the classroom door. Some do not encourage the childrens learning outside of school. Teachers do not get the same support. Teachers in poor communities can change this label by being resourceful, knowing the community their in. Make learning fun, provide the children with various learning styles. Get parents involved. Have good administration help. Have administration deal with the behavioral problem kids that will allow the teacher to teach to those who are actually interested.

  4. I’ve placed the word poor in quotation marks below because the schools and students may be financially and economically poor, but rich in many other ways.
    I would have to agree with Haberman that many urban schools seek to control students more than educate them. Students in poorer schools are receiving a lesser quality than those in middle class or wealthier areas. Attending elementary school in Pilsen and Little Village, I saw how many of my peers’ needs simply went unmet. But for high school, I attended Whitney Young, which offered a very different type of education.
    At Whitney Young, the students were constantly told about how much was expected of us. We were given workshops about universities and test and application preparation for them. When teachers spoke of careers, it was always about those, which required a college degree. On the other hand, I remember, in eighth grade, sitting and listening to speakers, regularly, tell us about vocational schools and careers, we could attend and practice after high school. Those of us that were encouraged to attend a university were told on a one on one basis or in small groups, but never was the whole class encouraged, instead we’d hear things like, “college isn’t for everyone.” At Whitney Young that type of thinking wasn’t really a choice because continuing one’s education was a logical next step. But even to take it further at schools like IMSA, students are given Wednesday’s to have a self directed class day where students can select to study whatever they want be it yoga, robotics, law, working in a lab, law firm, or doing nothing. It’s their choice. Some of the new charter high schools have adopted similar practices.
    In grade school, we were primarily kept in our desks, well, my classmates were. I was pulled out regularly and received one on one and small group instruction beginning in fifth grade. While I was very fortunate to have gotten pulled out, I know that my classmates weren’t being as intensely drilled or receiving the same amount of attention because they weren’t seen as having the same potential. My classmates stayed in their desks except for lunch and our prep period. Even though the 7th and 8th grade classes were departmentalized, the students didn’t move around because it was much more important to maintain order then to give them the space to move and perhaps cause some type of disruption.
    I think sometimes the feeling in “poorer” schools from teachers might be that there aren’t enough resources and too many neighborhood problems for students to succeed. These students’ parents might work too much or too late or not enough. “Poorer“ students aren’t always exposed to as many of the experiences that the educational system has deemed as valuable. For example, a student’s parents might get praised for taking their child to a play, and a student will get nothing because his/her parents took them to the flea market. But what if the student whose parents took him/her to the flea market discussed prices, doing mental math, comparing products, reading fine print on products, and practiced other math and literacy skills while the student who was at the play was allowed to fall asleep and left pretty much unattended. Who had the more educational experience? Because of these types of assumptions, I think some teachers feel they need to be the center of the classroom because they have such a negative view of what’s around the students, they never allow the students’ experience to enter the conversation, afraid of what may arise.

  5. In more middle class environments, it is assumed that parents have more knowledge about how the system works, so students are given more freedom as to what they learn because teachers might perceive that student will pick up the skills necessary along the way either at school or at home. In “poorer” schools, teachers think students can only learn those skills in the school building so create an environment where they can control and direct everything especially with high stakes testing. Students are often given little choice as to what they learn much less how.
    And this leads me to what teachers can do. First and foremost, teachers need to check their biases. Students’ experiences and communities should be seen as assets. Students should also be allowed to explore how they learn so as to better figure out what they want to learn. Lessons and units should be developed that show a variety of people from a variety of cultures and economic classes. But also expectations need to be high because while not every student needs to attend a university, it should be a choice and not because of lack of ability. I think a lot of the work that’s being done at some of the social justice schools is a good direction for countering this pedagogy, which includes students, their experiences, and community directly into the curriculum.
    Also lastly, the whole culture of standardized testing, I feel, promotes this “pedagogy of poverty” as schools from “poorer” communities attempt to maintain their scores at par with those with many more resources. These “poorer” schools often forsake a challenging and critical/analytical curriculum for one, which will train students for the TEST. In Illinois, it’s the ISAT. But there are assortments of assessments for which students are regularly drilled and trained for. These tests take away from teachers’ and schools’ ability to properly develop a curriculum completely reflective of students and their needs.


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