opportunities to express ideas and feelings and learn new strategies for emotional and social well-being.
Teachers, schools and community partners working together for the well-being and success of students and their families requires that we build mutually supportive relationships, coordinate resources and ensure effective communication amongst all stakeholders. When working in a school community that has issues of poverty, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. Being immersed in the daily work of supporting learners who come to our classrooms with various physical, social-emotional and academic needs can be overwhelming for new and seasoned educators. For these two schools, the key has been seeing the community as a valuable resource and bringing as many voices to the table as possible to ensure the schools are inclusive, effective and supportive of the needs of students and their families.
Strategies for Addressing Poverty in your School
The following strategies are excerpted from Poverty and Schooling: Where Mindset Meets Practice. Written by Dr. Darlene Ciuffetelli Parker, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, this resource suggests school-based strategies to address poverty that focus on enhancing teacher awareness, building school culture and enhancing professional practice in the classroom.
• Provide professional-development that promotes an understanding of and sensitivity to issues related to poverty.
• Encourage school teams to engage in site-based, collaborative inquiry to explore preconceived assumptions and stereotypes associated with families living in poverty as well as to reflect on their practices in classrooms and schools.
• Seek to understand the context in which students and their families live.
• Understand the context of your workplace and the community that surrounds it.
• Resist deficit language when speaking about learners, their learning and their families.
• Engage families outside and inside the walls of the school.
• Employ school strategies that demonstrate respectful inclusivity (e.g., address newsletters with “Dear Families” rather than “Dear Parent/Guardian”). Make the shift from “teaching parents what to do” to engaging them in the life of the school.
• Forge community partnerships that stress collective responsibility and leadership and involve the whole community.
• Expect all children to succeed and make connections to students’ prior knowledge and scaffold learning opportunities.
• Use classroom community-building strategies that foster a positive and inclusive environment and respect for diversity.
• Integrate representations of poverty in children’s literature to enhance student understanding.
Charmain Brown is a member of the York Region Teacher Local.