As the number of Great Bend children in low-income homes increases, educators are spending more time on poverty training. Jefferson Elementary School Principal Kim Wilson said that is one of the goals set by his Building Leadership Team last summer and the efforts will continue.
The BLT’s goals also include reducing behavior problems, and Wilson noticed a correlation between behavior and poverty.
“I noticed that some of our kids from tougher backgrounds that maybe displayed some of those tougher behaviors or characteristics — teachers had a tendency to define ‘that’s what that kid is,’” Wilson told the school board this past week. “Some of those characteristics are symptoms of what that kid’s bringing to school.”
However, it’s important not to make assumptions and self-fulfilling prophecies, which is why Wilson said more poverty training is needed.
“We did a summer book study last June and used ‘A Framework for Understanding Poverty.’” That 1995 book, now in its fifth edition, is considered a standard textbook for helping middle-class people who work with children and adults in poverty have a better understanding of the situation, so they can help equip others to rise out of poverty.
Great Bend teachers received similar training last April when they attended a “Poverty Simulation” presented by Southwest Plains Regional Education Center.
“We talked about how to make that shift in how we thought about kids and how we treated kids,” Wilson said. “It made a big difference for us throughout this year. That’s been a positive for us.”
The next books teachers will be studying are “Poor Students, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change,” and Angela Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
“We try to be empathetic and flexible with students, but our expectations of their behavior are no different,” Wilson said.
Some of the school’s other goals include better communication and interaction with parents, a better schedule that makes regular time to help students who are falling behind, and continued emphasis on the importance of attendance.
“I think the important thing now is we don’t quit on the momentum we’ve been building,” Wilson said.