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Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
1







Education: Learning to Rise above Poverty

Stacey Riber

Shawnee State University





Professor Shannon Lawson

IDST 4490S

Section 04

Senior Seminar

July 21, 2008







Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
2

Abstract



Teachers can make a difference in the lives of students who live in pove
rty.
Poverty affects intellectual functioning and academic achievement, and teachers must
consider this in their practices. The instructional approach taken in the classroom can
make the difference in the lives of these students. The most effective appr
oach is the
social
-
emotional approach in which social skills are modeled and implemented in the
classroom at all times. One reason for the lack of its implementation is No Child Left
Behind and the results of this legislation. Current teaching practices
revolve around
accountability and test scores, while they should be based on theory, research, and
approaches, such as the social
-
emotional approach.














Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
3

Educational practices and approaches have long been a topic of controversy.
With an overwhel
ming number of philosophers, theorists
,
researchers, and educators
,

each

with

their
own opinion
s
, one can see how theories on the topic
vary drastically
.
Theories date back to Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. For example, Plato promoted the
idea of indivi
dualized instruction

and enh
ancing skills which were pre
-
existing

in the
individual
. Socrates believed in questioning and engaging

students

in dialogue to
promote learning, and Aristotle thought that morals and ethics were critical to
the
learning

process

(Noddings, 1995). Thus, the
basis of
current ideas, beliefs, and methods
originated.


John Dewey’s practices in his progressive movement were
also
important to
education. This began in the late 1890’s and the early 1900’s. His progressive approach
stre
ssed the importance of social aspects of family life, health issues, the training of
teachers in concepts of psychology, and the implementation of the democratic classroom
(Sadker & Sadker, 2005). Were these concepts controversial? History indicates they

were, but they also remain so today. It seems as though teaching methods will always be
a
point

of division among parents, educators, and legislators alike.


The history of American education demonstrates the evolution of educational
methods as well.
Early schools in America were established to promote religion.
Children attended school to learn to read the Bible, but very few attended school
due to
limited access
(Sadker & Sadker, 2005).
This

limited access was the first demonstration
of the effects

of poverty on education. Children of poor families did not have access to
education at this time. Then m
ore students began to attend school when common schools
were established. These schools allowed for children of all social classes to be educated.
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
4

From there, secondary, middle, and high schools began to develop.
This growth
took
place in an effort to address the
range of
developmental levels of children (Sadker &
Sadker, 2005).


Throughout this portion of history, progress was made due to the con
tinuous
development of questions, such as those from Horace Mann, John Dewey, and Jean
Piaget, and the list goes on. A number
of theories were formed, but the

concept
of
effective teaching methods
seems to be com
mon

among them all
.
The
concept

of
effecti
ve teaching methods

includes teaching students by taking into account their
diversi
ties and stage
s

of development, and o
ne specific aspect of diversity that continues
to plague schools today is poverty. Why has this topic arisen again and again? It does
so
because research
indicates

that low socioeconomic status directly affects intellectual
functioning (Bryant & Maxwell, 1999).


The issue of poverty and education has recently been a contr
oversial topic among
educators
due to the emphasis placed on

the id
ea of education for all in the “No Child
Left Behind”
(NCLB)
policy signed into legislation. This was adopted with the

intention

of improving academic performance of poor students
, thus reducing the achievement gap
between the students of the wealthy and
middle
-
class
es and the lower class

(Sadker &
Sadker, 2005). Each and every child is supposed to have equal opportunity to learn under
the guidelines of this
legislation. Is this concept feasible or are there forces beyond the
control of educators? Only
research can provide the answer, but what do we know right
now? It is a well
-
known fact that certain characteristics of personalities and abilities are
inherited. On the other hand, it is common knowledge that we can be a product of our

environments. Do
es one or the other prevail or is it a combination of the two that form

Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
5

the person?


Bryant and Maxwell (1999) said that the combination of heredity and
environment forms the intellect and the personality of a person. This idea presents a wide
array of

possibilities for children. For example, a child could be born with an inherited
low IQ, be taught by ineffective parents and teachers, and continue to display low IQ and
academic achievement.
On the other hand, i
t is possible for a child to be born wit
h an
inherited low IQ, have ineffective parents, and yet have increased academic achievement
due to effective teachers and education programs.


The latter is the basis of George W. Bush’s intentio
ns with “No Child Left
Behind,”

hence the name.
He sent thi
s policy to Congress in an effort to ensure an
effective, quality education for all students. He insists that each and every child have
highly qualified teachers and read at grade level, regardless of obstacles. He also wants
the math scores of all stude
nts to be at proficient (grade) level and to hold schools
accountable for all of these outcomes (
Harrington & Holub, 2006
). What more could our
nation’s parents and educators ask for in a national education plan?
We all want our
children to have effectiv
e teachers. We all want someone to be held accountable for our
children’s learning. We all want our children

to be successful, and it would be
difficult

to
find a parent who would say otherwise.


As does every other parent in the country, President Bush l
ooks at the future of
our country and sees it in the hands of our children. Our nation’s tomorrow depends on
the education of our students today. Especially in today’s technological age, we need to
prepare students to be proficient readers and mathematic
ians. One can look at the rapid
growth of technology and see that it will continue to grow. President Bush notes this in
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
6

his position on No Child Left Behind

(
Harrington & Holub, 2006
). H
ow could anyone
argue that the
se goals and ideas

are wrong or misg
uided
?
The education of future
generations has been a concern of our nation’s leaders throughout history. Each passing
year brings new practices and methods, questioning of old methods, ideas for reform, and
controversial debates, but one idea remains co
nsistent. We want our children to be
successful students and eventually, successful members and leaders of society.


These desires lead to several questions. Is

education for all


an obtainable goal?
What about the students with special needs? What
about the stage of development for
each child? Do these things affect the outcome of a student’s education? What about
socioeconomic status? Research supports the fact that poverty directly affects intellectual
ability, and NCLB indicates that poverty i
s related to academic achievement. Therefore,
on
e

major que
stion remains. Are there particular

teacher
approaches

to classroom
instruction

that can
help students learn to rise out

of poverty?


Before this question can be answered, some clarifications mus
t be made
concerning the term, poverty, because it is somewhat vague. There have been numerous
definitions given, but the clarifications made by Ruby Payne, Ph.D., are supportive to this
research. Payne
(2005)
divides poverty into two categories, situati
onal poverty and
generational poverty. She refers to situational poverty as

falling below the poverty
guidelines as established by the government

due to unforeseen circumstances, which
could happen to anyone. Generational poverty, on the other hand, is a

continuing pattern
of dysfunctional attitudes and family problems in addition to low socioeconomic sta
tus
.
The distinction made between these two situations is critical to understanding the concept
of alleviating poverty in which generational poverty is
the emphasis. This is a learned
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
7

way of life out of which people will not rise if they are never given an opportunity to do
so. Education is that opportunity. Teachers can enable the students of whom they ar
e in
charge to be successful, motivated, optimi
stic, goal
-
oriented, and critical thinkers
. This
can then lead to
the
ability

to rise above their obstacles and better their own lives, as well
as the lives of future generations.


Another critical aspect to address is whether or not poverty affects learn
ing.
Emerson (2007) stated that poverty decreases a child’s social experiences and reduces
opportunities. This directly relates to intellectual functioning. McDermot and Altekrusse
estimated that reducing the proportion of children in poverty could decr
ease the
prevalence of intellectual disability in the U.S.

by 10% (Emerson, 2007)
. This research
clearly demonstrates a link between poverty and intellect, but what are the causes found
within this connection?


To begin, cultural norms are a major facto
r. This affects a child’s intelligence
because families teach or model behaviors based on what they feel is important or what
they know (Bryant & Maxwell, 1999). This fact demonstrates that a cycle of attitudes is
highly likely to occur and that we are a

product of our environments. Emerson (2007)
also supported this concept in his research. He stated that poverty affects intellectual
functioning for a variety of reasons, including poor parenting, lack of education,
environmental hazards, and family str
ucture. The cycle of generational poverty
demonstrates this also. The current generation teaches what they were taught by the
previous and so on and so forth.
The many examples of research have

proven that
poverty directly affects intellectual ability.

In turn, i
t has also been linked to school
performance (Bryant & Maxwell, 1999).

Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
8


One connection between poverty and school performance is stress. It is a well
-
known fact that money issues are extremely stressful and cause more stress and family
proble
ms. This can be especially problematic f
or children who live in poverty,
due to the
ongoing cycle of stress and family issues caused by the inability to meet basic needs.

Eric Jensen

(1998)
explain
ed

the function of the brain in the learning pro
cess, an
d
specifically addressed

the issue of stress. He discussed how the brain is programmed to
respond to stress and repeated exposure to stressful situations can cause many difficulties.
For example, physical symptoms are increased. This includes nausea, ra
pid h
eart rate,
and

rapid breathing,
which are directly related to anxiety.
The cycle of stress and
physical symptoms greatly affect the child’s ability to learn and can result in lower test
scores and academic achievement. This is due to how the brain f
unctions. It responds to
emotions, and some emotions take precedence over others. If the brain senses great fear,
the focus remains on that stimuli and shuts all other forms out, including learning
.

Clabaugh

(2006)

also stated this in his research. He s
aid that people are a product of their
environments and sometimes allow emotions to overpower their intelligence. With all of
this being said, many will question how educators can control the emotional aspect of
learning. It will be the argument of many
that teachers are not psychologists or
counselors, but is that an accurate assumption? According to educational theorists and
researchers, this wo
uld be an inaccurate assumption.

Throughout history, theorists

and
researchers

have addressed th
e social
-
emo
tional aspect of learning
, which includes the
stress

and its effects
.
Alfie Kohn
(2006)
specifically mentions the need for teachers to
form caring, trusting relationships with students, to have the ability to teach social skills,
and to be able to diagnos
e certain stude
nt behaviors and why they occur.
These skills are
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
9

also required of psychologists and counselors. Therefore, the occupation
s are similar. At
the least, their duties are similar.

One other especially important aspect of both
professions an
d professional settings is the concept of a safe haven. It is important to
remember that when stressful situations arise, we are comforted by a safe environment
and the company of a listener. When a student comes into the classroom
with a heavy
load of s
tress, that student

can be comf
orted by the teacher and
peers, as well as the safe
haven of the
classroom. This is true when the social
-
emotional approach is effectively
implemented

in the classroom
. Teachers must employ social

skills in the classroom to

be
truly effective educators.

This is reiterated

in Bryant and Maxwell’s
research. They state
that the manner in which students are taught is critical their learning. They are able to
reach levels of achievement that were previously thought of as out o
f reach when the
teachers were effective in their practices (Bryant & Maxwell, 1999).

Helping a child deal
with stressful situations by creating a safe environment can greatly increase a teacher’s
effectiveness.


This leads to another pressing question.

Are teach
ers capable of teaching social
and
emotional skills?
To begin, the social
-
emotional classroom approach must be
defined. This approach refers to teaching and modeling effective communication skills,
such as active listening, discussion, and coll
aboration. It also
includes cooperation in
groups,

reasoning, problem
-
solving,
proper manners, self
-
regulation,

self
-
monitoring,

and
responsibility
.

Greenberg,
Weissberg,
O’Bri
en, Zins,
Fredericks,
Resnik, and Elias
(2003)
discussed the importance of imp
lementing this type of approach in order to promote good
work habits and engagement in society and community.
Lawrence Kohlberg

also

agreed
with Aristotle that appropriate behavior can be learned through modeling (Noddings,
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
10

1995). This same concept has b
een applied to many classrooms and intervention
programs.
For instance, mentoring programs have proven highly effective.


Of what does mentoring consist?
It is simply an experienced individual teaching

or modeling
a particular skill, task, or even a way

of life. There are many forms of
ment
oring, including youth programs,

such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters
,

in which an adult
teaches and guides an at
-
risk child. “The Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization of Santa
Clara, California reports that 98% of yout
hs affiliated with the program remain in school,
graduate, and don’t have run
-
ins with the law” (Payne, DeVol, & Smith, 2006, p
. 83).
This

is a very impressive success rate, and it is a result of adults modeling appropriate
behavior and specifically teach
ing life skills to

children. Nel Noddings

(1995)

said that
modeling is the most important aspect of teaching students

how to care about others.
A
dult
s

cannot simply tell children
to care about others. They

must model the behavior by
displaying a genuine
,

caring at
titude and encourage the child.
Thus, the high rate of
success for youth mentoring is put into perspective. These adults or mentors are
volunteers who truly care about children and want to see them succeed.
This evidence
clearly demonstrates
that modeling b
ehavior and skills is effective, and modeling is a
major aspect of the social
-
emotional method.


One classroom program,

which was dev
eloped according to this method
, is
the
Responsive Classroom (RC) Approach,

and it has been the subject

of s
everal studies
.

It
is based on teaching academic skills in conjunction with social and emotional skills. This
is done by emphasizing the individual needs of students, including developme
ntal level,
learning style, as well as
cultural and social backgroun
d
s
.

E
xamples of practices
impl
emented in this program include

morning meeting in which everyone discusses
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
11

issues and shares information, which develops a sense of community. Rules and
consequences are discussed and are meaningful to each and every studen
t, and the
teachers are trained to encourage effort instead of praise outcomes.

A three year
longitudinal study on the RC Approach found that its use resulted in an increase in
students


reading and math scores

(Rimm
-
Kaufman, Fan, Chiu, & You, 2007).
Phi
losophical views, theories, as well as past and present practices have and continue to
show support of this type of social
-
emotional approach to learning.

Payne

et

al.
(2006)

also

placed emphasis on understanding a person’s background in order to form a
r
elationship. The RC Approach expresses this concept

in paying particular attention

to
the students’ family, social, and cultural

backgrounds (Rimm
-
Kaufman, et
al., 2007).
This is vital to
the success of the students. If

they are not approached with genu
ine
concern and understanding, their learning is at risk.
This understanding

should begin
with the teacher’s
concern of the students’ family i
nfluences and then proceed to other
factors and influences
. This was stated well in the book,
Bridges out of Pov
erty
. “To
honor clients as human beings worthy of respect and care is to establish a relationship
that will provide for enhanced learn
ing and achievement” (Payne, et

al., 2006, p. 148
).
Thus, the Responsive Classroom Approach could be especially benefici
al to student
learning. Its success, thus far, has been attributed to the classroom being based on a
structured, caring environment, which increases engagement in the learning process,
teaches students to regulate their own behaviors, and motivates them t
o learn, all of
which increase academic achiev
ement (Rimm
-
Kaufman, et

al., 2007). This approach
demonstrates the concepts prese
nted in Ruby Payne’s techniques as well.

Acc
ording to
Payne

et

al.

(2006)
in order to successfully teach a new concept, the env
ironment must be
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
12

structured. This includes setting rules and guidelines. If these are provided up front with
clear consequences, individuals will become more independent by controlling and
regulating

their own behaviors.
Research suggests that classroom
s based on the social
-
emotional approach are effective in teaching and reinforcing many skills.

This i
s evident
i
n Greenberg et al’s.
(2003)
research also. Their research indicated that programs that
specifically address social and emotional learning hav
e proven effective in improving
students’ ability to regulate emotions, make responsible decisions, appreciate the
thoughts and feelings of others, as well as improve interpersonal relationships and reduce
risky behaviors. All of these benefits combined t
hen lead to improved acad
emic
achievement
.


Bryant and Maxwell
(1999)
also review
ed several studies based on
social and
emotional learning and the outcomes of those studies, all of which researched early
intervention programs. The Perry Preschool Project
enrolled low
-
income students with
IQ’s between 70 and 85. The results showed

that IQ did not increase but when
researched again between the

ages
of 19 and
27, the social factors of the treatment group
improved significantly. This included increased gradu
ation and employment rates and
decreased crime rates. Another was Chicago
’s Child and Parent Center
s study. The
students in this early intervention program were from high
-
poverty areas, but IQ was not
a consideration in the study. Of the two groups invo
lved, the treatment

group showed
positive effects i
n late
r

academic achievement and scores.
The same results were found
in
the Abecedarian Project, and Project CARE resulted in significantly improved
intelligence
scores (Bryant and Maxwell, 1999
). The ev
idence of the effectiveness of
social
-
emotional teaching methods i
s overwhelming. So, who could argue against them
?

Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
13


One argument against this approach is the fact that t
he students need to be
exposed to this type of classroom for an extended period of ti
me. In many instances,
there was little or no improvement in any skill area if the students were only exposed to
the approach or method for one school year (Bryant and Maxwell, 1999). This was also
reiterated by Greenberg and associates. It was found th
at long
-
term programs of this type
are more effective. They should also

be well
-
planned and structured but specifically need
to be implemented acr
oss grade levels (Greenberg, et

al., 2003). Is that not true for
everything we learn though? Would we only
be taught how to read and write at one
grade level? Would our parents only try to teach us good manners in one setting? Would
our employers only teach us how to do part of our job?
The obvious answer is no.



A second opposition would be those teachers
who feel that they are already
required to do too much in the classroom, and they are only in the classroom to teach the
three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The only way to address this opposition is to
reiterate the lasting effects demonstrated
in the research results. These results are clearly
evidenced in such studies as the RC Approach (Rimm
-
Kaufman, et al., 2007), the Perry
Preschool Project, and the Chicago’s Child and Parent Centers Study (Bryant & Maxwell,
1999). These studies resulted i
n increased academic achievement in reading and math, as
well as increased graduation and employment rates. This indicates that the three R’s are
being taught in these social
-
emotional programs, and the results are positive.

As a whole, these types of
soc
ial
-
emotional
programs are supported by pedagogy
and theory. Pedagogy is simply the art of teaching and is based on theories and
philosophies. Each teacher has his or her own philosophy and pedagogical style
, but
those who implement this approach appear
to be having successful classrooms, students,
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
14

and
increased
student achievement. They are taking theory and applying

it

to the
ir
practices, which is essential to teaching
. One theory to look at is Dewey’s concept of
democracy

in the classroom
. He saw cl
assrooms as small societies in which students
learn how to live with other members of society and live according to cultural norms. He
stated that when students are given the opportunity to make decisions and engage and
interact in the classroom, they lea
rn how to think critically an
d reason

(Noddings, 1995).
Alfie Kohn
(2006)
stresses the importance of the
classroom community and student
choice

as well
. These two things are especially crucial to “true” student learning. This
will enable students to fee
l involved in the learning process and will motivate them to
learn
.
If students simply sit all day and listen to teachers tell them what to do, then they
will not be motivated to learn, engaged in the learning process, or have any desire to
participat
e.
T
he

well
-
being of
students and what is appropriate for them

needs to always
be considered
. It seems as though many teachers only consider their own personal likes,
dislikes, and expectations and reject those of the students. This practice will not foster

the desire to learn within the students and can eventually lead to a hatred of school and
learning.
Stud
ents need to be involved in
classroom decision
-
making and dialogue

with
the teacher and their peers
. T
his will lead to an effective learning environ
ment as well as
a class full of students who respect the educational setting of which they are required to
be a part for a significant portion of their lives.
Kohn

(2006)

also

stated that allowing
students to make choices will promote compliance and mini
mize misbehavior and that
misbehavior will diminish if the students feel less contr
olled. This type of classroom
w
ould be conside
red authoritative, which
is the most appropriate
and effective
type of
classroom

environment
. This management technique invol
ves a balanced relationship
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
15

with the students. The teacher is in charge, but the students are respected and allowed
regular opportunities to make choices and feel as though they

are important
to the
community (Kohn, 2006).

This would be especially benefi
cial to underprivileged, under
-
achieving students. It is likely that these children have very little support at home, and
this community
-
type classroom would be an introducti
on to life in society
. They will
learn social
skills that are crucial to us as

c
itizens, employees, employers, and even as
friends. If children in poverty gain these skills in the classroom, they will develop a
sense of success and belonging that will lead to increased motivation and
success in
academics.


Considering developmentally

appropriate practice is a
lso a

key part of this ty
pe of
classroom due to the fact that
the teacher is taking students’ personal backgrounds and
abilities into consideration.
Developmentally appropriate practice involves engaging
students in the lesson an
d provoking thought processes.
These aspects are crucial and

directly related to unde
rstanding child development,
learning processes
, and cultural and
social influences on learning
. If a student is challenged within the learning environment
and required
to think, then he or she will become more engaged and less disruptive. This
challenge and engagement will then lead to a more successful educational experience,
which should lead to increased m
otivation. It is an endless cy
cle if it is addressed in the
a
ppropriate manner and

can lead t
o increased academic success
. Each and every student
should be taught according to what is appropriat
e for him or her, and

this appropriateness
can be used
to

guide the curriculum along with

the hidden curriculum.

The hidd
e
n
curriculum is the manner in which the lessons a
re taught and the classroom is

managed
.

It is a pedagogical approach.

James
Cangelosi
(2008)
stated that t
he teacher should
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
16

manage the classroom in a businesslike manner. This includes being organized,
m
odeling appropriate behavior, minimizing transition time, properly communicating with
students, providing a safe, comfortable environment, and clearly presenting expectations.
These aspects should be incorporated into the classroom at all times. They sho
uld never
be taught in isolation (Cangelosi, 2008). This leads the argument of social
-
emotional
learning to another level. If theory, philosophy, and research conclude that these
practices are the most successful
method of
engaging students, teaching soc
ial skills, and
increasing motivation and academic achievement, then why are they not implemented
throughout classrooms nationwide?

One major reason for the lack of implementation is No Child Left Behind. This
policy has placed so much emphasis on account
ability and test scores that pedagogy has
been pushed to

the wayside. Current practices go

against nearly every theory of practice,
philosophy of education, and psychological approach to learning. For example, Dewey
stated that in order for a child to tr
uly learn a concept or skill,
h
e or she must be engaged
in the lea
r
ning activity, and the concept must be related to some prior experience or
knowledge (Noddings, 1995). This does not happen in most classrooms today in our
country because practices of rot
e memorization, practice tests, and drilling of facts have
been implemented to pass the achievement tests. Teachers and school districts are held
accountable for the scores of each and every child, and this has caused a shift in the way
things are done.
It does not appear to be an intentional act on the part of the teachers. It
is a direct result of the implications placed on the districts if the scores are not at the
proficient level.
Of course, this leads to a very interesting question on the minds of

many.
Does test score improvement represent real learning (Machtinger, 2007)? According to
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
17

the various theories and research, the answer would be no. This is mostly due to the fact
that everything learned within one school year is as
sessed in one test
at the end of

the
year. This is what has led to rote memorization and practice tests.
In order to learn
something, one must be able to generalize the concept or knowledge to other situations
and circumstances and apply it (Gardner, 1991). Due to NCLB, c
urrent practices are
contradictory to this idea. Gardner (1991) stated that memorization and drilling of skills
or facts hinders the ability to generalize knowledge and apply it. Jensen

(1998)
demonstrates this in his brain research as well. Seman
tic me
mory refers to the learning
of facts. These types of memories are the most difficult to recall. This is due to the fact
that
the
process of recalling a memory is based on the manner in which it was originally
received. Information comes into the brain t
hrough the sense
s
, where it may only remain
for a split second. It then goes to sho
rt
-
term memory.
In order for it to move onto long
-
term memory, some type of action must be taken. It must be processed in some manner,
such as through discussion. In oth
er words, it must be applied in some way (Jensen,
1998).
Making learning meaningful to all students is of great importance. Manning and
Baruth (1995) state
d

that curriculum must be based on real
-
life experiences. It must be
relevant

or related

to the li
ves of the students in order to build from their strengths and
interests. This may be especially important to low
-
achieving

students

living in poverty.
They may feel as though nothing in the
curriculum pertains to them, such as memorizing
multiplication
facts or passing a practice test. These things hold no relevance for the
student, so they see no point in trying.

Manning and Baruth
also stated that approaches,
such as current ones, separate students into groups of achievers and
failures, “t
his latter
group might be at
-
risk learners who were not successful with the school curriculum or
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
18

who had other at
-
risk conditions that were made more acute by an unresponsive
curriculum” (Manning & Baruth, 1995, p. 84).
Once again, this demonstrates that
classroom p
ractices should be based on pedagogical practices and not on practice tests
and memorization of facts.

The stress created by NCLB has also led to other major problems. Many teachers
have developed

a number of

physical and emotional problems,
have become

cynical, feel
as though they are failures, and have developed negative attitudes. This is not only due to
accountability issues but also to increasing paperwork and job duties. All of these
stressors combined then lead to decreased achievement because t
he students’
learning
suffers due to
the teachers’ stress levels and attitudes (
Harrington & Holub, 2006
).
Another cycle then begins for low
-
achieving students. The increase of stress in the
school environment and high emphasis placed on passing the test

leads to low
-
achieving
students becoming overwhelmed and giving up (Machtinger, 2007).

For the most part,
the low
-
achieving students are from low
-
income families and have little or no support at
home. This aspect seems to be widening the achievement gap

that has been brought to
the attention of the world by NCLB. These outcomes
could all be avoided with the
implementation of pedagogical practices that are theoretically and philosophically
-
based
and directly address the social and emotional needs

of stud
ents

in conjunction with the
academic requirements.
According to Zins, Weissberg, Wang, and Walberg, social and
emotional learning programs are structured around student engagement and interaction,
developmentally appropriate activities, as well as applyi
ng learning to everyday
situations. They have shown to increase academic achievement due to a variety of
factors

(Greenberg et al., 2003)
. The environ
ment is a supportive atmosphere, which
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
19

may include cooperative learning centers, small
-
group work, whole
-
class instruction,
discussions, hands
-
on learning, investigations and inquiry,
to name only a few. When
these aspects are implemented,

students are given more responsibility and make better
decisions, and they experience far less stress.
This then resul
ts in more confidence and
increased motivation (Greenberg, et al., 2003).
Once again, a cycle occurs but in this
situation, the cycle is a positive one. This positive outcome would
be beneficial
not only
to students but also to
teachers, classrooms, scho
ols, school districts, and comm
unities.
This is not only due to increased achievement, which is the sole concern of NCLB and
the aspect of accountability, but also to the overall success o
f these students, resulting in

increased social skills, graduation
rates, and employment rates.

Implementing some form of social
-
emotional approach in the classroom could
greatly change the face of education today and result in an altered future of tomorrow.
Children who live in poverty are disadvantaged in so many ways,

and education is one at
the top of the list. When taking into consideration all of the preceding research and
evidence, one can see that learning can take place in a classroom that operates like a
small society or community. It is true that we are a pro
duct of our heredity, but it is also
true that our environments have a great deal to do with our learning and abilities. If it is
true that we are a product of our environment, then why should the school environment
not be
included in this concept?

From

kindergarten through twelfth grade, we spend nearly 20,000 hours in the
classroom. T
his is a substantial portion of

our lives, all of which is spent during
some of
the

most

critical years of development. Given this figure, why
do most people think that
teachers and educators cannot overpower the effects of a child’s home life and cultural
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
20

influences? Education can be the key to overcoming poverty and teaching those in
poverty to be more successful, educated individuals. Teachers must understand that th
ey

take on many roles

in the classroom setting
.
They are seen as
parental figure
s
, nurse
s
,
behaviorist
s
, psychologist
s
, mediator
s
, manager
s
, and then as

educator
s. They
take on all
of thes
e roles due to the fact that they
are the sing
le,
most influential

part of
a
classroom
environment
. Students look to them

for
leadership and guidance, and they
must provide
these things to them in a consistent manner.

Teacher pedagogies
and the
curriculum
should be based
on what is best for each and every student
,

and
the lives of the students
must be considered

in
order to understand their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and areas
of need. This will
ensure the establishment of

a safe and secure learning, psychological,
a
nd physical environment for
students. It
will

also establish a supportive atmosphere and
provide information that can assist teachers

in developing
ways to motivate and engage
students.
The teacher’s personality

mold
s
students even when they are not aware of it. A
teacher
must be kind and considera
te, accommodating and reasonable, yet
firm and
organized
. A

balance of these aspects

must be implemented

in order to provide an
effecti
ve learning environment for all students and if the social
-
emotional approach has
proven to be successful

at improving s
ocial skills as well as academic achievement

for
low
-
achieving, low
-
income students, then
it could only be beneficial to all students.



Education should not be based on test scores and funding. It should be based on
the welfare of children and the futur
e of society. No Child Left Behind appeared to have
good intentions, and not many will argue that we should not have highly qualified
teachers and hold school districts accountable for student learning
,

but at what cost?
Thus far, achievement and account
ability have overshadowed appropriate practice,
Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
21

including the much needed social and emotional aspects of development. Children not
only need to learn how to read and write, but they also need to learn how to be social
beings and function in society. If
a child typically spends 20,000 ho
urs of life in the
presence of

teacher
s, then why should they not have
,

at least an equal

(or greater)
,

influence on the child as

the
societal, family, and cultural influences

have
? Teachers can
make a difference in the l
ives of their students and implementing effective pedagogical
practices can enable them to do so. T
eachers should recognize the importance of taking
on the many roles require
d to be a successful teacher and always do what is best for the

students

of whom
they are in charge. The teacher’s

actions and behaviors

in the
classroom will shape the
students into the citizens
of tomorrow
.
They should not only be
taught
the educational material and skills needed

to succeed in life
, but
they should also

learn how t
o be socially competent. “Social skills allow one to adapt and respond to the
expectations of society” (Vaughn, Bos, & Schumm, 2003). In

order to be
a successful,
independent member of society, one

must learn social skills from others. Teachers and
clas
srooms can be

the much needed source

of information for
the child

who do
es

n
ot
receive modeling elsewhere.
We must ask ourselves,

W
hat is a child? To see a child is
to see possibility, someone in the process of becoming” (Manen, 2006, p.1). Teachers
ca
n influence this process

of becoming

and make a difference in the lives of students,
especially those who live in poverty and have

decreased opportunities. Education is

the
answer.




Education: Learning to Rise above
Poverty
22

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