Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It

Synopsis

In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, veteran educator and brain expert Eric Jensen takes an unflinching look at how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States and demonstrates how schools can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged students.

Jensen argues that although chronic exposure to poverty can result in detrimental changes to the brain, the brain's very ability to adapt from experience means that poor children can also experience emotional, social, and academic success. A brain that is susceptible to adverse environmental effects is equally susceptible to the positive effects of rich, balanced learning environments and caring relationships that build students' resilience, self-esteem, and character.

Drawing from research, experience, and real school success stories, Teaching with Poverty in Mind reveals

• What poverty is and how it affects students in school;

• What drives change both at the macro level (within schools and districts) and at the micro level (inside a student's brain);

• Effective strategies from those who have succeeded and ways to replicate those best practices at your own school; and

• How to engage the resources necessary to make change happen.

Too often, we talk about change while maintaining a culture of excuses. We can do better. Although no magic bullet can offset the grave challenges faced daily by disadvantaged children, this timely resource shines a spotlight on what matters most, providing an inspiring and practical guide for enriching the minds and lives of all your students.

Excerpt

I grew up in a typical middle-class home. Although the world of the wealthy was appealing to me, what interested me more was the world of the poor. “Why?” was the primary question I grappled with over the years. I was simply unable to fathom why the poor could (or would) not lift themselves out of poverty. I believed that if “those people” simply tried harder or had “better values,” they would be able to succeed.

Today, I realize that this attitude was terribly small-minded and prejudiced. But I had to discover that on my own. Extensive education and travel opened my eyes and transformed my soul. Today, I know much more about what goes on in economically disadvantaged families.

This evolution in my thinking is not what drove me to write this book. Instead, I was inspired by this stunningly simple question: “If life experiences can change poor kids for the worse, can’t life experiences also change them for the better?” Seeing and hearing how kids from desperate home circumstances succeeded in schools around the world intrigued me. More than two decades ago, I cofounded an academic enrichment program called SuperCamp that has changed tens of thousands of lives worldwide, so I know change can and does happen. My own success and that of others inspired me to find out how it happens—and how it can be replicated.

This book focuses on the relationship between academic achievement and low socioeconomic status (SES). In it, I make the following three claims:

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