I just had to share this wonderful article which speaks to a very important quality of the best teaching that is often overlooked – compassion and care.
Give The Kid A Pencil, by Chad Donohue, published at Teaching Tolerance
I recently taught a university course in Seattle for graduate students seeking master’s degrees in teaching. In one lesson, our focus was on creating a psychologically safe learning environment for students. It was an issue of managing students and supplies. I posed a question:
If a student shows up to class without a pencil, how should the teacher respond?
Small groups collaborated for a few minutes. Ultimately, they came up with plans involving taking something (a shoe?) from the student as collateral to remind the student about the importance of having supplies, notifying parents and even assigning classroom cleanup duty or lunch detention.
“I would give the kid a pencil,” I said.
“You mean the first time?” someone asked.
“Every time,” I said.
This evidently had not occurred to them. There must be some punishment, subtle humiliation or a response that makes the kid pay for the error, right? They were concerned that my action would reinforce and reward poor behavior, possibly even help develop bad habits.
What they failed to see is that the teacher is not the cause of the problem. Likely, the student has been doing this for years. The teacher can respond by criticizing the child in front of the class, reminding him that pencils are required at school, making her give up something as collateral or inflicting some punishment as a power move.
Or the instructor can simply provide the pencil and say, “There will always be a pencil here for you. Don’t ever worry about asking me for a pencil. I have hundreds of them.”
By eliminating the anxiety that comes when students worry about being called out or humiliated in front of their peers, teachers reduce the chance that students will skip class, give up, become defiant or develop mysterious “illnesses” that cause them to stay home….
Read more here: Give The Kid A Pencil
The Green Party have unveiled their education proposals, and they clearly aim to address head on the issues facing those students living in poverty.
Metiria Turei stressed that “10 per cent of New Zealand children were living in poverty, poorer kids had three times the rate of hospital admissions from preventable illnesses and were up to 50 per cent more likely to become a poor adult and perpetuate the poverty cycle” and that this needs to be addressed in order for children to have the best chance of success.
This view is upheld by the OECD, and the latest PISA study made clear that equality, health care and safety were the hugest factors in a child’s chance of future success. Having good quality teachers a big factor in the classroom, but is not the greatest factor overall.
John Key fudged that point in his speech last week. He acknowledged that quality teachers a big factor in the classroom (but without any stress on “in the classroom” so that it was read by many to mean that teachers have the biggest influence on success full stop), and he then went on to say that we don’t have increasing poverty and inequality in NZ, refusing to accept that there is any link between poverty and lower educational success.
This is rubbish, and he knows it. There is a mountain of research and analysis that shows the link very clearly. *
It’s good to know that the Greens acknowledge the link and intend to do something concrete to address it. This is the Greens’ plan, as reported at Stuff:
The Greens have unveiled a new policy which would see schools in lower income areas turned into hubs which would meet all the health, social and welfare needs of poor families.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy in a speech to party faithful at Waitangi Park in Wellington this afternoon, saying inequality was increasing in New Zealand and the best way for people to escape the poverty trap was through education.
“Education remains the most effective route out of poverty. But school only works for children if they are in a position to be able to learn,” the party’s policy statement reads.
“Many kids come with a complicated mix of social, health and family issues, often related to low income, that need to be addressed before they can get the most out of school.” Read more here.
And this is the NZEI’s response to the proposals:
Green Party education proposals will make a big difference for children
NZEI Te Riu Roa says it welcomes the Green Party’s proposals to tackle the impact of growing inequality on children’s education.
National President, Judith Nowotarski says the proposal to develop health, welfare and support service hubs in lower decile schools goes right to the heart of tackling the biggest problem we face in our education system – poverty and inequity.
“International evidence clearly shows that poverty and inequality are by far the biggest obstacles that children face in education.
“This proposal directly targets these real issues and, if adopted, would make a big difference to the education outcome of thousands of children in this country.
“Policies such as this would ensure that many more children in this country get the opportunity for a good education – something that teachers and school support staff have been calling for, for a long time.”
However, Ms Nowotarski says inequality and poverty are now much more spread throughout the community so NZEI wants to see policies that target children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds at all schools – not just lower decile schools.
She says the education sector looks forward to working with the Greens in further design and implementation of the policy.
Well, that is over with a bang.
How anyone could continue to be content with their lot when this is going on in our beautiful country is beyond me. I certainly can’t.
Overall 265,000 children live in poverty – 25% of our kids. One in four.
Not to be party political, because this is an issue for all parties and one they really must face together, but Mr Key’s assertion today that “the fastest way out of poverty was through work,” was a total evasion of the whole problem. Two fifths of those in poverty live in homes where the parents do have jobs. So how about maybe looking at a living wage?
And this woman is working – but that’s no help if there is nowhere for her to live other than a bloody tent!
Sorry, but I am just so incensed.
Anyway, that’s poverty and this site is about education, right?
Well, to me they are intrinsically linked.
But – and it’s a big BUT … if you grow up in poverty, your chances of succeeding are far less than if you have food in your stomach, a warm and dry place to call home, and the money for medical care when you need it.
A child growing up in poverty suffers from stress that can impact their learning and indeed their whole lives.
A student that is cold cannot concentrate.
A student that is hungry cannot concentrate, either.
And, yes, a student that is ill and has no medication is hardly likely to be doing their best work.
Poverty and educational outcomes are linked.
It comes to something when the Children’s Commissioner, Russell Wills, has to find alternative funding because the government will not look into this.
And Paula Bennet won’t even comment on it.
Despite plenty of research, such as that by Prof. Jonathan Boston, showing the link and the scale of the problem.
Despite Bryan Bruce’s Inside Child Poverty highlighting the issues plain and simple, and offering solutions.
Shame on this government.
Our children deserve better.
They all deserve to be fed, warm, in decent homes, have access to medical care that is free and comprehensive, and be able to learn with as few impediments as possible.
After all, this is New Zealand. This the Godzone. This is Aotearoa.
Our tamariki matter.
I read an interesting piece today about the perils of assuming kids in higher decile schools are being fed.
It resonated with me and gave me reason to ponder my own experiences and reflect on what opting into programmes can mean for those kids on the receiving end of the help.
There were (and are) no deciles in UK schools, but if were to hazard a guess I would say it would have been a decile 7-8 school.
Lunch time was a lesson in class and wealth.
The UK school lunches programme was subsidised so there was a small charge for the fabulous hot meals provided – one my parents could pay and were happy to do so. And if your family didn’t earn enough, you got a ticket to say you were entitled to FREE MEALS.
It was great!
There was food for all, in every school, and it was hearty and healthy. No burgers and chips back then, it was all Shepherds’ Pie and peas gfollowed by sponge and custard, and a second helping if you were lucky.
But it did have a down side that only really struck me again today after reading Coley’s article.
Them and Us
At lunch time, it was totally clear to everyone who was who in the poverty pecking order; I remember my best friend’s true mortification every day as she handed her free meals lunch ticket over in front of the whole waiting queue and all of the seated kids in order to get her meal.
They could not have embarrassed her more, short of stamping her on the forehead with POOR.
The Mystical Lunch Boxes
And even then it had other complications. Not everyone took advantage of school meals. I remember those children that brought packed lunches. Cold food all packaged nicely in a lunch box and brought in each day. I had no idea why they had those. Why would you have cold food when hot food was on offer? It was a mystery to me, completely, but I did recognise that it was those kids that bused down that brought packed lunches, not us that bused up. And we sat in separate spaces – hot meals in one area, lunch boxes in another.
The divide was very clear.
So, I knew I was poorish because “the posh kids” ate cold food from a box. But I knew I wasn’t as poor as the ticket kids. They were very poor – the ticket told us that.
In short, at lunch times, my place in society’s pecking order was laid bare.
How it feels to be ‘othered’
As Coley Tangerina says “Let me tell you something about being part of a poor minority in a wealthy private or “well zoned” public school – if your classmates can’t tell your poor because of the weird shit you wear to school, they will tell when you’re asking for food in the mornings.”
Despite the passing of time and the change in my circumstances, I can feel my cheeks reddening even now remembering how I felt as I realised that the kids from my area were different to those that bused down. That I was different.
Was it even worse to be in the top stream with the kids with the proper uniforms? None of them wore uniforms that were never quite the right shades of blue, bought from the market or made by mum. I don’t know if it was worse than handing your food chit over every day, but it was certainly embarrassing enough to put me off uniforms for life.
These small thing tell a child that they are different to their classmates, and that those differences are beyond their control.
This is what it is like when a child is in a school where only some kids opt into the food programmes. Them and us.
What a rotten way for any child to feel.
There’s no easy answer, but the discussion surely cannot be over with this Weetbix opt-in half-cocked solution, can it?
Do it properly: Extend free food at school by Colin Espiner
Feed the Kids A Fact Sheet on the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill
Diane Ravitch shares her thoughts on inequality – thoughts that apply as much to NZ as they do to the USA:
“In a terrific opinion piece that was prominently featured in the Sunday New York Times, Sean Reardon of Stanford University wrote that the gap between the children of the rich and the children of the poor has grown by 40% in the past 30 years.
Reardon puts to rest virtually every reformer myth: schools don’t cause inequality; schools don’t cure inequality: the achievement gap(s) begin before the first day of school. Stop blaming schools for conditions beyond their control. Poverty matters.
Reardon writes : “We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.”
What have we been doing for the past 30 years? Relying on standards and testing to close the gaps. It hasn’t worked.
Are schools to blame for the growing gap? Reardon says no: “It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.”
If the schools are not to blame, what is: Reardon says that growing income inequality is an important cause of the growing education gap.
But that’s not all. Rich families invest heir income in cognitively enriching activities: “It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.”
What can we do? Reardon says, parent education, early intervention, support for children before the GPS grow wide: “The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.”
The original post can be found here.