This and that…

September 30, 2008

What gets in the way continued…

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Support Services,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 8:23 pm

So…last week I opened a conversation about poverty and it’s impact on student performance by sharing some statistics. Statistics are important because they provide a non-judgmental snapshot of a particular place, time and group.  At Vermont Tech, we work with a large number of students from who are first generation college students ,  and who come from low income backgrounds, so the likelihood of some of our students falling somewhere in that statistical profile is reasonably high.  Since our goal is to retain those students so that they can develop the resources to have satisfying choices about how they spend their lives, knowing something just makes sense.

Which sets up a pretty good segue into a conversation about resources. One might define poverty as “the extent to which an individual does without resources”. (Payne, 1996, 2007) While we generally think of resources as financial, it really is much more than that. Payne suggests this list:

  1. Financial: Having the money to purchase goods and services
  2. Emotional: Being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self destructive behavior.  This is an internal resource and shows itself through stamina, perseverance and choices.
  3. Mental: Having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, math) to deal with daily life.
  4. Spiritual: Believing in divine purpose and guidance
  5. Physical: Having physical health and mobility
  6. Support Systems: Having friends, family and back up resources available to access in times of need. These are external resources.
  7. Relationships/Role Models: Having frequent access to adult(s) who are appropriate, who are nurturing, and who do not engage in self destructive behavior.
  8. Knowledge of the Hidden Rules: Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.

To discuss the significance of all these in one post would be cumbersome, but it is worth saying that while educators cannot influence financial , or physical resources much, there is a lot that we can do to support students that costs nothing. Being a mentor for example…

The other important point- for me anyway- is that we should always look at the student and their individual circumstances before we start passing judgements and looking for solutions. Suggestions that arise from the middle class head that most educators have, make great sense to us, but may make no sense to someone living with the limited resources available to those in poverty.



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