This and that…

November 4, 2008

Hidden Rules….Could you survive in poverty?

Filed under: education,Post-secondary,Support Services,Vermont Tech — learningspecialist @ 7:40 pm

This post is about a week later than I wanted it to be…sometimes the world just gets out of control:)

When I first began school, “back in the day “as my kids tell me, I went to parochial school- complete with nuns in flowing black habits. I attended parochial school through the fourth grade, when we moved. My father was a mechanical engineer and worked for IBM, and so we moved a lot in those days. The town we wound up in did not have a catholic school nearby and so I went to public school for fifth grade. I was a pretty bright kid and had been given lots of good feedback from my teachers for both asking and answering questions. (Really! I must have had very progressive religious faculty.) When I arrived in public school, on the first day, I raised my hand to answer a question, was called on, stood up and gave my response. The class laughed at me- not because my answer was foolish but because I was standing up- as I had been taught to do. I was understandably mortified- and I never stood up again- but it took a long time for me to recover enough to be able to make friends and fit in.  Of course we moved again shortly (IBM in the late sixties was bit like the military that way) and so I developed a huge and enduring caution (to this day in fact) about assessing the rules of every new group I find myself a part of.

We have talked about general statistics around poverty, explored some definitions of resources and the role of language in defining the unique challenges that students who come from a background of poverty may face as they navigate school- especially college. One of the particularly important resources we have is our understanding of the hidden rules of the group. Hidden rules are the unspoken habits and cues of any group.  This is a concept that is easy to acknowledge when we think of cultural diversity, but it is less present when we think about the economic diversity of the students we serve. And there are lots of rules to think about that have an enormous impact on achievement in schools and work. this chart summarizes some of these: The Hidden Rules of Class

To see how you fit in, try one- or more- of these inventories…

Could You Survive in Poverty?

Could You Survive in Middle Class?

Could You Survive in Wealth?

I am pretty solidly middle class. I understand the game. I suspect I would not do so well in a truly wealthy environment- though I would not mind trying- and I am fairly sure that I would NOT do well in poverty. I am pretty resourceful but there are layers and understandings that I do not have and might not have the time to learn.

It is so for our students as well. If we pay attention to the stories they tell, we will hear often that our students who are not successful just do not view the world and their resources and options in the same way we do. Too often assumptions about intelligence are made based on behavior.  Schools can teach students what they need to know about mediating the world, but to do that effectively, we must also communicate respect for the world they are surviving.



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