While I thought the book sounding interesting and I had heard about the book before, I have to admit I was a little skeptical at reading it. Why? I tend to navigate away from books written about students in poverty, Title I schools, low SES (socio-economic status) because based on experience, the ones I have read before seems to me to be a bit judgmental, unrealistic and always classifies them has "needed special attention because of what they don't have" and personally I've always felt some kind of way about that.
I grew up in SE Washington, DC. A place known to outsiders as a beautiful tourist site with so much history, but a place known to it's residents as murder capital. I've seen so much, I've heard so much and I too was a child that attended that school with low scores, lots of behaviors, etc. I too attended that high school that was a gang rival school, high drop out rate and teen pregnancy on the rise. However, I too, like many of my friends and associates did graduate, went on to college and as far as we knew or was concerned our neighborhood didn't effect our outcome.
Then I opened this book, "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind" and from Chapter I I was truly intrigued. As I read this book and the classroom scenarios I kept picturing myself as a teacher and as a student. I tried to compare myself to the teacher in the book who was always frustrated versus the teacher in the book who was so excited about what her class had done. I compared my students to the scenarios in the book and often thought how I have responded to them in those similar situations. Then at that point, well before I finished Chapter I: The Seven Engagement Factors, I realized that my upbringing had made an impact on me. It had impacted my teaching.
See, I'm a teacher that has always taught in Title I schools because I have always told myself that "these children just need to see someone successful" and "I can relate to them because I grew up in a similar neighborhood". However has I began to read more of the book, I realized how I'm nothing like these kids. My approach to them as been wrong and I instantly began to take note of some of the approaches.
See I can't relate to a child whose only meal is at school, because even growing up in public housing I had 3 meals a day. My aunt who raised me, fixed breakfast every morning (no cereal), we took our lunch to school and when we got home there was a snack and dinner being prepared. My aunt worked every day, sometimes two jobs but I was never home alone. I was attended extra curricula activities and I always had clean clothes. My life was different because we didn't have to move from house to house. Jensen spoke about students being unstable, going to new schools sometimes every year and worrying about housing and stability. That's unknown to me. I grew up in the same house all my life. I had my own room, my own clothes, my own toys so no I'm not like these kids.
What I didn't realize it that socio-economic status is more than how much money you make. No we weren't rich, but we were definitely not poor. We were middle class or working middle class, but growing up in DC, which is a very expensive city to live in people often result to public housing back in the 80s before "vouchers" were available because it just was cheaper rent. It was affordable. But I began to sympathize for these kids as I read the book because being so young, you shouldn't have to worry about so much.
I was mostly intrigued by Chapter 4: Engage to Build Cognitive Capacity. This chapter spoke a lot about how to get children of SES to reach their full potential. This chapter intrigued me more and made me pull out a pin and paper because this chapter didn't speak about their deficits due to their environment, it spoke about how to pull them out of their deficits, teach them how to reach their full potential and train them up well so that their brains can begin to work and think like other children who are high SES.
As I read Chapter 4, which focused on training working memory, developing speed process, fostering self-control, I began to chuckle a bit because I said to myself, these are my students and my daughter. LOL. I wouldn't classify my neighborhood as a low SES neighborhood. I'm not rich but we are pretty ok. However, I noticed that my own daughter showed many of these traits. So I began to not look at this book as engaging students with poverty in mind, but just engaging today's youth. No matter where they live, just about all the children I encounter could benefit from the tips and suggestions that this book offered.
This book offers titles such as:
Engage for Energy and Focus
Engage for Deep Understanding
Engage for Motivation and Effort
All which were so much more meaningful than your average "students with poverty" book.
I think Mr. Eric Jensen did an amazing job with this book. He never once in this book said, "treat these students this way because they don't know this or they don't have this". He said, "you as the teacher have to hold them responsible, having grater hopes for them, train them up and set their expectations for them".
So what did I, Renee, take from this book. I took away a mind set change. Yes I grew up in that area, but no I am not child. I was "privileged" in a way. So to myself, no I don't know what they are dealing with but now I feel more compelled to try and understand them. Funny throughout the entire book, I kept thinking to myself, "you have to provide a snack time" because they too need energy, they need to focus. I found more ways of keeping my classroom engaging, involving my children more and meeting their needs as a classroom teacher. I will provide more opportunities for them to see the world and I will be sure to relate my material to more real world aspects. Making my lessons more meaningful. And most of all, I believe I am a better teacher just for reading this book.
I plan to share this book with my colleagues and my grade level and encouraging them all to read it. Such an eye opening book.
Here's a quick YouTube video that gives you insight to what you can learn from this book: