In my experience with public education, I have always had the honor of being a teacher to children in lower socio-economic situations. There is something about these kids. Something about these kids makes my job the most rewarding job on the planet. I know that from the time they walk into my classroom, to the time they leave is probably the greatest part of their day. I provide them with structure, and they love it. Most of the time, they tell me they love me within the first week. They are desperate for love and attention, and they thrive when they are treated like they are loved. They deserve it. Especially from their teacher.
They deserve love, fairness, consistency, and compassion. What they don’t deserve is an excuse.
Here is the deal: I made it. I graduated college, and I have a career. Maybe not a lucrative career, but I still made it. Children of poverty have a long fight ahead of them. They don’t need someone like me, their teacher, to make excuses for them. If I make excuses for those children, I am failing them. In the moment, they don’t quite understand why I won’t let up. In a moment of frustration, they might think I am the “meanest teacher ever.” They might give me a glare for the next 20 minutes. That’s okay. They will thank me later.
We can sit here all day and feel sorry for a child living in poverty, but it will not do them any good. They are going to be faced with challenges their whole life, and they are going to have to learn how to deal with those challenges.
The best thing I can do in my classroom, is show them students of poverty they are loved, and appreciated.
However, this is what I will NOT do:
- I will NOT accept excuses for why they can not learn.
- I will NOT accept an excuse for why they can not resolve conflicts in a respectful manner.
- I will NOT accept an excuse for why they are choosing not to participate.
- I will NOT accept an excuse for their unwillingness to complete an assignment.
This is not to say that I will not work with them to make them successful. I will continue to scaffold and meet them at their academic and social level. I will show them the way through love, compassion, and the prospect of a better life through education. What I will not do is let a child continue to make excuses for why they “can’t.” When they gain independence as they grow up, and through adulthood, excuses will not be accepted.
Children of poverty are going to have to figure out how to rise above and compete in a global economy. If we continue to feel sorry and make excuses for our students, we are fulfilling our own feelings. We are not giving them what they need.
These children don’t need to you feel bad for them.
They need a superhero who believes in them. Be the superhero they so desperately need.