OK, the research doesn't exactly show that. But, as the article in today's Washington Post explains, it does show that the stresses of living in poverty can lead a decrease in working memory. That means that children who grow up in poverty have a more difficult time remembering new information and making connections with it. For teachers, this is really important in helping us understand how to help children who live in poverty. It also helps to explain the achievement gap.
What concerns me about this research is that I can just hear the way some people will interpret it. Some will say (and have said already on some other blogs) that this research shows that we can't make the kind of significant gains that are required in DCPS. I hear (too many) teachers in my school saying things like, "Until we change the socio-economics of the community, we can't turn around the school" or "I can't teach a kid who doesn't show up ready to learn" (both are direct quotes).
Here's what I say: suck it up. Is teaching in DC difficult? Yeah, definitely. But if you can't hack it then go work somewhere else. If teachers make excuses for why we're not succeeding with our students, then they shouldn't be teachers. Now, I don't think that teachers who don't raise test scores should be fired, and I don't think that all teachers should be expected to be martyrs. I personally am not confident that I could get the most difficult 10th graders at my school to pass the DC-CAS, even if I had two years with them. But I do think it's possible, and I intend to continue to seek out resources, development, and constructive criticism so that I one day will be the type of teacher who can make those gains.
The effects of poverty make it more difficult for children to remember things. Having a family life that does not value education might lead students to be apathetic. A long history of low-quality teachers will make students angry. Teaching high-needs children is difficult. But we're paid to be teachers to everyone, not just the kids who don't have issues.
Phew, that was quite a rant. I'm going to go eat a cookie.
Sunday Sweets: Dia de los Muertos
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