As educators, we need to be reminded that the holidays aren't happy for everyone. For some, it isone of the most stressful times of life. For our students, it can be a high stress time and as educators we need to approach our work with an additional awareness and sensitivity than we routinely use.
Without thinking, I fired off a series of tweets that captured my heartfelt thoughts. Follow my time line @latoyadixon5 and follow the #povertymatters hashtag to see more. For this blog post, I will share these important thoughts for educators to remember as we approach the holiday season, especially for those of you who work in schools with high concentrations of poverty. See below:
1. Just a little reminder to my PLN: The holidays can be an extremely stressful time for students of poverty.
2. Listening to your parent(s) talk about the struggle and stress of the holidays can be emotionally taxing. #povertymatters
3.Students of poverty are often burdened with adult worries. A parent's burden becomes the burden of all. #povertymatters
4. While meaning well, parents don't always understand the implications of burden sharing with kids.
5. Ss with a high stress response system are often most vulnerable near the holidays, which usually also happen to be near break.
This may have been the most important tweet of all because this is often what activates a fear or stress response:
7. Understanding poverty and its effects can be challenging if you've never experienced it. Experience is the best teacher. #povertymatters
8. While we can't all have the experience of being poor, we can educate ourselves to resist our unconscious insensitivity. #povertymatters
9. When we ask questions like, Are you excited for Thanksgiving?, we shouldn't be surprised if we get a no. Shame leads us to yes. #povertymatters
10. There's nothing worse than watching your classmates give presents to the teacher when you know you have nothing to give (personal experience)
11. Don't assume that the kids who don't bring you a gift don't love you as their teacher. I loved Mrs. West, but I never got to give her a gift. (Side note: Mrs. West was my beloved third grade teacher who turned me into the writer I am-she saw my gift first and pointed it out to me!)
12. I'd venture to say my gift to her was my life story of how she made a difference for me. Better than any trinket, card, etc.
13. As educators, we have to be sure our own experiences don't make us unconscious to the experiences of others. #povertymatters
14. Sometimes with the best intentions we demonstrate a lack of understanding of kids of poverty. #povertymatters
15. When thinking about Ss of poverty, don't rely on your experience to lead you if you've never been poor. Try to think from their perspective. (This is much harder than it seems.)
A holiday never goes by without me thinking of how it is affecting students of poverty. My passion for helping students of poverty comes from an authentic place. I've been poor and I've experienced that stress. Experiencing poverty, for me, is not different from any other traumatic experience. It never leaves you. You always have that thought in the back of your mind that you could be back where you started in an instant. You don't live a life of certainty, because you know from experience that nothing is certain, especially when it comes to money. As my older sister would say, it is just a tool for living.
Being a student of poverty comes with a tremendous amount of shame. While some are fooled or misguided by an occasional pair of nice sneakers, I am not. I know that often those were purchased in the barbershop, beauty salon, or flea market. If you can't relate to the aforementioned statement, then consider yourself misguided and find someone who can explain it to you so that you have a better understanding. It is so much easier to refuse than to try to explain to someone that your project is not done because of all the costly requirements. It is especially easier to just take the easy way out and refuse, if you are ashamed and don't think your teacher would understand anyway or chalk it up as an excuse. I'm always weary of those who say some students use poverty as an excuse-when you have nowhere to bathe, or live, or nothing to eat-how is that an excuse? Maybe I missed something, but I don't think so. Your school work becomes secondary when surviving is primary.
So as the holidays approach, I am asking that you approach your work with a level of consciousness required to help students of poverty survive the stress of the holidays. So to all the educators out there, remember the holidays aren't happy for everyone. Sympathy towards students of poverty doesn't help, but sensitivity does. Fight your unconscious intentions that lack understanding. Read between the lines because there are no students lining up to say, I'm extremely stressed out right now. My heart overflows at this time of the year. No matter what I accomplish in my life, I'll never forget the struggle that my sisters & I had to experience to get to where we are today.
Remember-our students need us to be sensitive to their needs during this time. Give the gift of compassion and understanding. It will last a lot longer than any material gift you receive.
Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder!