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Welcome to my webpage on the culture of poverty.  Please click on each tab above to navigate through my reflections, responses, and evaluation.


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Miseducating Teachers

Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning

Poverty and Student Achievement


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Fact Sheets

Class started out with two handouts, a yellow one and a lavendar one. On each handout there were facts and general introductory information about poverty.  I did not have a working definition of poverty, but I learned that poverty is a lack of resources.  I thought that the key points to remember about poverty from Payne were extremely helpful in understanding the scope of poverty and how it works within patterns.  The hidden rules of different classes was also intriguing to me.


The first article, "Miseducating Teachers About the Poor,"  is a critique of Ruby Payne's book and is refuted in the second article, "Using the Lens of Economic Class to Help Teachers Understand and Teach Students from Poverty."   In the first article, Bomer et. al. has one major complaint: Payne does not have any evidence to support her claims.  She also uses negative stereotypes about the poor and focuses on their incapabilities rather than their capabilities.  One thing that Bomer et. al. pointed out was about her quiz on surviving at different class levels. We took this quiz in class and I felt that it was not very good because it made assumptions like, for example, if you were to survive poverty you must know how to go dumpster diving.  This article also pointed that fallacy out and I appreciated that it was not just me coming up with that feeling.  Payne's neat and tidy class structure was also criticized by Bomer et. al.  There are too many exceptions for everyone to fit into these specific categories and therefore they dod not work well.  Bomer et. al. also said that the book was mainly just her inaccurate opinions. 

In Payne's defense or rebuttal, she points out that her book may lack the research explicitly, but she lived with the impoverished so she knows what she is talking about.  Also, she cites research that has apparently proven her ideas now.  I also found it interesting that she says she DOES talk about the strengths of the impoverished whereas Bomer et. al. said she focused on the negative. Not having read the book myself, I am not sure what to believe. 

I think that Bomer was too picky about their critique and much too harsh.  They were nitpicking about certain details being left out of the book, and Payne points out that it was a framework to work off of (in fact, the work 'framework' is a part of the title of her book) and that it is not supposed to be exhaustive.  In this way I saw Bomer et. al. putting works into her mouth. On the other hand, I myself noted that Payne, in her defense article, lacked a citation where one was obviously needed!  Yikes. 

The next article that I read was Pellino's article entitled "The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning."  This reading focused on ways in which the teacher can recognize students who are impoverished and gives practical and important ways to adapt curriculum and meet their unique needs.  One very important point that was made was about the conflict of values between the home setting and the school setting: there is often times a huge disconnect between what is acceptable at home and at school.  Teachers should be aware of this and help educate the students in the culture of the school so that they are on equal footing with their peers and able to achieve at a higher level than they would otherwise.  I also really liked the proposal of changing the term "at-risk" to "at-promise."  This switch in perspective, I think, can have a profound influence in the way educators, and society in general, view these individuals. The majority of the article was based on researched data about student readiness and achievement and how the teacher may want to address these issues.  I found that a lot of the suggests that Pellino gave were just good teaching methods to begin with.  This article did a good job of pointing out risk factors, but I didn't get too much out of the strategies that were suggested.

Taylor's article, "Poverty and Student Achievement," is focused more on the teacher than on the student.  The main focus of the article is on how the system has put disadvantaged students at a bigger disadvantage by not providing adequate or quality education. Some of this is due to a lack of funding, and some is due to teacher ignorance of the effects of poverty on the students. Taylor is a proponent of studying poverty as a part of multicultural education courses during teacher preparation programs. She also believes that teachers should be experts in their content area but should also pursue further teacher education studies to be truly qualified pedagogically as well. 

The last article, by Bernstein, questions the role of education is helping to cure poverty.  According to Bernstein, the answer is both yes and no: yes, education is a part of it, but it's not the only thing.  He says taht education needs to also be paired with a program geared towards job searches and skills of this type.  The economic climate is also a big factor that affects poverty, and this cannot be controlled by education. 

All of these articles that we ready had good points about poverty: it is a real social condition but it can be recognized and helped, to some extent.  Educators may not be the cure-all for poverty, but they sure can play a large role in the lives of their students by showing them a new way to live and helping them develop the skills necessary to end the cycle of poverty. 







Bernstein, J. (2007). Is education the cure for poverty? The American Prospect. Retrieved July 10, 2009 from 


Bomer, R., Dworin, J.E., May, L., & Semingson, P. (2008). Miseducating teachers about the poor: a critical analysis of Ruby Payne's claims about poverty [Electronic version]. Teachers College Record, 110 (12)p.2497-2531.


Payne, R. (2009).   Using the lens of economic class to help teachers understand and teach students from poverty: a response. [Electronic version] Teachers College Record.


Pellino, K. (2007). The effects of poverty on teaching and learning. Retrieved July 10, 2009 from


Taylor, J.A.  (2005). Poverty and Student Achievement. Multicultural Education, 12(4), 53-55.  Retrieved July 10, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 867275751).




Final Reflection

How can I understand poverty?  What can I do about it?  These two questions are the ones posed to me for this final reflection.  Before this class, my definition of poverty was something along the lines of "a state of low socioeconomic status."  But now that has broadened because of discussions we have had in class and from articles we have read.  Now I define poverty as "a lack of sufficient resources."  With this definition, I am better able to understand poverty.  Many people believe that those in poverty live on the streets: this is not always the case.  The impoverished live in houses, apartments, shelters, just about anywhere really.  And their poverty is not usually just financial: they lack quality educational opportunites, the ability to take initiative to get out of their situation, and at time the motivation because they don't know anything different (generational poverty as opposed to situational poverty).  Individuals in poverty are stereotyped as being dirty, slovenly, uneducated, and good-for-nothings by the media and society.  But poverty does not have to be understood this way: many of these individuals would like to have the opportunity to make something more of themselves, and this is where I can begin to answer the second question of doing something about it.

As a teacher, I am priviledged to have the opportunity to work with young people.  I believe that an education is one of the most valuable things that an individual can have.  Saying this, I am not getting intot the particulars of what I believe education should be, but I do think that everyone should have an equal opportunity to be informed and to succeed.  As a teacher I will be on the frontlines of educating impoverished youth.  The education for these individuals is so much more than content: it's about life skills, values, and societal education. 

My first job as a teacher is to identify children of poverty.  I think that Payne's framework and general understandings of poverty is an excellent way to begin.  I also liked the idea in one of the articles that no learning can take place without a relationship. This ties in with Vollbracht's book about caring for kids. This, then, is my second step in doing something about poverty.  Caring for the kids and being a postive role model for them will, I think, go a long way in their education because they will feel safety and stability in at least one area of their lives. 

An article that we read for class pointed out that the impoverished individual may not know any other way of life and therefore needs to see the opportunities and potential that the world has to offer them.  I believe that teaching these students about the values of the school and the larger society will prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that life (with an education) has to offer them.  This is a key element in breaking the cycle of poverty and I don't think that it can be stressed enough. 

Another thing that I think is vitally important to an understanding of poverty was a point brought up in the article again Payne's writings.  The point was that the class structure Payne used was too rigid and did not account for many people as no one would fit in such perfect, neat little categories.  Therefore, it is important to remember that children of poverty do not fit into neat little boxes and stereotypes either.  I think it is important to determine whether or not the student is in generational poverty or situational poverty.  This will give focus to the matters of education and a different perspective. For example, a student in generational poverty will benefit from learning about the values of education and a different way of life and dealing with money, whereas a student in situational poverty probably doesn't need this as much because their family knows a different way of life and will (hopefully) get out of their current situation and on to a better one.   

The presentation we had in class by Tracy Waring was also important to my understanding of poverty.  She talked mostly about women who were incarcerated and the effect that it had on the entire family socially, emotionally, and financially.  As a teacher, dealing with a child of an incarcerated parent is a definite reality.  Knowing what that child is going through and seeing how much of a risk that student is for being incarcerated someday themselves (50% of children with incarcerated parents will also spend time in prison) really is important for knowing how to best help the child and create a safe and caring environment in which that child can grow and learn. 

If I could choose one thing that encompasses both my understanding as well as what I can do for those in poverty, especially children, I would refer to the article that suggested changing the term "at-risk" to "at-promise."  These individuals are full of promise and potential, and as a teacher I have a wonderful opportunity to plant that seed of hope and promise in their hearts and minds so that they can become self-advocates and better their situation. In time, student by student, I hope to have a positive effect on reducing those who are in poverty.


"A Little Quiz"

The quiz we took, on the salmon colored paper, was about different socioeconomic levels.  I only had a few statements marked in the poverty and wealth section, and most of the statements marked in the middle class section.  I find it interesting that the statements I marked in the poverty section are a result of being a college student.  In class, Joyce was talking about how, with a middle class mentality, she believes she could pull herself out of poverty.  I agree with this in one way, that yes the mentality is different, but I also think that I cannot say what I would do given a situation that I had never experienced before.  This quiz definitely made me take a deeper look at myself and helped me to identify some hidden rules or values of the class to which I belong.

Presentation: Tracy Waring

Tracy Waring is an ex-offender who spent time in prison.  She is now pursuing two masters degrees and has set up The GOAL Project (Great Opportunities for A Lifetime) which set up a clothing closet for women getting out of prison. This project has been so successful that it is being extended to men as well.  I appreciated how candid Tracy was in answering questions and being willing to be so open with a room of strangers. You can definitely see how passionate she is about what she does and I think it's great.


One of the points that I took away from this presentation is about the preservation of dignity:  when people are incarcerated, it brings a whole slew of social stigma against them as well as their family.  I think that what Tracy is doing is noble: by providing clothing to people getting out of prison, she is giving them back some of their dignity.  Having something positive to help jumpstart their life back into the world is so important so that the cycle of crime and incarceration can be stopped. 


Another program she talked about was "Rebuilding Families" which is a program designed for the families, especially the kids, of individuals in prison.  I think it's a positive program and it's good to hear about things like this taking place.  Tracy also talked quite a bit about educational programs that prisoners could benefit from.  I am not that familiar with the prison system and, while I knew that some sort of training was offered, I did not realize that they could earn certificates while incarcerated.  This again goes back to the idea of dignity and restoring it to each individual.  It was definitely a worthwhile presentation.

Book response

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Stopping At Every Lemonade Stand

I really enjoyed reading "Stopping at Very Lemonade Stand" but James Vollbracht.  This book is about how society today (and specifically that of the United States) is not one that values and nurtures kids.  Vollbracht recalls his own childhood and how he knew many people in his community, and they knew him. This contributed largely to his success and his personal feeling of value and self-esteem.  Now, however, the culture is geared toward using and abusing kids: brand names are advertised everywhere to create brand loyalty to children, higher crime rates have created kids who are scared to talk to neighbors and community members, and explicit images are flashed upon the television screen.  Vollbracht's book is not about focusing on what society does poorly though; rather, it seeks to provide simple strategies for creating a culture that once again shows kids that they are important and valued. 

I am a young teacher: just 22 years old.  As I look around our own classroom and read about Vollbracht's own perspective, I am shocked at how things have so drastically changed.  My own childhood is similar to the one that Vollbracht described himself having, and similar as well to other students in my classes with whom I spoke to about this book.  The picture of youth that Vollbracth portrays, however, is not like my own experience although I do see it being the experience of others close to my age (but not quite).  It seems that this new phenomenon of childhood has grown within the last couple of years and at an alarming rate. 

Vollbracht's organization and plan of action with 6 circles of influence was really neat. I liked how he started with the individual and expanded out into the family, community, and on.  His idealistic vision is beautiful, but I question the practicality of it.  I ask myself: Wouldn't it be great to live in a world like the one Vollbracht is touting, with kids being valued, cared for and cherished?  But at the same time, little bits of doubt creep into my mind: But there will always be someone out to ruin things.  We do not live in a perfect world.  Society is progressing in so many ways there is no way for us to live like we used to.  But I think that these doubts are missing an important point that Vollbracht is trying to make: it's a goal worth striving for. Sure, new things are always popping up in our society and within our culture, but children are the same now as they were years ago. They do have different environments to deal with and that shape them, but we as adults can do so much to make this a positive environment.  I really enjoyed the anecdotes he shared about buying lemonade from kids, and even buying rocks, just because the kids were selling them and enjoying their childish innocence to the fullest. 

One section that I really appreciate was the last one devoted to elders.  So many times, kids think that the old person in the nursing home was never young like them and couldn't possibly have a story to tell that would apply to their own lives.  This is completely untrue.  I have always enjoyed talking with the elderly, and this was particularly fostered when I worked at a nursing home the summer before I entered college. There was a cute little old man in a wheelchair who would roll up to my desk and just talk to me. If I was doing a easy job such as sorting or stacking, he would help hold things and hand me things that I needed.  I mostly let him talk, and through these chats I learned so much about him and his life: he was a war veteran and had nightmares many nights that haunted him. He would tell me about some of the things that happened to him and that night he would sleep better because he got those fears off his chest.  Another gentleman pulled me aside on my last day of work and told me that I was a beautiful young lady and to make wise choices in my life.  He had not, and he regretted many of his decisions. What a wonderful gift to feel so cared for by my elders!  They definitely had some wisdom to pass on, because throughout the years I believe all humans feel the same emotions and experience the same universal truths. 

This book is more than a book just for educators to read: I think that everyone should read it.  I love that it focuses on the positive aspects and urges towards action instead of bemoaning the current problems of society.  It offers stories of hope and incidents that occured which promoted a culture of caring for the kids in today's society.


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For this class, based on a scale from 0-4.0, I believe that I should receive a 4.0.  This is based on the following reasons: