Elementary School Teachers Perception Of Their Challenges Working With Children Living In Conditions Of Poverty

Children in poverty present a major challenge to teachers who are battling to help these children who are “at risk” of not responding to the teacher’s efforts and thus entering a cycle of underachievement in the educational system.


Children in Poverty

Children in poverty are at risk because of many adverse circumstances including non supportive parents, unstable home environment especially if the parents or single parent does not have a job. In many instances, the child is subject to mobility where the parents have to move dwellings because they cannot pay the rent, or they are hiding from criminal prosecution or financial problems. There are children living on the streets in America. The resulting low achievement rate and withdrawn or undisciplined behavior in class affects not only the child in poverty but the rest of the children in the class. Teachers sometimes face an impossible task of trying to helped disadvantaged children at risk and the rest of the class, which may have a chance of learning at least something. Very often children in poverty do not remain in school for the school year, and teachers know that they are not going to be around for very long.  There is, therefore, a natural tendency for teachers to try to save those children who are most likely to learn. Middle class children are more likely to learn because they have stable homes and parents who take an interest in their child’s development. Parents in poverty overwhelmed by financial difficulties and unemployment are less likely to care about their children’s education and may well have gone through the same cycle of deprivation themselves. Children need stability and when it isn’t there the result is low self esteem and self confidence. It is an astounding fact that many children living in first world economically developed countries does not achieve literacy or numeracy and are unemployable. Add to this drugs and substance abuse and juvenile gangs and gun crime and teachers are faced with the consequences of society’s failure.

Teachers are having to deal with the consequences of social upheaval and depression as standards drop during the recession. They have to become social workers trained to spot the tell tale signs of children at risk, providing a supportive and warm relationship which maybe the only one the child can turn to.