For the first time in my teaching career, I am working at a low income school. All but one of my students gets a hot lunch each day at either reduced price or for free. The school is predominantly comprised of African American and Hispanic students. I have two or three white students in each of my three classes. One of my students just arrived from Africa.
People (that includes me) make certain assumptions about this “type” of school. The kids’ behavior must be horrible. Their parents are in jail or drug addicts or absent. The kids can’t learn and their attitudes are bad. The kids just want to cause trouble.
So this is what I’ve found so far. Over half my students showed up at Open House this evening with their families. The majority of my students are smart, but perhaps haven’t been exposed to as many cultural experiences as my students on the other side of town. They get excited about good grades. I am expecting them to do just as well as any students I’ve ever taught, and they like that. They respond to praise (when it’s earned) just like the rest of the world. And if I am honest with them and they know I’m having fun teaching, they have fun learning. When they realize I care about them, they care about themselves and want to work for me.
So basically, the kids I’m teaching this year aren’t much different than any others I’ve taught. They start off with fewer advantages, but they work harder than most to get ahead.