Friday, April 20, 2012

The Truth About Education in Poverty Stricken Environments

Illiteracy is a major enemy of the scholar. The inability to comprehend reading material has a long history throughout a child's school experience. In my experience through the classroom literacy crisis, I discovered a large portion of urban black and Hispanic students from impoverished communities do not like to read. Reading expands your mind and improves your intellect.

I observed the scholars who have reading deficiencies. What I discovered is that illiterate students have a higher percentage rate of disturbing the class and skipping. An illiterate child has a need that is not being met and this stems all the way back to early childhood.

What I have discovered in my experience is that students are already behind by kindergarten and first grade. There are many sources that can be faulted, but the main responsibility for building literacy skills rest solely on good parenting.

Parents are the first and best teacher for their children, this is an old proverb that has heavy merit in child rearing. As parents, we put our children on a learning course well before school age. In fact, by the time a child is three years old, they have already gained the majority of their vocabulary for the rest of their lifetime. By the time our children are five years old, the brain begins to finish up its wiring cycle. This means that from the mother's womb until five years old, the brain's wiring capacity has reacted to the simulations from its environment. 

Depending on parenting and genetics, a child is already on track or behind before the first grade. What do we do about this problem. I recommend that parents start educating their child in the mother's womb. The baby's brain is like a sponge and it absorbs and records everything it sees, hear, smells, taste, and touch. Provide field trips for your child to places where you may teach simple things like colors, shapes, numbers, animals, nature, science, math, and many other concepts. Children may react as if they didn't get the lesson but be assured, they got it. Stimulating the brain is a task for the parent. Children don't know how to react to things or situations in which they never had an experience. However, once the child has another experience with the intended lesson the brain automatically recalls the material. As experts, we call this the scaffolding technique.

Learning how to stimulate our child is the best thing we could do for our child. When children enter school the teacher has a specific pattern in which they will begin training children for basic knowledge building. If a child has had a previous experience before the classroom lesson, then the brain automatically connects past knowledge with present knowledge. This action is repetitive. Connecting the past and present knowledge sets up your child for future learning.

Back to the high school classroom- students who face illiteracy issues are disruptive mainly because they are not comprehending the materials being presented or simply not interested. Who's fault is this? Did the educational system fail this child? The answers lie between the early years and middle school experiences.

I have worked in the classroom from early childhood through high school. I have worked with third grade scholars that were already behind on literary skills. Somehow, these particular scholars missed learning the objective in the past levels and could not add new knowledge because they were struggling with skills they never comprehended. According to Benjamin Bloom taxonomy, we construct knowledge on levels from simplistic to complex. One must gain knowledge on basic terms before he is able to move towards more complex reasoning. The brain does not absorb what it can't comprehend. I have found some success in the classroom when I retaught a skill that should have been learned on previous levels. But with the demands of high stakes testing, teachers can not spend time reteaching concepts from previous grades. Is this the teacher's fault? Parent's? Child's?

Simply put- Parents are responsible for their child's training. The government took over teaching children so that people would be good citizens and great taxpayers. However, the government is not really concerned with if your child is truly left behind. There are pressures on school districts to produce results. Here is a fast fact: teachers must focus their lesson planning and presentation towards students who are on level learners, because these are the students who will score satisfactory and above on standardized testing.  Struggling students may attend tutoring sessions, but many of them do not take the time to attend. Therefore scholar learning is the parent's responsibility. In one of my courses, a student failed to complete an assignment. When I entered the grades in the electronic grade book, this student was given a zero. A message automatically was sent to the parents email address. Five minutes after I entered the grade the parent was on the phone requesting a conference. This parent quickly intervened with their child's poor behavior and corrected it. The child did not miss another assignment and carried an A average the rest of the semester.

Advice- Poverty can be a barrier in both the quality of educational delivery and attainment, but we should not blame poverty as the culprit to earning a good education. In other words, the cycle of failure stops with the parent when they make their child read.

Knowledge is power.



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