In the first part of this mini series on poverty, I began by looking at defining poverty, and the difference between Generational and Situational poverty. I talked a little bit about what drives those in poverty, those in the middle classes and those who are wealthy. I made mention that one of the definitions of poverty is about having a lack of resources.
Todays post is going to be a closer look at defining what these resources are. When we understand that poverty and finding a way out of poverty is about building up our resources and knowing how to access resources, then we are a million steps closer in helping our communities find a foothold out of poverty. Doing well in life is about resources.
The Nine Most Important Resources:
Having money is important - try paying your rent/mortgage or feeding your family without it! Being financially secure is about understanding how money works, being able to save for an emergency, like your car breaking down or your teeth needing fixed, and knowing how to invest for your future. Scarily, most of us do not have enough money set aside should a major disaster befall us, to last more than several weeks to a month!
This one is important and we see the impacts of this in our schools and in our classrooms on a regular basis. Having emotional resources is the ability to choose and control our emotional responses, especially when faced with a negative situation, without resulting in self destructive behaviour. Think about the child in your classroom that is under a lot stress, without the ability to manage their impulses and exercise self control. When you know that this is the case, do you sanction them with punishments or expulsion, or do you look for solutions around helping them manage their impulsivity and strategies around self control?
Another very important resource that we often misunderstand and one so critical to what we do in schools. Having the mental abilities and the acquired skills to deal with everyday life is critical to success and finding a way out of poverty. By mental skills and abilities I refer to reading, writing and mathematics. Imagine if you struggled in these areas - would your job prospects be bright and open, or would you be have no options but to work in low paying, unskilled jobs with limited to no benefits?
A spiritual resource is when someone believes in divine purpose and guidance. They have hope and a future story to look forward to. Often they are immersed within a rich culture that offers them support and guidance.
This is where someone is healthy and has mobility. When you think of someone who is mired in poverty, seeking medical assistance is often a 'nice to have' but a 'rarely sought' because going to a doctor comes last in the long list of things needed to survive. This is particularly pertinent for our students who are presenting with illnesses that no child in the western world should have.
6. Support Systems
Having friends, family and backup resources available to access in times of need is important. This includes knowing how to access external resources if needed. Communities that have a rich social capital improves life for all those living there. What things can you do in your school community to help those in need? Sometimes they don't have to be big things, simply knowing where to go, who to go to and what help is out there is a great starting point. In what way is your school a support system?
7. Relationships and Role Models
Having frequent access to adults who are nurturing, appropriate and good role models to children is important. It is especially important that these adults do not engage in self destructive behaviours because role models are the people provide students with hope and a vision forward.
8. Knowledge of Hidden Rules (I will come back to this is Part 3)
Each group (those in poverty, those in the middle class and those who are wealthy) has a set of unspoken cues and habits that they operate from within. Knowing these and knowing how to manipulate them, is a key way to obtain more resources and make a pathway out of poverty.
9. Formal Register
This is another important resource that schools can have a big impact with. Formal register is about having the vocabulary, language ability and the negotiation skills necessary to succeed in school and work environments. How often are we teaching our students the appropriate ways to speak in different settings? What is acceptable when you are with your mates is not going to be the best way to talk to a potential employer.
Obviously there are quite a few of these resources that schools have influence over. The question is, which ones do you strengthen in at your place to help those families and students that are most vulnerable? What more can we do? What more should we do?
Day 12 of #28daysofwriting - the post that started this mini series
How Educational Coaching can assist building up resilience with teachers - something all teachers need, but especially those who are managing our most vulnerable students
Some important background knowledge about the first 3 years of life and brain development