In response to “Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty” by Ruby Payne

Ruby Payne cogently describes the reasons for the educational gap between students of different social backgrounds. Generational poverty is definitely something that should be addressed by all educators, regardless of what level they are teaching at. The unwritten middle-class “rules” of society are not standards that each student should be held at– they should be taught to each student in order to avoid situations in which a child is being punished for presenting the only behavior they know due to their economic status.

The connection between generational poverty and violence is not one that should be taken lightly, as this article points out, and gearing students towards a more non-violent path through creating relationships with them is the best way to stop that cycle. Also, as being a product of generational poverty myself, I thoroughly enjoy the emphasis the article places on relationships between underprivileged students and their educators. Educators don’t recognize the potential that they have to make a difference in the lives of their students, but they are actually frequently the best hope that some students have at success. The relationships that I had with my teachers and mentors are ultimately what lifted me up and pushed me to go above and beyond what I myself thought I could do. Sometimes, it takes others seeing our potential to convince us that we have any potential in the first place, and once educators begin to embrace that as a fact, the education of underprivileged students will improve significantly.

In the final analysis, Payne argues not everyone comes from the same background, and that all students should not be held at the same standard. Educators need to be more considerate when dealing with lower-income (and higher-income) students and create relationships with their students in order to ensure their success. I agree wholeheartedly.

Nicole Jackson can be contacted at ndjackson@colgate.edu

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