Julie Federico



Denver Public Schools Homeless Education Network Tackles Poverty

I recently attended Poverty 101 taught by Denver Public Schools Homeless Education Network. This was the best in-service training I have attended in my 20 years of working as an educator! The training filled in the holes and gave answers to serious questions that are baffling educators everywhere:
⸱ How can we make seemingly unmotivated students living in poverty care about their education?
⸱ How can we engage students who are living in poverty in the learning process?
⸱ How can we understand the challenges students face when they are living in poverty?

I was a school counselor for years and I was always forced to attend all of the teacher trainings. I never learned anything about how to do my job better by attending the mandatory reading trainings. I would have been much better served learning about poverty than literacy. In my office, I dealt with the ramification of poverty every day. I had no solutions to the difficult issues. I believe Poverty 101 is a must-have training for all educators.

Poverty 101 exposed and refuted the myths behind poverty. Everyday school life is extremely stressful for students of poverty. Arriving on time at school can be a huge hurdle for these students. Schools can either do a service or disservice by analyzing how they are treated upon their tardy arrival. Are schools severely penalizing students who are late? Students living in poverty often commute to schools from many miles away as Denver rental rates are exorbitant. Throw in weather, traffic, and public transportation challenges and late arrivals will happen. Schools need to take time to get to know students, rather than automatically handing out lunch detention forms, and then they will find out why students are late and can treat them with empathy as they work towards solutions. Sometimes it is a real miracle that these students make it to school at all.

Schools can make it very difficult for students of poverty to fit in without even knowing it. The good news is that DPS Homeless Education Network is available to offer high-quality trainings at your school and teach your school to be adaptable and welcoming to children living in poverty. A school staff trained in Poverty 101 will be able to confront poverty and its obstacles to successful education. The payout to principals and teachers is better test scores, increased attendance, and fewer discipline referrals.

To achieve this goal, a shift needs to happen district-wide. Educators and students are not to blame for schools being low performing. Rather poverty and the extreme toll that it takes on families is to blame. This is a paradigm shift from the current district focus. All schools will benefit from this training and the eye-opening peek behind the curtain of poverty.

Poverty 101 also explained the learning styles and challenges of homework for children in poverty. Children living in poverty are often oral/auditory learners rather than visual/reading learners. Many teachers use middle-class examples, and children from poverty cannot connect to these examples. Should teachers be giving “homework” if students do not have a home to go to at night? When a family is staying at the local fast food establishment until late at night when they can find a place to sleep, homework becomes extremely difficult. And homework that requires Wi-Fi, art supplies, graph paper, etc. can seem impossible for these students. Teachers should examine their class list, identify the students not turning in homework regularly, and ask: How many have a consistent room of their own? How many have electricity 365 days of the year? How many have money to buy school supplies? How many have parents around who are educated to help with the homework? Schools either alienate or support students living in poverty with their systems. Are your systems ineffective? Would you like a change? Homeless Education Network can help!

Schools cannot know all the stressors that students are dealing with unless they ask. Many students return home after a long day at school with little or no food in the refrigerator. These are the lucky students that have a home. Some students stay with a different friend or family member every day and have no idea where they are going when they leave school. If educators build a trusting relationship with students, they will share details about their families and living conditions and will thus enable schools to make necessary interventions. If educators forge no real relationships with students, students will not self-disclose issues and schools will not know how to help these students.

This type of training raises lots of questions about the direction of public education and how best to serve our students living in poverty. Students that are graciously delivered from poverty are on track to raise their future children in a more stable environment. This is good news for our schools and communities in the coming years. After the training I received from Homeless Education Network, I feel like I have the tools to change a school and make it welcoming to students who are living in poverty with positive support from school administration. Any training that gives educators skills and hope for overcoming the challenges of poverty is training worth attending!

To schedule a training contact:

Denver Public Schools Homeless Education Network
1617 S. Acoma St. Denver, CO 80223

Phone: 720.423.1982

Website: http://hen.dpsk12.org/ or


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