Sunday, January 13, 2013

Enrichment Needs to Be Embedded, Not Added On

Being a teacher in a high poverty, rural district I have been expected to read a lot of books about how children in poverty are different when it comes to their ability to learn. Typically the argument is that the life they lead outside of school makes a difference in how they learn and what they learn.

I'm not brain researcher and I have no experience with students that come from upper middle class or wealthy homes either so to speculate on the truthfulness of these arguments would be just that. What I do have is a long term exposure to children that live in poverty because I grew up here from the perspective of a middle class upbringing (although to be truthful my parents worked long and hard to get to middle class even though they both have college degrees.)

I have been reading Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. I see a lot of familiar information in the book, things I have been exposed to since I was in my education classes. Something that is sticking with me from this book is the idea of student enrichment. The idea being that students in high poverty areas need more enrichment opportunities at school because they get fewer of those opportunities at home.

Did I mention we have a very large percentage of our students that ride buses home? Guess who don't get to participate in enrichment activities outside of school?

This year my school started a before school enrichment program (with a 'let's increase our test scores by doing computer based learning' component). Students have the opportunity three times a week to participate in an activity during time they used to sit in our gym to get ready for the day. I am pretty sure this just isn't enough enrichment to bridge the gap.

I realize that enrichment to my students has to happen in the classroom, but what exactly does that entail? How do I give my students enriching learning activities during the school day? I'm pretty sure that I can't do it successfully if all I do is test prep. Seriously.

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