Understanding Gifted Students In Poverty

Have you read Ruby Payne's “A Framework for Understanding Poverty“?

I downloaded it to my iPhone when I realized I'd be working in a school with 80% of the kids on free and reduced lunches. As an English teacher, and a teacher in general, I want to be able to respect where the kids are coming from, while leading them where they need to go.

That said, this year, my team has the “low” kids — the ones that have learning difficulties or who struggle with motivation. I have a co-teacher and together we're working on not only teaching the kids, but building them up. I remind them as often as possible that they are smart, that everyone is brilliant at something. I also remind them that there are some things I'm not good at — like math. I can win awards writing — but someone else needs to do the math.

My school has each team swap roles every year. So next year, I'll be on the Pre-AP team, meaning I'll have mostly gifted or above-average students — academically, at least. I've heard stories that confirm they will need significant help with their behavior before they can function in my class.

In preparation for this, I have downloaded and begun perusing Payne's “Gifted Students In Poverty.”

Some of the main things I took away from this are that gifted students in poverty lack the resources to make use of their gifts, the culture of poverty make train them to behave in ways that negate their gifts, and schools are so busy focusing on low-performing students, we virtually ignore the gifted.

I can see in my own school how the latter affects gifted students: They think that because they're in the 6th grade and reading on a 12th grade level that they don't have to work anymore.

“Why do I have to do this? Can't I just take a nap?”

It boggles my mind.

What are your thoughts?

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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