What teachers can do to support students living in poverty


Poverty is a difficult obstacle for learning students.

A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation’s Public Schools


What you can do

• Operate like NASA – failure is not an option. If you cannot connect people or resolve a poverty issue, who in your network or community might be able to? Use an “If not me, then who?” approach.

• Build stronger partnerships. Poverty is complex and requires a comprehensive community-wide approach. Connect with other businesses, organizations, and individuals in the neighborhood who can help. Rely on your “full resource backpack,” an inventory of who in your community may be able to assist people in moving out of poverty.

• Learn proven strategies. In spite of the lack of education in our country about poverty, there are theories that provide strategies for breaking the iron cage of poverty. The following page outlines five theories and provide suggestions for how educators and others can break the barriers of poverty.

• Mentor. Take the time to build meaningful relationship with students



You can help your students who live in poverty by implementing some of these suggestions:

• When you suspect that their peers are taunting disadvantaged students, act quickly to stop the harassment.

• Students who live in poverty have not been exposed to broadening experiences such as family vacations, trips to museums, or even eating in restaurants. Spend time adding to their worldly experience if you want poor students to connect their book learning with real-life situations.

• Listen to your disadvantaged students. They need a strong relationship with a trustworthy adult in order to succeed.

• Work to boost the self-esteem of students who live in poverty by praising their school success instead of what they own.

• Provide access to computers, magazines, newspapers, and books so low-income students can see and work with printed materials. School may be the only place where they are exposed to print media.

• Keep your expectations for poor students high. Poverty does not mean ignorance.

• Don’t make comments about your students’ clothes or belongings unless they are in violation of the dress code.

• Students who live in poverty may not always know the correct behaviors for school situations. At home, they may function under a different set of social rules. Take time to explain the rationale for rules and procedures in your classroom.

• Be careful about the school supplies you expect students to purchase. Keep your requirements as simple as you can for all students.

• Arrange a bank of shared supplies for your students to borrow when they are temporarily out of materials for class.

• Do not require costly activities. For example, if you require students to pay for a field trip, some of them will not be able to go.

• If you notice that a student does not have lunch money, check to make sure that a free lunch is an option for that child.

• Be very sensitive to the potential for embarrassment in even small requests for or comments about money that you make. For example, if you jokingly remark, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” you could embarrass one of your low-income students.

• Make it clear that you value all of your students for their character and not for their possessions

Adapted from First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide.


Educating Everybody’s Children (Book)

Poverty Myth (Article)

The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning (great read)

Students in Poverty

Improving Education for Students with Learning Disabilities Living in Poverty

Concise Handout on Student Poverty*

Teaching Through Trauma: How poverty affects kids’ brains (Listen to the audio clip)

Effects of Poverty What Teachers Should Know (PowerPoint)

Teaching with Poverty in Mind (Book Review on PowerPoint)

Poverty and learning


Poverty is a reality that educators face everyday. Seeing kids wrestle with food and housing insecurity as well as a myriad of struggles that come with a lack of resources can be daunting for teachers.  Linking families with resources to keep afloat can be very challenging. I think that we have a poverty crisis that creates unforeseen difficulties in the classroom for the student ranging from learning to making good behavioral choices.

How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance

U.S. Schools Have a Poverty Crisis, Not an Education Crisis

Poverty and high school dropouts


Improving educational outcomes for poor children

Chilling statistics.

What Teachers can do.

Leading Learning for Children From Poverty Six effective practices can help teachers help students from poverty succeed.

What Principals can do.

Positive School Climate Strong interpersonal relationships and ongoing support for students’ self-regulation create a positive context for learning.

What all Educators should do.

Schoolwide Methods for Fostering Resiliency

Movies to inspire: