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Awareness of Difference
Sharon Longert


Many of our students come to school with a mindset that has little to do with academics.  A majority of students come to us from impoverished situations.  Even though they may be impoverished economically, they are not necessarily lacking in the ability to be successful.  We need to have sensitivity to economically disadvantaged students and their availability to access materials.  “We must recognize that students and parents from poverty simply do not have the same access to material resources that their economically advantaged peers – and that many of us- take for granted” (Gorski). 

  • Assign work requiring computer and Internet access or costly resources only when we can provide in-school time and materials for such work to be completed.
  • Give all students equal access to the same high-level curricular and pedagogical opportunities and high expectations.
  • Keep school supplies, snacks, clothes and other basic necessities handy for students who need them, but find quiet ways to distribute these resources to avoid singling anyone out.
  • Develop curricula that are relevant and meaningful to our students’ lives and draw on their experiences and surroundings.
  • Engage in a fight to get students into gifted and talented programs to give them opportunities usually reserved for economically advantaged students and to keep them from being assigned unjustly to special education.
  • Continue to reach out to parents even when they appear to be unresponsive; we need to establish trust.
  • Challenge our colleagues and ourselves about biases and prejudices that lead to inequitable conditions in schools and classrooms.

Gorski, P.C., Multicultural Education and the Internet:  Intersections and Integrations, Teaching Tolerance, Spring 2007.

Immediate Crises

Our students deal with many crises everyday.  There are family illnesses, fires, homelessness, effects of drug & alcohol abuse, natural disasters, and violent episodes that intrude on their lives. 

  • Watch students for signs of sadness, withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.
    Ask students questions about their feelings rather than waiting for students to volunteer such information.
  • Stay informed about students’ lives and living arrangements.
  • Find out how well students are making or maintaining new friendships.
  • Ask students what they would wish for if they had three wishes, they can indirectly express their needs or worries.
  • Create a peer buddy system to bring students together and discuss school related problems, and to find out which students are having coping problems. They are probably more comfortable expressing concerns to peers than to teachers or counselors.

Ostermeyer, B., Baylor College of Medicine, Teaching Tolerance, Fall 2006.
We have a professional responsibility to care for our students’ academic, social and emotional needs, regardless of race, creed, or economic station.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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