Portfolio Activity for “The Poverty Myth”

Low income should not mean low expectations.

This activity is to accompany the Teaching Tolerance article "The Poverty Myth."

What personal biases do I bring into the classroom?

What different expectations do I have for students based on wealth or poverty?

How is the experience for low-income students at our school different than the experience for wealthier peers?

Do students in my class who come from homes with low incomes feel valued and capable? If not, what can I do to improve?

How can I help all students express their talents, beliefs and values?

How can I encourage students of all economic levels to work together and learn from each other? 


Myth 1: Poor people are unmotivated and have weak work ethics.

Myth 2: Poor parents are uninvolved in their children’s learning, largely because they do not value education.

Myth 3: Poor people are linguistically deficient.

Myth 4: Poor people tend to abuse drugs and alcohol.

  1. The ASCD article “The Myth of the Culture of Poverty” by Paul Gorski presents four myths about poor people that, regardless of their inaccuracy, have crept into mainstream thinking as unquestioned fact. Read each myth and consider whether you have, at any time, considered it to be true. Consider the short- and long-term effect of these stereotypes on students who live in homes with low income.
  2. Select one or more of the steps outlined in “Stripping Away Stereotypes” that you would like to try. Create a concrete action plan for how you can implement the step, including specific goals and benchmarks. Share your ideas with a colleague. Report periodic progress and celebrate as you reach your goals!
  3. See if your community sponsors a Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau (see resource list below) and, if it does, invite a speaker to share his or her story in your classroom or school. 

Additional Resources
A resource for teachers, students and anyone interested in stereotype threat, a situation that can cause stereotyped students to underperform and contribute to education and social inequality.

“Closing the Achievement Gap: Lessons from Illinois’ ‘Golden Spike’ High-Poverty High-Performing Schools” by Glenn W. McGee

Where Can I Build My Volcano? By Pat Van Doren
A touching, insightful story to read to kids. Drawn from real life, it tells the story of Susan who ends up homeless and can’t finish her homework assignment to build a volcano.

Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau
Many communities sponsor groups of speakers, with the help of the National Coalition for the Homeless, to educate the public. Usually, these speakers have been homeless themselves, and they speak about their experiences. The goal is to break stereotypes and misconceptions about homeless people. Members of Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureaus make themselves available to speak at schools, churches and on panels.

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