Poverty and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Dr. Anael Alston @DrAAlston talks about common misconceptions that educators have about students in poverty. Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Anael “Dr. A” Alston is an award-winning educator and serves as Superintendent of Schools of the Hamilton Central School District in Hamilton, NY. Prior to that, he was the principal of the Robert M. Finley Middle School in Glen Cove, New York and principal of Great Neck North Middle School in Great Neck, New York. Dr. A is passionate about leadership, service, and all things public education.

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Our Topic

In today's show, we discuss how teachers should approach teaching students who are in high-poverty situations. This is important because Anael argues that many thoughts about students in poverty are off-base. In today's show we discuss:

  • The mindsets and attitudes students need for success
  • How educator expectations are an essential ingredient of student success
  • The importance of relationship with students
  • Anael's advice for what teachers should do daily to adjust their thinking and prepare to teach students from poverty or any difficult situation

I hope you enjoy this episode with “Dr. A.”

Selected Links from this Episode


Download Transcript: Episode 24 Dr. Anael Alston

Full Bio


Dr. Anael AlstonAnael Alston - Dr.A

Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Anael “Dr. A” Alston is an award winning educator and serves as Superintendent of Schools of the Hamilton Central School District in Hamilton, NY. Prior to that, he was the principal of the Robert M. Finley Middle School in Glen Cove, New York and principal of Great Neck North Middle School in Great Neck, New York. Dr. A is passionate about leadership, service, and all things public education.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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4 comments

Kasey March 2, 2017 - 2:38 pm

As an 8 year veteran of urban Title 1 schools and a 2 yr veteran if rural Title 1 schools, I would add a few things. First, rural and urban poverty are very different. I had trained myself to see the signs in an urban setting but they look so different in a rural areas. Several of my students lived in abject urban poverty but most of them had a floor in their apartment and had plumbing, even if the water was turned off. In rural poverty situations, this may not be the case.
Secondly, it takes so very long for children with chaotic lives to trust you, sometimes longer than you have. Any violation of that trust damages that relationship far longer than you would expect.
Third, it also takes incredible amounts of time for kids in poverty to say thank you. The first kid that validated the hard work I put in my first year teaching in a Title 1 school came to me about 4 years later, after dropping out and working to get his GED, to say thanks. Parents are often at their wits end to and rarely say thanks. They have little to give emotionally or financially.
Lastly to that very tired teacher, tomorrow is another day, a day to cherish for it’s opportunities. As incredibly difficult as today seems those kids know that you care, even if you lost your cool, even if they got sent to the office, even if someone went to jail. The worst days I’ve had teaching have become some of my best learning experiences and funniest stories… It may have taken years but perspective changes. You are making a difference, every single day.

Reply
Vicki Davis March 2, 2017 - 3:00 pm

Wow Kasey! This is so insightful and moving! Thank you so much for taking time to add to the conversation!

Reply
Ilma S Chowdhury March 5, 2017 - 1:10 am

Hi Vicki,

Thank you for this post. As a new teacher working in an urban Title 1 school, I have to teach many students who are known to be “at-risk” or from low incomes. For a handful of these students, I have had many many days when I was frustrated and worried about how I would be able to teach them. While I strongly believe in holding my students to high expectations, sometimes this belief becomes difficult. However, it was refreshing to hear Dr. Alston’s thoughts. I will follow his advice and practice the short meditation pieces on Monday. It was nice to have him reassure that even if some of our students might not act like it, we are important and integral in their lives. I believe that teachers need to hear these positive thoughts every now and then, to keep us going.

Reply
Vicki Davis March 5, 2017 - 9:02 am

Thank you for your honestly Ilma. Keep up the great work! I think his advice on quiet moments is a great one!

Reply

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere