Here in Cincinnati, we have a local news station that has been covering the alarming poverty level of children in the city, the problems that come with it and way to for residents to get out of poverty. It is common knowledge that having a solid base in learning is one of the best ways to get out of this situation but when there is little or no support at home it is difficult for children to get this base. This is where schools and teachers need to gain an understanding about how they can help these children strive to succeed. This needs would work along with what the schools are currently doing, such as, offering free or reduced priced breakfast, lunch and in some cases sustainable food for the child to take home each night or weekend in order for them to have something to eat until the weekend is over which lowers this concern for them. This is helpful but this is not enough to boost their ability to succeed in the classroom.
Children from lower socioeconomic background are in need of more supportive student-teacher relationship and classroom emotional support in order to promote student adjustment. In a study in the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, by Lee and Bierman, (2015) 164 children were followed as they transitioned from a Head Start program into elementary school to see the level of aggression, social withdrawal, learning engagement and emergent literacy skills, depending on the type of kindergarten support they received. It was found that there is an important link between children with a positive kindergarten exposure and a close student-teacher relationship and later outcomes. While this would be true for any child it is especially important for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who may not be getting the support they need from their family and who most likely live in neighborhoods where violence is commonplace.
The children I work with each day are from this background and often they do not have support at home due to their parents lack of education, parents stress over trying to make ends meet or the belief that education is not important. If a child comes from this type of home life, they will come to school unable to focus or understand the importance of education. However, if the class they attend is friendly, fun and engaging they will learn to enjoy learning and this can stay with them through life. In the school where work I can see a marked difference in the children’s behavior depending on the friendliness of the teacher and the amount of social support the child receives during the day. Some of the teachers encourage discussions if there is a problem, maintain a positive classroom culture, demand respect from the students and give them respect back. In these classrooms the students show a better ability to learn and are more productive in their assignments throughout the day. In other classes there are teachers who do not encourage discussion, they tell the children what they are to be doing and expect them to do it and give little respect. In these classes there are often disruptions, fights, children screaming and many students being sent to, In School Suspension. Learning for any student in a classroom such as this is difficult and for many of the students this is their first exposure to school so this is what they will expect school to be like each day.
This correlates with what the study by Lee and Bierman, (2015), where it was found that student-teacher relationship and classroom emotional support uniquely effect children’s behavioral outcomes by the first grade. (Lee, 2015). When a child is close to the teacher it can increase the feelings of emotional security thereby increase their sense of well-being and self-confidence in class which will increase their ability to learn more effectively. When children are comfortable with the teacher and feel valued by them the will be more willing to work harder in their assignments and are more willing to be friendly and helpful with each other. A positive classroom experience at any age will have a direct effect on how much is learned and retained but in the case of children in Kindergarten it is especially important, due to the fact, that it is what they will base their expectations of school on in the following years.
Lee, P., & Bierman, K. L. (2015). Classroom and Teacher Support in Kindergarten: Associations With the Behavioral and Academic Adjustment of Low-Income Students. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 61(3), 383-411.