Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It by Eric Jensen

3. Time for a Mindset Change

  • The key to this chapter is that all staff understand that the brain is malleable, that things like IQ can and do change, and that thinking can be taught. This implies that poverty doesn’t have to be a sentence for a substandard life. The worse off kids are, the more room there is for gains. Eric sites many studies that prove this point. He also shows that early education can make a big difference in academic success and success after school. In addition to effective preschool programs, after school and summer enrichment can make a difference. As for teachers, things that can help are: investing in professional development, support for collaboration and interaction, and the collection and analysis of quality data. (Doug: In my mind data from state tests is not high quality.)
  • There are also some practices that don’t work. They include: focusing only on basic skills, heavy-handed discipline, limiting student interaction, reducing time for physical activity and the arts, and lots of lecturing. Physical activity can increase the production of new brain cells. The arts can improve attention, sequencing, processing, and cognitive skills. Properly designed computer programs can help increase attention and improve working memory. Even games like chess can increase attention, motivation, processing, and sequencing skills.
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