Classroom Miracles Made Simple

Hero Teacher Martha Rivera Alanis

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: How to involve, include and inspire every student, every day.

One teacher told me about her class. At the start of every school year she asks her young elementary level kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

One year a kid responded, “I wanna be like my daddy and be on welfare.” Some teachers would have rolled their eyes and thought, “How am I supposed to teach kids in poverty that have a home life like his?”

But this teacher refused to lower her goals or her standards for her kids. She does what high performing teachers often do.

Her strategy? What did she do?

The answer is, “Broaden the kid’s horizons and help him think bigger!” Read more

It’s so simple it slips by most educators


Simple is Better

Lets focus on something that is so simple it slips by most educators. In fact, it is easily the most non-predicted, surprising “Top 15 factor” for student achievement. That’s partly because it is happening everyday, all day, in your work. It’s ubiquitous. It’s almost like the joke that 8-year olds tell:

“Help, help, it’s all around me!”
The friend says, “What’s the problem? What’s all around you?”
“My belt” he says, with a grin.

Actually, this factor is so powerful, it’s finally getting the research done that it deserves. Can you guess what it is?

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Ten Things You Should Know About Stress


Few words are thrown around more often during the second half of the school year than “stress.” But what you’re about to find out is that… most of what you’ve heard about stress is dead wrong! For example…

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Poverty and Its Effects on Learning: Why it Matters

A huge base of literature shows the inverse relationships between poverty or low socioeconomic status and health, but very few understand the connections with poverty. You can get help teaching kids in poverty. How? Start by learning about poverty and its effect on learning and behavior.

Multiple studies have examined longitudinal relations between duration of poverty exposure since birth, cumulative risk exposure, and cognitive performance. One measure of cumulative risk exposure is basal blood pressure and overnight cortisol levels. Typically cortisol is lowest in the early morning and levels pick up during the day. In kids from poverty, the levels are elevated 24/7.

This is pretty easy to understand, since many from poverty are exposed to poor housing conditions, crowded conditions, unsafe conditions, etc. Typical risk exposure is measured by multiple physical (e.g., substandard housing) and social (e.g., family turmoil) factors. The greater the number of years spent living in poverty, the more elevated was overnight cortisol and the more dysregulated was the cardiovascular response (i.e., muted reactivity).

As a teacher working with kids from poverty, why should you care about this?

There are two reasons, both with enormous consequences. First, cumulative stress is HIGHLY correlated with behavior issues at school. In our in-depth workshop on Teaching with Poverty in Mind, we’ll give you 7 priceless solutions for this challenge. Never, ever, give up on these students. You can learn exactly HOW to deal with behavior issues in simple, strategic ways.

Second, cumulative stress is associated with worse academic performance. Why? Chronic levels of stress inhibit working memory, process speed, sequencing capacity and attentional skills. Every one of those factors is a major determinant of underachievement. You’ll get specific, practical, easy-to-implement strategies that can mitigate the effects of stress. Eric Jensen’s new book, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” offers specific strategies you can use, too.

Join us each year for our in-depth workshop on Teaching with Poverty in Mind, we’ll give you the exact research-based solution for this challenge. Remember, you don’t usually get to select the kids you teach, but you can choose HOW you teach. Brains are designed the adapt to experience. If the experiences you are giving them in school are strong, focused, and “on point,” they will change the brain for the better.

Teaching kids in poverty

Creative Commons License photo credit: break.things