Poverty and education: exploring teachers’ perspectives
The current study was developed to gain insight into teachers’ perspectives at an elementary school on Vancouver Island known to have a high degree of poverty. The purpose of the study was to investigate educational barriers related to poverty from the teacher’s point of view. As well, the researcher wanted to determine which school initiatives teachers believed to be helpful at mitigating these barriers. The research questions were prompted by the high percentage of child poverty in BC, and by the intensity of need at the school site. Data was collected by means of a survey distributed to all teachers at the school in May of 2014 and collected in June, 2014; 16 out of a possible 22 responded, a return rate of 73%. Findings indicated that poverty related barriers were significant. Themes emerged with respect to what is working and what is still needed. School initiatives that were found most helpful were those that addressed chronic hunger, diverse learning needs, social and emotional concerns, parental involvement, and sense of belonging. Teachers found that it was important for students to have access to adult mentors, to have opportunities to engage in the arts and physical activity, and to participate in learning experiences that are meaningful and culturally relevant. Teachers also stressed the importance of building trusting relationships and creating a caring, inclusive school community. Findings indicated that most teachers felt that their teacher training had not prepared them adequately to teach in areas of high poverty, but that their professional development and school in-service opportunities had increased their awareness and understanding of poverty related issues. Teacher advocacy for greater equity for low income students was woven throughout the data.