Dothan City Schools employees walked away from the Dothan Civic Center Tuesday with insight into poverty and its relation to education following the system’s annual institute event.
Ruby Payne, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Loyola University in Chicago, discussed “four hidden truths” about poverty and how to approach them during a portion of her address.
Payne mentioned that one of the gifts of growing up in a “survival environment” is the ability to read nonverbal clues.
“Nonverbals are all about intent. It tells you about whether you’re going to live or die,” Payne said.
She implored school staffers to be mindful of this when addressing students with a poverty background. These students can easily identify which educators like or dislike them, and that can dictate their responses to homework, instruction, and other facets of education.
If school employees find themselves encountering undesirable responses, Payne encouraged them to address it “and be up front about it.”
Payne also noted students in poverty often gain their value from their ability to entertain. She instructed the audience to discipline with humor and to contain those situations.
As an example of containment, Payne related a story about one of her students who incessantly made comical comments. She instituted a rule that he could make five comments in a period.
“If you use them all in the first 10 minutes, we’re going to be really bored the rest of the time,” Payne said she told him. “It would be better if you made them every 10 minutes.”
Payne also asked educators to never put kids down.
Another truth about life in poverty is respect is earned by being tough, Payne said, adding that students in this realm will likely test school employees to determine strength.
In response, employees should not show fear but also react without being mean, she counseled.
Educators must find ways to overcome noise levels that poverty brings. With higher numbers of people living in smaller quarters, the natural noise levels are high. TVs and radios are often at high volumes to cover unpleasant noises, Payne said.