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Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It
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Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  1,144 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind, examines how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States and demonstrates how educators can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged students.
Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (first published 2009)
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Dec 25, 2014 Tom added it
I have to chuckle when I read some of the reviews that state there is not much new in this book. I have observed in classrooms where the majority of students are from poverty and this information may be common knowledge (a fact wIth which I strongly disagree); it is definitely not common practice.

The biggest takeaway for me was the emotional keyboard that Jensen describes on page 18. Many educators are angered when struggling students don't display some of the characteristics that need to be tau
Mar 16, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This book is AWESOME!

This is my second year teaching at a Title I school. (I also am active in serving the homeless community, and am a huge social activist when it comes to the rights of the impoverished.) I so wish everyone, everywhere, would be required to read even just the first couple of chapters of this book. The neuroscience involved is absolutely amazing -- there is a detailed, in-depth analysis of the effects of poverty on the brain beginning from the time of conception until when chil
Tammy Ward
Sep 02, 2011 Tammy Ward rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
This book is probably more of a 3.5 but I went ahead and bumped it up to four stars since I felt it was worthwhile reading. The book is written for administrators looking to make changes within their schools and to better understand poverty. However, it was beneficial to read as a teacher. I wouldn't say it was earth shattering information and of course it quotes tons of research which doesn't make for the most entertaining read. Here are my big takeaways:

- The brain of a child living in poverty
Feb 15, 2011 Nosilla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sorry, I just did not find any earth shattering revelations in Jensen's book. It's all been said before! If you have never read anything about kids in poverty, then, sure, the book can provide a basic foundation, but if you have ever been in a position to work with disadvantaged, at risk kids, then every page feels like "duh, you think!" The suggested solutions were superficial and oversimplified. Jensen suggests throughout the book that teachers and administrators need to stop making excuses, ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Michellena rated it really liked it
You ought to see the notes I took when reading this book! Our school district (and probably community) has a 50% poverty rate, so this literally 'hits home' for me. Our awesome HS principal had the staff read the book this spring and participate in book clubs. This summer we are fortunate enough to have a full-day workshop with the author. I think it will be life-changing for some of these kids if their teachers and school staff understand them better and use new methods to help them succeed. I ...more
Kenneth A. Mugi
Sep 17, 2012 Kenneth A. Mugi rated it it was amazing

Teaching with poverty in mind is a small book with a huge scope and a lot of heart. It explores what poverty is, how it affects academic performance, the mindset we (teachers) need to embrace for change, how schools and teachers should adapt for these kind of students and then walks the reader through the new paradigm by outlining a typical class. It is a rigorously researched resource that's easy to read and highly accessible for all educators who have been placed in the difficult positi
Jamie Theriault
Mar 02, 2016 Jamie Theriault rated it liked it
There was some good stuff, but there was also some stuff that made me roll my eyes and think the author has been out of the classroom for far to long. For example, he has a whole section on "getting kids IEP's" like it just takes a snap of the fingers. Reality is its takes several years of data collection (wait to fail model!) and even with an IEP, in made high poverty schools, kids aren't serviced. For example, I have one student right now who is seeing 4 different speech pathologists to get ...more
Kellie Ewilson
Aug 14, 2014 Kellie Ewilson rated it really liked it
The part about baby's brains only being hardwired for 6 emotions stood out to me. Those emotions are joy, anger, surprise, disgust, sadness, and fear. Learning about the attunement process for children under 3 and their need to develop gratitude, forgiveness, and empathy was helpful in understanding why teachers really need to focus on these emotions for students with deficits in these areas.The emotional keyboard was a helpful image: sympathy, patience, shame, cooperation, optimism, humility, ...more
Feb 12, 2014 Kristin rated it liked it
I read this book for a class. The discussions we had related to this book were so depressing. How can we effect change? There are so many things that need to be done to help our students. We need to completely overhaul the education system in America, we need to provide much-needed services to families living in poverty, we need more school counselors to help students. We need educators to understand the intricacies of poverty and how that affects our students walking in the door every morning. ...more
Oct 25, 2012 Alecia rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-related
I read this book prior to Eric Jensen, the author, coming for a day-long professional development opportunity at one of the school districts I work with. I like the organization of the book; each chapter includes a theory/research section as well as an action steps section. It's a fairly quick read and not overly-researchy.

I think the author made 3 big points: (a) brains can change for the better (and for the worse); (b) there is a body of evidence about what strategies can impact student achiev
Apr 12, 2015 Dawn rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-related
This is a good book for understanding what happens, and what can happen, in the brain as it relates to effective teaching and learning, with a specific focus on just what is known at present about the extra challenges of poverty to academic success. This is a good book not just for teachers and education administrators, but for anyone who has the ability to influence childrens' lifetime outcomes.

And I would just like to add that it appears particularly misguided (Ohio legislature) to cut arts a
Michele Fay
Feb 20, 2015 Michele Fay rated it really liked it
This is my second read of this book. Our former principal purchased a copy for every teacher and attempted to assign chapters with book discussions, but I don't know how many teachers read or discussed it. Now, a few years later, as a classroom teacher, I find the information all the more valuable. The descriptions of what a child in poverty experiences ring true for me when I think of children in my classroom. It also helps me to better understand the behavior of parents of these children and ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing
A great read for teachers trying to do better by students from poor neighborhoods and/or homes. This book provides a lot of data regarding the effects of poverty on brain development and gives numerous paths to help students affected by poverty achieve academic success. It puts the onus on school administration and teachers to make sure that they are prepared to accomodate students who, through no fault of their own, are not able to fit into the cookie-cutter expectations that we place on ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Sonja rated it liked it
Shelves: education
For teachers and/or administrators.. I especially respect Jensen's message (paraphrased): Stop making excuses about your school's number of low SES students and your high number of ELL students. There are specific changes your school can make to outperform other schools/districts... regardless of demographics. Will it be easy? no. Will it take work? yes. Is it your professional responsibility to be accountable for educating even the poor? YES! Read this book only if you are committed enough to ...more
Caroline Lampinen
This book is written for an administrative audience- I feel it should be titled "Leading with..." Because it's misleading as is.

The facts, statistics, and strategies are compelling but not anything new. I was particularly frustrated by Jensen's consistently disparaging comments about families in poverty- he has NO redeeming information about the genuine work, concern, and love caregivers have for their kids, regardless of circumstances. It's written with a very deficit-based view of families in
Aug 01, 2016 Abby rated it really liked it
I took a break from pleasure reading to do a little school reading. There is interesting data in this book to show that students' brains are capable of changing for both good and bad depending on what happens in classrooms. Much of what Jensen talks about to make positive change for our students are tricks that I use already, yet there were suggestions for kinesthetic activities that I could incorporate into my everyday teaching, and others as well, that I'll be trying to work into each day
Jul 02, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
I nodded a lot while reading this. Most of the ideas were things I had encountered before, but I did appreciate hearing about the neuroscience and the research to back up those ideas.
Kimberly Walton Mayden
Apr 08, 2016 Kimberly Walton Mayden rated it it was amazing
Eric Jensen is an absolute genius! This book is a valuable tool for any educator.
Heather Munao
Nov 29, 2016 Heather Munao rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
This book is good for a primer on how poverty affects the brain and affects students. It gives some suggestions-- a lot of them were on cultural things your school could shift and dedicate itself to with some action steps. Beware of some of the info in here on impoverished schools making it work because some of the schools profiled are charter schools which have massive exclusionary discipline and can expel students, so they're not *really* making it work. Ultimately, however, if you want to use ...more
Nov 29, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
This was a ok book. It was assigned reading for one of my positions. A lot of thinks I already knew and a few new things.
And, rant commences in 3, 2, 1...

My wife went to an educational technology conference a few weeks back and met a bunch of teachers from Malden, MA, where I went to high school a long time ago. One of the teachers mentioned that--at the request of their superintendent--every teacher in the system was reading this book. Intrigued, I grabbed a copy.

My brief stint as a doctoral student at BU a decade ago allowed me to study the issue of poverty and education in great detail, so much of what I read h
April Hochstrasser
This book made some good points about how to teach children who are raised in poverty. It opened my eyes about the effects of poverty on brain development. Low-income children share many characteristics. For example, they watch more TV than middle-income children do. Their parents or caregivers often have so many problems in their lives that they sit the children in front of the TV for a babysitter.

These children may live in unstable homes, parents may fight or divorce, and they sometimes don’t
Dec 04, 2012 Erikka rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6-1-12-to-6-1-13
For any educator looking to better understand the population they serve, this is the BEST BOOK I've read on the subject. Well written, well researched, and with real classroom applications. Incredible and well worth two read throughs!

Some meaningful quotes from the book -

"Poverty calls for key information and smarter strategies, not resignation and despair."

Poverty is defined as "a chronic and debilitating condition that results from multiple adverse...risk factors and affects mind, body and so
Jenn Weidman
Teaching with Poverty In Mind articulates very clearly the problem of poverty in the Education System. The second chapter illustrates the complex of poverty and how drastically it can change an individual. The information given in this chapter needs to be presented in some form to as many teachers as possible. Poverty causes many different types of stressors on not only the students, but also their parents. Low income and standards of living effect children in many was. They could be lacking ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Shannon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon by: Michael Swartz
Shelves: 2011
I wanted so much more from this book. The pieces Jensen included on how poverty impacts the brain and how we can help upgrade students' processing systems was great, valuable stuff, but a few things significantly hampered the overall greatness of the book.

About 25% of the graphs and visuals didn't make any sense or weren't related to the data presented. The one that stands out most in my mind is a picture of a brain with a bunch of arrows pointing to different parts of the brain. But the arrows
Raphael Cervantes
Sep 16, 2016 Raphael Cervantes rated it really liked it
Mostly insightful. A lot of the graphs were silly and didn't illuminate anything that was said in the text in one sentence.
Apr 18, 2016 sydney rated it liked it
Jensen's premise is important: poverty has real neurological effects on kids, and good teachers and schools must bear these in mind when planning and teaching. The first few chapters, where Jensen outlines some of these effects, were fascinating. After that, the book focuses much more on what administrators and school leaders can do to support teachers in making changes to more effectively work with students affected by poverty, and some of his suggestions become less useful to classroom ...more
Allison Manwell
Sep 10, 2016 Allison Manwell rated it it was amazing
I had the opportunity to read this book from a very critical perspective because I was a part of a book club that studied this book. Also, my practicum placement tied in perfectly, so I felt like I had experiences that I could use as examples and support of the text. Teaching with Poverty in Mind offers some great feedback for teachers who are teaching children in poverty, and it shares some useful strategies and ideas that at least give professionals something to think about.

I would not read t
Chris Perry
Apr 21, 2014 Chris Perry rated it really liked it
This book was an incite into the minds of adolescents in poverty and the situations with which they live in. It addresses ways teachers and schools can help change their instruction and systems of support to maximize the amount of education for the students. We have to first meet them on their terms, and understand their basic human needs before any real work can be done.

Not only that, but this book also showed some "Poverty Schools" that are in fact doing these things...and doing these things
Aug 05, 2011 Alicia rated it really liked it
This book is by no means a waste of time. If you teach in a low-income area, it is a must read. It avoids the undesirable pity-tone many books on this subject exude and has some excellent information on best practices to incorporate into the classroom. It also gently points out erroneous perspectives many teachers have in regards to certain student behaviors. I found helpful insight regarding chronic stress disorder symptoms in students. Next school year I plan to tape a copy of the Emotional ...more
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“healthy neuron, a stressed neuron generates a weaker signal, handles less blood flow, processes less oxygen, and extends fewer connective branches to nearby cells. The prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, crucial for learning, cognition, and working memory, are the areas of the brain most affected by cortisol, the so-called "stress” 0 likes
“Chronic, unmediated stress often results in a condition known as an allostatic load. Allostatic load is "carryover" stress. Instead of returning to a healthy baseline of homeostasis, the growing brain adapts to negative life experiences so that it becomes either hyper-responsive or hypo-responsive.” 0 likes
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