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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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,671 ratings  ·  197 reviews
In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, veteran educator and brain expert Eric Jensen takes an unflinching look at how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States and demonstrates how schools can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged s ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published November 19th 2009 by ASCD (first published 2009)
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3.92  · 
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 ·  1,671 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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Feb 19, 2014 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
Sep 28, 2013 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
Jamie Theriault
Feb 23, 2016 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 hi ...more
Apr 30, 2013 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
Tammy Ward
Aug 25, 2011 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 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, e ...more
Alex Harker
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
An eye-opening book about how to be a more compassionate and mindful teacher by taking socioeconomic status and wellbeing of students into account. Great food for thought for any educator.
Kellie Ewilson
Aug 14, 2014 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 04, 2014 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 rated it really liked it
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
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
الشناوي محمد جبر
ماذا يفعل الفقر بمخ أطفالنا؟
وماذا تفعل المدرسة لتصلح ما أفسده الفقر؟
تأليف/إيريك جنسن
ترجمة/ صفاء الأعسر.
كون صدور هذاا لكتاب عن المركز القومي للترجمة، فهذه شهادة أولي له بالجودة، وكونه ترجمة الدكتورة صفاء الأعسر، فهذه شهادة ثانية له بالجودة، وما بين الشهادتين نقدم عرض سريع لهذا الكتاب.
الكتاب من خلال عنوانه يتحدث عن أثر الفقر في مخ التلاميذ، وكيف تؤثر المدرسة _ إذا قامت بدورها الحقيقي _ تأثير معكوس لتأثير الفقر، وكيف تقوم بدور علاجي لإصلاح ما أفسده الف
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This is an absolutely amazing resource for educators in all areas, but especially educators working in title 1 schools. It takes a plethora of research and a heavy dose of empathy and mixes it together to provide concrete, real world strategies for helping kids growing up in poverty to be successful. All of the research and strategies are accompanied by short narratives about a teacher who is burned out from seeing so much failure and stress in impoverished students as he works his way toward un ...more
Kenneth A. Mugi
Sep 17, 2012 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
Dec 31, 2014 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 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 t ...more
Feb 16, 2016 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 childr ...more
Oct 09, 2011 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 m ...more
Jul 28, 2016 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
Kimberly Walton Mayden
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Eric Jensen is an absolute genius! This book is a valuable tool for any educator.
Mar 06, 2016 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.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is a pep talk for people setting out to do the impossible. It is not based on reality; the author states that at the beginning. Reality is bleak and would make wide eyed new teachers think twice about what they were setting out to do. What these teachers need, he says, is not honesty but hope.

Jensen tries to provide hope with long lists of how teachers can be good at teaching. He offers brilliant advice that would never occur to anyone who had not read his book like, "Put affirmations
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jensen provides a nice outline of different *kinds* of poverty: situational, generational, absolute, relative, urban, and rural. Each has different characteristics and impacts.

He then outlines the four risk factors that affect people living in poverty: emotional and social challenges, acute and chronic stressors, cognitive lags, and health & safety issues. These then interact with and exacerbate one another. "A head injury, for example,e is a potentially dire event for a child living in pove
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is a lot of good stuff in this book about children of poverty but there is a lot left out. The solution to teaching children of poverty is ending poverty. Charter schools make take kids from lotteries but there is a lot of ways to pressure kids or parents to leave. Schools didn't choose to use metal detectors because they wet authoritarian but because bad things happened in the school. If students don't fell safe, they'll bring weapons in. A metal detector deters weapons and catches a few. ...more
Michael Loveless
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brain, education
Eric Jensen's book Teaching with Poverty in Mind is an excellent source for any teacher or administrator who works with kids who live in poverty. Jensen's book is research-based and filled with information about the effects of poverty on the brain, as well as practical strategies that allow schools to make a difference. Jensen explains the concepts, cites the research, gives examples of schools that are acting on the concepts, and then identifies actions steps that the reader can take. The tone ...more
Heather Munao
Nov 29, 2016 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
Erin McDonnell-Jones
This read like a very thorough, well organized literature review. In Chapters 4&5 (of 6), he offered some substantial “how to’s” and examples of schools implementing the “how to’s,” which was a good balance to the overview of research in chapters 1-3.

One quote that really resonated with me was, “It’s impossible to over emphasize this: every emotional response other than the six hardwired emotions of joy, anger, surprise, discussed, sadness, and fear must be taught. Cooperation, patience, emb
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is great if you have little or no experience working with students who live in poverty. The school where I work already does most of what he recommends, so I didn't get much out of reading this book except validation about our school's program. Also, this book is primary geared toward administrators, so unless your leadership team is into this methodology as well, you won't get very far with changing the school culture.
Karen Letourneau
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Because I liked Teaching With the Brain in Mind and I teach in a high poverty school, I thought I might gain a lot from reading this book as well. Unfortunately, I didn't. As a classroom teacher, far too many of the decisions that would align with Jensen's recommendations are out of teachers' hands. In that sense, this book serves only to add to the challenges and frustrations of teaching in high poverty schools.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a must read for ALL teachers no matter where you are in your career. Fantastic resource for strategies, research and actionable steps for both the entire school and the class. Even if you're not teaching in a Title I district, this is what is best for kids so everybody should be doing these actions. Planning on re-reading every couple of years because its a great reminder to cut the excuses and just TEACH!
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