Teaching With Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen
Almost 20% of America’s students live in poverty. Drawing from his vast reservoir of literature on brain
research, experience, and real life success stories, Jensen offers a wonderful resource of teaching strategies
that positively impact children of poverty. The question he asks is: “If life experiences can change poor kids
for the worse, can’t life experiences also change them for the better”?
This book focuses on the relationship between academic achievement and low economic status (SES).
Jensen presents six types of poverty: Situational poverty, generational poverty, absolute poverty, relative
poverty, urban poverty and rural poverty. He also addresses the effects of poverty which he says create
emotional and social challenges, acute and chronic stressors, learning lags, and health and safety issues.
As a veteran educator and brain expert Jensen helps you understand what poverty does to children’s brains
and why students raised in poverty are especially subject to stressors that undermine school behavior and
performance. He also provides an understanding of how the effects of poverty can be reversed when
educators employ the practices of turn-around schools and schools that have a history of high performance
among students raised in poverty. Drawing from research, experience, and real school success stories,
Jensen explains what educators can do to improve the achievement of economically disadvantaged
In this book Jensen addresses how the effects of poverty have to be addressed in classroom teaching and
school and district policy including:
How to recognize the signs of chronic stress causes by poverty.
How to assess low performing students who have core skills such as attention, focus and problem
solving impacted by poverty.
How to change school and classroom environments to alleviate the stress caused by chronic
How to empower students and increase their perception of control over their environments.
How enriched learning environments that include the arts and highly engaging instruction can
change students’ brains and improve their lives
Which school-wide factors lead to success and which are always achievement killers.
Jensen includes several real life examples to make his point most notable among them is the story of a
teacher who asks students to write a theme about their dreams. One student writes of being a ranch owner
and horse trainer and the teacher gave his theme back with an “F”. She tells him to write about something
he can actually achieve, and she will consider changing the “F” to a passing grade whereupon the student
tells the teacher to keep her “F” and he will keep his dream. The student turns out to be the person we
know today as the Horse Whisperer, Monty Roberts who owns a huge thoroughbred ranch, has written five
bestselling books, was focus of a major motion picture starring Robert Redford, and has trained horses for
the Queen of England.