When you hear the word “poverty,” what do you think of? Starving children in Africa? Subsistence farmers in Asia? Is poverty some distant concept? Something terrible, but far off? Yes, and no. Because, while poverty is terrible, it can also be close to home. Maybe as close as the public school down the street.
Poverty is the vexation of the junior high school science teacher with no budget to buy paper to print worksheets, tests, and notes. She teaches in a “low-income, rural district in southwest Mississippi” and $243 would give her a year’s supply of paper for 120 students.
Poverty is the hurdle faced by seventh grade math teacher in South Carolina. Her “very low income” school bought new math workbooks last year, in an effort to improve student test scores, but already the pages are falling out of their bindings as class after class of students use the same workbooks each day. $122 would buy a hole punch and 30 3-ring binders to stop the deterioration of the workbooks.
Poverty is the frustration of a college instructor turned science teacher at “a very small, rural school of only 141 total students (K-12)” in Oklahoma. 74% of his students qualify for free or reduced price lunches based on their parent’s income. Mr. C is teaching a geology class for the first time, and he pines for 3-D maps, landform study prints and a small rock/mineral specimen set “so that [his] pupils can have interesting, captivating laboratory exercises.” Only $98 more dollars and his wish can be granted.
Poverty is a barrier to many things in life, but access to basic educational supplies shouldn’t be one of them. We like to make jokes about impoverished grad students and underpaid professors, and they are true to a point, but most of us take things like copier paper, binders, and basic lab supplies for granted. Here are three classrooms where those things not only can’t be taken for granted, but they can’t be had at all, without your help. If we want young people to surmount those poverty barriers, then let’s start with making sure that they get good educations and some copier paper along the way.