If your parents did not know how to advocate for you or join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), your needs were not attended to the same as those who did. These are the skills that more advantaged households just do for their children and less advantaged households often do not know to do. They often just trust the school to do the right thing for their children. Think about it: Who hires tutors for their children to get even better grades, so they go to the best colleges and universities? Advantaged parents or those in poverty?
Michael D. Toth visiting a classroom
Eventually, my family prospered and moved from a trailer to a house and joined the lower middle class. I was instilled with a work ethic that drives me to this day as it does many that escape poverty. However, working hard does not give you the skills for upward mobility. Working smart does. These are the things Malcolm Gladwell eloquently explains in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. When you come from poverty, everything is just harder. You must work harder, be smarter, and get breaks because you do not have the societal networks and advantage wealthier parents impart to their children. And it is even harder for children of color who are from poverty and have to deal with race barriers in addition to class barriers.
Kids from poverty often don’t know how to effectively advocate for themselves and how to access and enter the societal networks and circles of wealth. We don’t learn how to seek the mentors who open the doors for upward mobility. We don’t go to the expensive, elite schools. We cannot afford them. If we are lucky enough, we go to community or state colleges and universities. That means we are locked out of the elite circles of mentors and alumni networks that help each other succeed. And the separation of class privilege continues. Although every day people escape poverty and enjoy successful careers and lives, it is much too rare and much too difficult. It does not need to be this way. Schools can be the change – the great equalizer children need them to be.
Michael D. Toth with leadership staff at Midway Elementary – Midway, FL
This is why our social mission is to transform classroom core instruction to develop both the agency and academics within students to break the cycle of generational poverty. The agency students need is not the basic social and emotional learning schools are doing but rather Transcendent Agency. It is the higher agency skills for upward mobility that empowers students to transcend barriers to achieve their hopes and dreams.
I hope you will join me to fulfill our social mission for all children. Thank you for exploring our website and learning more about Learning Sciences International.