How to Fight Classism

             Now that we know how big of a problem classism is and how it affects Americans and students, the question is what can we do to fight this oppression? The biggest recommendation that all my sources suggested was to reflect on our own class privileges and biases and become conscious of class oppression and privilege. In correlation to this it is suggested to have conversations with friends, family, acquaintances, and students about their social class experiences and how class has affected them. Newton (2010) states this best when she encourages us to “explore (our) own class-related values, worldviews, and the ways in which (we) have internalized classism. Unexamined classist assumptions can contribute to cognitive, attitudinal, and interpersonal distancing which can be especially detrimental to working with people in poverty” (p. 214). Starting a conversation will be hard but it will be worth it in the end to have a clearer understanding of classism and how it affects individuals.

            The best suggestion that was made for teachers was to teach students about classism and its inequalities and to prepare a pedagogy that is free of class biases and inequalities. Gorski sees teaching about classism as a necessity. He believes that schools should “make curriculum relevant to poor students, drawing on and validating their experiences and intelligences” (Gorski, 2008, p.35) and that “students from poverty (should have) access to the same high-level curricular and pedagogical opportunities and high expectations as their wealthy peers” (Gorski, 2007, p.33). Another tactic that was suggested by Cuthrell, Stapleton, and Ledford is to have assessments made collaboratively by staff as a constant factor in our classrooms. This daily assessment will allow teachers to get to know their students better and see their potential better (Cuthrell, Stapleton, & Ledford, 2010).

            Another important factor to improving a poor student’s experience in the classroom is creating a positive classroom environment. Teachers need to create an environment where it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that they believe all of their students are capable to achieve excellence and are an important asset to their classroom. As Cuthrell, Stapleton, and Ledford (2010) state:  

One person can and does make a difference in the life of a child, and children living in poverty need the teacher to be the person who believes in them and provides a reliable, positive relationship…focusing on assets-not on deficits-significantly contributed to a child’s success in school. (p. 106).

Having a positive relationship with the students and showing them that you care may be something that these children do not witness at home. So it is imperative that your belief in your students and the attention that you show them is genuine. My sources have even detailed how powerful and meaningful a hug or high-five can be to the students. The students must be felt like they are accepted for whom they are and where they come from, which includes their family and cultural beliefs.  Educators should be “celebrating differences and showing respect for all families. Educators must be knowledgeable of the cultures in which students live” (Cuthrell, Stapleton, & Ledford, 2010, p. 107). However, the most important thing to remember is not to make assumptions about your students. First off, students know when you do this. Second, we do not like it when others make assumptions about us so it is not fair to do the same to our students. We should not assume that poor students have one single culture and that they all learn in one specific way (Gorski, 2007).

            It is highly recommended for teachers, administrators, schools, and local governments to work together to try to improve family involvement in the school systems. Since one of the biggest barriers for low-income parents involvement in their children’s schools is lack of time, means of transportation, and lack of childcare; we need to combat these barriers. Gorski (2007) suggests that schools should “provide transportation, on-site childcare and time flexibility” to make it more convenient for parents (p. 33). Gorski points out that it is essential to keep trying to reach out to families even when it seems hopeless (Gorski, 2007&2008). When one form of communication seems to be insufficient we should be encouraged to try different methods to reach out to parents. As Cuthrell, Stapleton, and Ledford (2010) state, teachers must “design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs and children’s progress” (p. 107). One good method is to make sure that your written communication is written in all the known languages that your students’ parents speak at home.

            Teachers and schools must also fight the barriers that students face that put them in a disadvantage from the start. Teachers need to combat the lack of resources, like food and clothing, which poor students are inflicted with. A recommendation for this barrier is for teachers to “keep stocks of school supplies, snacks, clothes, and other necessities handy for students who need them, but find quiet ways to distribute them” (Gorski, 2007, p.33). Teachers also have to be aware that many students from the lower class do not have computer and/or Internet access. So it is not always a wise idea to assign homework that will acquire students to research information online. If a teacher still wants to assign such assignments they should allow in-school time to accomplish the assignment (Gorski, 2007). Another means to battle hunger would be to make sure to offer breakfast programs to students. Establishment of after school programs would also be essential to these students (Gorski, 2008). Cuthrell, Stapleton, and Ledford (2010) make a great statement about lack of resources that helps sum up the ideal of breaking these barriers: “The achievement gap could be addressed by targeting resources to disadvantaged families and schools, lowering class size in early grades, strengthening early childhood and early intervention programming, and improving teacher education and professional development” (p. 105). A teacher must look at the ways that poor students are disadvantaged and what they can do to alleviate these disadvantages.