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A Student's Perspective on Poverty and Student Behavior/Responsibility in the Classroom

Wallis B Johnson, Johnson & Wales University


As of July 2013, The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) reported that children are the largest group of people living in poverty in the United States, with 29.9% of all children living in poverty and 9.9% in extreme poverty (CDF, 2013). Effective classroom management in school districts serving our country's poorest students requires that teachers and administrators have a clear understanding of the effects that generational poverty might have on student behavior and responsibility for that behavior. In a time when the largest growing population living in poverty is children (National Center for Children in Poverty), this study sought to better understand a student's perception of how poverty influences their own, as well as, their peers' behavior within the classroom while further probing to understand the student's understanding of their own social responsibility for behaviors within the classroom. This phenomenological advocacy study explored students' perspective through personal depth interviews (Patton, 2002) using an exploratory and descriptive component looking for the behaviors and choices that reflect the values of the population of students being studied (Marshall & Rossman, 1989; Rubin & Rubin, 2012). Interviews were conducted with N = 6 purposefully selected (Creswell, 2009) students who provided first person descriptions on the culture of generational poverty. Interviewing continued until saturation was achieved (Marshall & Rossman, 1989). Data obtained from the responses to the subject/object and open-ended questions were organized using the long table approach (Patton, 2002) to create categories, themes and patterns (Boyatzis, 1998; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Patton, 2002). The major findings from this study demonstrated that the students interviewed did not feel cared for, listened to, or communicated with at school. In addition, students were conflicted as to who was responsible for their future—others or themselves. A clearer understanding of student needs may help educators provide improved programming to assist this ever-growing population to be successful in school. "Resilient children, those who are happy and successful, learn to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in part through the common denominator of living, working with, and being educated by available and caring adults" (Brooks & Goldstein, 2001, p. 290).

Subject Area

Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Wallis B, "A Student's Perspective on Poverty and Student Behavior/Responsibility in the Classroom" (2014). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3621981.