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Privilege as a barrier to learning?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by samilou-step, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. samilou-step

    samilou-step New commenter

    Hi there,
    I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this question, but as it environment I currently teach in is a private international school, i figured I'd try here first.

    I'm not a complete spring chicken, I've been working in my current school for nearly three years (straight out of the PGCE) and going into an international school, and a private one to boot, I naively assumed that possibly I would have less behaviour management issues that the inner city state schools I had trained in; oh how wrong I was.
    My query and issue in this thread is not how to manage to behaviour, but it's related to behaviour in a sense. I work with students who's social circles are way beyond mine, who's monetary wealth is unfathomable to me, opportunities come so easily to them. Yet, this great privilege they have seems to not enhance learning, but be barrier to it?! They are not interested in developing their minds or learning new skills, because they don't see the value of an education, since they can effectively buy anything (& how they act at times, anybody) they want.

    I can remember all throughout PGCE training discussing barriers to learning due to EAL, learning difficulties, lower-socio economic backgrounds, being a young carer, etc. But how do you approach a barrier such as money?
    It's a genuine problem, and it impacts on every part of the school day - attendance, behaviour, study habits, even contributing to taking care of the wider school environment.

    I was just wondering if anybody had some pearls of wisdom, more experience than I, or generally some thoughts on the matter...?
    aussie_teacher_nt likes this.
  2. aussie_teacher_nt

    aussie_teacher_nt New commenter

    Fascinating question and I'll be very interested to follow this discussion!
  3. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    i understand what you mean, and this is only based on my own humble opinion. I taught back home in a very poor region of the UK, many pupils parents were either in jail, about to go there or "absent" parents for whatever reason. I moved to the International circuit and can draw direct parallels with the "super rich". a lot of these kids also have "absentee parents". a lot of these rich kids are brought up by their nanny's or bodyguards. the parents are often busy running their companies or on official Government business. also a lot of the super rich kids i have taught know that they will never have to work. strangely i have had a number of Russian pupils actually say this to me. its no wonder they do not value education..... they are never going to need it. for some of these kids the toughest decision they to make is which car do they choose to drive to school in the morning.

    like i said, just my humble opinion.
    samilou-step likes this.
  4. samilou-step

    samilou-step New commenter

    revans66 - it's really true, isn't it?

    I agree that the very privileged suffer from being almost "neglected" due to be quite to privileged. It's as if parents have gone, "Well, we have the house, the holiday home, the cars, the private jet, the designer everything, oh, guess we should have a child too!"

    I just find that I don't know how to demonstrate to them education is a precious and wonderful thing, and learning is worthwhile, because like you said, they already have everything they could ever want and know they won't have to work... Especially as we run the IBDP, which is pretty rigorous and demanding; they just don't feel the need to put in the effort, and I'm often left feeling deflated and disappointed because I can't seem to inject enthusiasm into achievement.

    Have you got any advice or techniques you use to try improve engagement or attitude to learning?
  5. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I've found the key is often whether the family sees education and hard work as the source of their success, or not. Parents who do, pass that to their kids. In this sense, wealthy kids can be just as tricky as poor ones. Or just as fantastic.
    samilou-step likes this.
  6. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    Im not sure there is a solution for an individual, it would have to be a school strategy, but most schools wouldn't have the testicular fortitude to implement what is required, as it would upset their "clients"
    samilou-step likes this.
  7. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    I would say that there is a big difference between wealthy Chinese people and rich Arabs. The more affluent Chinese value education very highly, whereas the sons of rich Arabs, whether Qatari or Saudi, are monsters, nine times out of ten. Some Arab girls are fantastically hard-working and intelligent.
  8. ejclibrarian

    ejclibrarian Established commenter Community helper

    I think if the parents value education and pass that on to the kids it doesn't matter whether they have lots of money or not. They will value what is being offered. And yes rich kids suffer from neglect as much as those who have nothing. Wealth means nothing if a family isn't loving, supportive, and involved in their child's education.
    samilou-step likes this.
  9. SPC2

    SPC2 Occasional commenter

    It can be dispiriting to see people who, as Bob Marley once said, are so poor they have nothing but money. Some of them will work, however, as those family businesses won't run themselves into the ground.
  10. samilou-step

    samilou-step New commenter

    I agree with what is being said here - it is a comfort, if that is the right choice of word, to know that my feelings are not just of one cynical and discouraged teacher.

    I must admit, without going into much detail, we do not have parents which (1) encourage learning as important, or (2) have realistic expectations of their children. Often the situation I find myself in as the maths teacher is, "What do you mean they are failing maths; they were good until they came to this school..." And this is more often than not very untrue, and leaves me feeling like a failure, and the student believing that therefore my lessons are worth nothing.

    It's a demoralising situation, and one that is not dealt with by management, because upsetting the client would be just awful. Whereas the lowly teacher, well they can get over it or change.

    I will be leaving the school soon, so I have a light at the end of the tunnel, but I fear that this one lace has put me off teaching/the private sector - however are you all in private schools? Or wealthy internationals? Or have you had good and positive experiences that outweigh the negatives?
  11. tigi

    tigi Occasional commenter

    I can certainly echo and relate to this. There is no doubt that teaching students from more deprived backgrounds or in a school with a healthy mix of backgrounds is more rewarding. Schools where students are mega rich and have no culture of aspiration are a nightmare.
  12. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Marley was right. I have nothing against money but if that's all you've got, you're poor, and you are in desperate need of a guru (which just means 'teacher').

    Let's be careful of generalisation. I have worked in schools where children from wealthy backgrounds could quite easily be enthused about study. Most of my Salvadoran students were keen to learn and for some of them the IB Diploma appeared quite literally to be life-changing because it prompted them to question their own values and those of their privileged class.

    I then moved to a school in Chile where (as I told the Parents' Association Committee) the culture was 'I want what I want and I want it now and to hell with everybody else'. Most of the 12th graders had tried some substance or other and a psychological survey indicated that 20-30% were on hard drugs. Though these were all kids from 'good' families the place reminded me of the NYC sink school James Belushi has to tame in 'The Principal'. Our IBDP team made a few converts even there, though this was the class that swapped the oldest democracy in Latin America for fridges and spin driers.
    samilou-step likes this.
  13. samilou-step

    samilou-step New commenter

    Mainwaring - You make a good point to be careful with generalisations. And I will admit, there are some lovely students who are keen learners, for sure. As people have pointed out, these are the one's who's parents are educational enthusiasts: I have met them at Parent Evenings, they actually read the report cards, they are eager that their child is showing the right attitude, and most importantly, they are involved in their learning.

    I just wonder if there is anything that can be done by the school, by teachers and support staff, more that I can be doing that I'm not, to try limit the negative consequences of privilege...
  14. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Marley was right? I thought that he was dead, according to CD.
  15. ejclibrarian

    ejclibrarian Established commenter Community helper

    While I don't get sworn at or threatened by students here, we still have behaviour management problems. They are all low level and in some ways more insidious than the angry kids I used to have to deal with. The small behaviour issues are easier to ignore, and then they build and build until you suddenly realize that things are out of control and you have no idea how it happened.

    Some parents are lovely and very involved, others are so uninvolved they have no idea what is happening with their kids. This happens regardless of income. You can't force parents to be invested in their child's education no matter what school you work at. As long as you don't get the blame for their poor grades and your administrators are aware of any students that are unwilling to put in the effort, you can only do what you're doing and make sure the other who want to learn are doing well.

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