Wealthy Paupers

One of the things that I encounter on a regular basis is students who do not bring any supplies to class.  Students constantly ask me for pencils and paper, because, after all, my students are poor.  I have a system worked out wherein a student can borrow a pencil or pen in exchange for their student ID.  That ensures that students don’t just jack my supplies of which I spend  many dollars each year.  

The problem with this approach is twofold.  

First, it teaches them the wrong thing.  It teaches them that they are not responsible for their own things, that someone else will always take care of them.  It’s called socialism, except they have nothing to give at the start.  They give nothing, but expect care in return.  

The second problem is that they are not as poor as they say.  After the Christmas break, these same students came in with all sorts of bling: new expensive shoes and clothes, iPads, and Beats by Dre.  The real issue isn’t that they cannot afford school supplies, but that their parents spend money on expensive trinkets that they cannot afford. 

So what can I do to teach students personal responsibility?  What can I do to show them that they really can afford the two dollars that is needed?–

Point at their new kicks and stop lending out pencils.


2 thoughts on “Wealthy Paupers

  1. I stumbled upon your blog while browsing Pinterest for the umpteenth time this summer in preparation for the new school year while simultaneously feeding my boredom. I’ve got to say, I love it! Your voice is the voice of so many teachers out there, your voice is my voice. You tell the reality how it is without sugarcoating it but also holding back enough to keep you from getting in trouble (my inner monologue is far less tame). I started a blog at one point, wrote a few entires, and quit. I’m going in to my second year of teaching and, while I wouldn’t dare name a student or post anything too crazy, I’m fearful that “I’m too young” in my career to risk it. :/
    Thanks for putting OUR voice out there. I know the bulk of us teachers love our jobs and the imperfections are the few and far between that hit us at the exact wrong moment, both sides of this amazing story are important for the parents, the students, and the community to know. We have a lot of good days, but there’s bad days too.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. Alicja
    Thanks for writing in this candid way. I have started to analyze my approach to things because too often I assume the best in students when in reality, they are not bad but they definitely are motivated to take advantage of your kindness. I like that you acknowledged your approach teaches them that someone else will always take care of them. I am definitely an enabler, I try to do so much for my students to help that in fact I am teaching them that they don’t have to try because someone else will do it for them.
    I am struggling with this because I said I would stop giving students so many reminders to turn in their work, etc. when second trimester comes around and I have stopped (yayy). The response is my seventh graders are becoming rebellious and behaving badly because they were so used to my soft ways and now they want it to go back to that, they want to break me (nooo).

    Do I show them good faith that I am still a fair and kind teacher by starting a reward system for the behaviors that I am now demanding (that are expected for their grade level anyway), or do I stick to being strict and deal with misbehaving students daily and drive myself insane? And by starting a reward system now, am I just showing them that if you rebel and protest and complain enough you will get your way? Is there any other way though? LOL The reward system worked last year!

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