- Generational poverty and general helplessness are very real.
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), poverty, mental health, and learned helplessness all connect.
- Educators should embed hope in their lesson plans and schools should make it a part of the culture.
- Educators know that to truly overhaul our educational system, we must overhaul our focus: psychology is greater than pedagogy.
Psychology Is Greater Than Pedagogy: A Tale of Two Pandemics
Isn’t it remarkable how things we are most passionate about seem to come about from our own life stories? This morning at 5 am, my thoughts shifted backward. As a result, I began to reflect on my past. For a time, my life was filled with dread, hopelessness, and various means to fill that void. I counted 6 former friends or relatives that have died from suicide or overdose. This could have been me.
While we start emerging from COVID, how many people have stopped to think about the other pandemic that grips our nation: learned helplessness? In classrooms, educators see the unmotivated student, the repeat office referral, the high school dropout, or sadly, and often, the student with an IEP.
In the car rider line, we see this as the unemployed or underemployed parent, who has given up hope of something better. Generational poverty and general helplessness are very real. Educators know this to be true. Educators KNOW that to truly overhaul our educational system, we must overhaul our focus: psychology > pedagogy.Generational poverty and general helplessness are very real. Educators know this to be true. Educators KNOW that to truly overhaul our educational system, we must overhaul our focus: psychology > pedagogy. Click To Tweet
Poverty Has Consequences
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), poverty, mental health, and learned helplessness all connect. Currently, the US childhood poverty rate stands at 20%. A child from poverty has a 2x higher chance of having an ACE score of 3 or more. An ACE score of 3 or more leads to a 32x higher likelihood of academic struggles. As a child’s ACE score increases, so does the likelihood of experiencing mental health struggles including suicide.
Educators will agree that our classrooms are filling up with students from poverty, and as that happens so do the numbers of students with mental health issues and learned helplessness. For 20% of our kids, Maslow’s Hierarchy means more than Bloom’s ever will!
Thankfully, there are concrete methods we can and should embed as a system to counteract this not-so-silent Pedagogical Pandemic. For many students, RTI needs to come from not only the academic realm but also that of the social/emotional.
The Work of Dr. Robert Barr
Two of my favorite books, Building a Culture of Hope and Building the Resilient School by Robert Barr, draw on 40+ years of researching high-performing/high poverty schools. When I played the part of an elementary principal, I was lucky to invite him to keynote a community poverty summit. During that summit, we sought to discover the root cause of our community’s poverty.
We also tried to brainstorm ways to revitalize our community and as a side effect, our schools. From Mr. Barr’s perspective, learned helplessness was a side-effect of poverty, but one that our schools could specifically work to alleviate AND could intentionally focus on.
HOPE must be an essential standard for ALL kids.
HOPE should be embedded in the lesson plan and a part of the school’s culture. In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell brings to light that a third of successful entrepreneurs grapple with dyslexia. He wonders if the struggles that these leaders face prepare them for a future filled with mistakes. Through support systems and very concrete/intentional focus, schools CAN develop resilience (hope) within all students.
Through this universal design, our students whose ACE scores pointed to a bleak future would find the tools and the motivation to turn learned helplessness into learned optimism! By learning optimism, our kids would then be prepared to deal with the challenges that life will undoubtedly bring them, including their own mental health and financial struggles. By changing their mindset, we would change their OUTPUT![scroll down to keep reading]
Psychology Is Greater Than Pedagogy: So…how can we build hope?
It is my goal, in a series of upcoming blog posts, to share ideas with you for how a classroom or school can make building a child’s #hopecoefficient an essential standard, K-12. While we are in the world-changing business, we are also in the community-changing business. Developing an antidote to the learned-helplessness pandemic would increase a child’s #hopecoefficient. Increased hope = increased engagement = increased achievement = increased opportunities = decreased poverty.
Hope IS the cure!
About Ryan Scott
Ryan is currently a high school AP in lovely Webster County, Kentucky. Prior to his current role he served as an elementary principal and classroom teacher. Throughout his 14 years in ED, he has been adamant about doing WHATEVER it takes to get students to the next level of life, WHATEVER that may look like. As an ED disruptor, he feels very strongly that SKILLS and not simply standards are what is needed for the jobs of the future!