How can we understand how children of At-risk communities learn if we do not understand the child? The child is the community and the community the child, just the way their environment and parents are. This may mean a little more time, effort and plenty of dedication; but show me one child who is not worth it.
In order to understand how children of At-risk communities learn, we must define the social term: At-risk. This could be a lesson in itself. Scholars have given many definitions for the term. Some say it describes children and youth living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Some define At-risk as the absence of either one or both parents. Still there are those who say the term has no definition and are simply used to place labels on certain groups.
My definition of At-risk is any person, place or thing that impedes the progress, growth or development of a child. This may be the absence of a parent, the lack of wealth or simply the dedication of an educator for teaching a child.
If you hear a child use the word "ain't", do you stop and correct that child by using and teaching the words "are not" or "isn't?" Do you continue doing what you are doing? In an article by Prevette Research, two-thirds of the estimated one-hundred and thirty million children in the world have no access to primary education.
Environment and economics have considerable influence in society. Rigorous wealth and severe poverty are some of the issues society face today. I would place the lack of education high on the list of social issues.
Ninety-five percent of children of At-risk communities, including infants, toddlers and children of pre - school age are on a Government- subsidized program. There are those who suggest that there should be more teachers of color in At-risk communities. I think this is a cop-out for the lack of dedication. It does not matter if you are a person of color or not, there is no excuse for lack of dedication. Whether you are a neighbor, a relative, a school teacher, clergy or parent, we are all educators. Remember: Parents are the first educators.
The children of At-risk communities also communicate differently. They lack the benefits of social graces and etiquette. Fortunately, there are children who are privileged not to have seen this side of life.
Let's do a comparison:
Children who are taught social graces and etiquette may greet you by saying, "Good morning, how are you?" A child coming up from an At-risk community might say "What's up?" and they are okay with this because this is what they hear daily.
Demonstrate by placing a cup and saucer combination in front of a child who has been taught social etiquette and he or she will be able to tell you the correct names of each item and their usage. Place the same cup and saucer in front of a child from an At-risk community and he or she may ask, "What is this for?" and label the saucer as a plate. This is because they have never used nor seen it used before.
The children of At-risk communities learn their alphabets and numbers around the ages of three and four, but learn to appreciate music around the age of nine months; simply because they live this daily. While they are learning to appreciate Rap and Hip Hop, the children of higher social standards are learning to appreciate Beethoven and Mozart. Social graces and etiquette should be a pre- requisite for elementary education. Social graces and etiquette empowers children to know how to behave properly in society. It demonstrates a level of respect, not only for others but for themselves. The children also learn to be considerate of others. It helps them understand that others have feelings. They learn how to greet and be gracious using words like, please, thank you and excuse me.
Social graces and etiquette enhance their desire to learn and feel better about themselves. Unless these children of At-risk communities have parents who practice social graces and etiquette or a teacher who is instilling these valuable lessons in them, they will never understand, know of, or experience this valued knowledge. This would be a major injustice to them as well as to society.
I personally know environment and economics play an enormous part in the lives of At-risk children in how they live and learn. I must say experience is the best teacher. I have lived in At-risk communities all my life and have taught children of At-risk communities for thirty-two years. There is one thing I have learned and experienced in those thirty-two years of teaching- What you give to them, they will give back.
Education is more than just the ABC's of learning or reading, writing and arithmetic, it is knowing who you are teaching and exemplifying knowledge to those you serve.
Author Sheila M. Frances founded FranJeff Publishing with the mission to educate society on child behavior by providing a platform for the awareness of impacts of communities on child growth and development.