When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. I’m not sure that I realized how little money we had, or how much my parents struggled to make ends meet. When I reflect, I can totally see it.
However, I do remember growing up and constantly being reminded to be neat and clean. Clothes could not be wrinkled. Your face should always be washed. You should wear lotion, clean underwear, and clean socks (if you didn’t, and you were in an accident, they wouldn’t save you). Your hair should be neatly styled.
Those were things that I’ve taken from my childhood, and into adulthood. Reflecting on it, I recognize that my parents knew that while we didn’t have much, but we still had the opportunity to make a good impression. Additionally, I never had a mindset that we were poor, or that we didn’t have as much as others. I was always taught that I could have whatever I wanted if I worked hard.
I started reflecting on these life lessons from my childhood, while observing my students over the past couple of days. Many of our students, in fact the majority of them, are from low-income families, qualifying for free or reduced lunch. While being from a low-income family definitely presents its share of challenges, there were a few moments when I wanted to grab a few of my students and shake them, and tell them, “just because you live in poverty, doesn’t mean that you have to have a poverty mindset.”
What exactly would a poverty mindset be? I’m not sure that I can easily define it. But I’ve noticed that many students are a little too comfortable using their financial situation as an excuse for why they don’t have/can’t have/don’t achieve/can’t achieve. I feel that until they have the mindset that they CAN and WILL have everything that they want to have, and are willing to put in the work required to get it, they’re going to forever be at a loss.
One of the hardest lessons to impart to teenagers is that the world doesn’t owe you ANYTHING. I’m frequently in awe at the sense of entitlement that my students express. Where does that come from? While it is good to expect and desire good things, they aren’t owed to you. You have to work smart. You have to work hard. While I can recognize and acknowledge that I have been tremendously blessed with enormous opportunities over the course of my life, I also know that I have worked exceptionally hard.
Work ethic and desire is what will make the difference. As said in Coach Carter, “just because you deserve it, doesn’t mean they’re gonna give it to you.” And when you don’t get what you feel like you deserve, you have to be able to fall back on that desire and that ability to work until you do receive it.
Just because you’re from poverty doesn’t mean that you’re destined to stay that way. Just because you’re from poverty doesn’t mean that you have to maintain this mentality of not having enough. The real truth is that God has given each of us just what we need to do what He intends for us to do.
Now, if I could only teach that to my students.
Until next time…
January 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Wholeheartely agreed. There are many of today’s youth who end up walking arond with that defeatist attitude which, more than likely, leaves them defeated in the end.
Just from reading this post I can tell that you are a very comassionate teacher. No coincidence how, as a student, I remember each and every one of my teachers that carried such appreciated emotion to work with them every morning.
Those were the teachers who not only worked hard, but inspired myself to work hard as hell.
January 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm
Our society has become more and more dependent on others to fill this sense of entitlement in their lives. They have this false sense that someone owes them something or that it is somehow someone else’s responsibility to take care of them. I stress to my son’s that nothing is free and there is nobody responsible for looking out for them except their parents and themselves.
I grew up poor but that didn’t make me grow up looking for others to take care of me. My parents instilled in me that if you wanted something you earned it. You didn’t take handouts and if someone helped you out you left no doubt of your gratitude.
You earn everything in your life except God’s grace. It was given.
January 29, 2011 at 10:20 pm
I have a friend who is the oldest of 5 and each with different fathers. truely came from nothing, with nothing, but a plan, taught at a very early age. skipping ahead to age 11, she enters a beauty pagent and when asked the question. What do you want to do when you grow up? Replied, I’m going to marry a man with lots of money and have a bunch of kids! She infact did just that. The first 6 were presumably by the same man, her husband to this day, seperated for 10 years now. She gave birth to 2 more children, both from different men other than her husband, out of wedlock. With much help and the still strong training in place of, men with money and the exsperience that comes with life, has managed to do pretty well for herself. Realizing age is not always good to people and finally grasping the concept- ” work for what you have and want, instead of….well you know. I get to my question. Is there some sort of poverty mentality, at work when a person is so TOTALLY consumed by fear of poverty, or lack, that they neglect, compromise, ignore? Family, children, life, relationships,…. you know? The stuff that makes life WORTH LIVING? Please help! Jeff.