Leann Smith Explains the Importance of Improving Education For Low-Income Students


For educators and teachers, it is of the utmost importance for education to be a right for all, no matter what their circumstances. Ideally, the intent of those who teach is for their reach to extend as far as possible, affecting as many people as they possibly can within the limits of their ability. It goes without saying that the impact that education can have on any individual can reach just as far, if not farther; that’s why it’s so important that the right decisions are made here and now in the present so that younger generations can be best prepared for making a better future.

Unfortunately, when it comes to privilege, not all students are equal. Some of the things that one student can take for granted — regular meals, support, and representation — are sparse and insufficient for students with a low-income background. The system needs to be improved to better accommodate such students. Leann Smith, who is currently an Assistant Superintendent in Alabama, provides an understanding of the challenges low-income students face each and every day, as well as how the school system can be improved on their behalf.

Physiological Needs

No one deserves to be hungry at school, devoid of nutrition and a filling meal. It can be so frustrating for the student who doesn’t have enough to eat to be surrounded by a sea of students who do, especially when they aren’t willing to share what they have. Every student has the right to learn, and for those who are trying to do so while they are starving, and it’s certainly not their fault, it’s common knowledge that this can have a negative impact on that individual’s capacity for learning.

The demands of hunger can completely override the focus needed to succeed, and this is where educators need to intervene. Choosing to be the teacher who recognizes a need such as this, and acts on it, is the first step towards creating a better life for low-income students. There certainly might be some red tape associated with providing food in the classroom, but Leann Smith of Hanceville believes that it is well worth it, as the importance of the issue supersedes any reservations that might be had, from students and faculty alike.

It doesn’t stop there, either: Teachers who want to advocate for low-income students can push for revisions and improvements in school cafeterias as well, ideally resulting in more affordable options. You might even consider holding a food drive to both provide food for low-income students as well as promote awareness throughout the school community.

Sympathy, Empathy, and Support

It’s no secret that low-income students generally face more challenges than their peers. All this additional pressure means that such students need a support system, and unfortunately, they may not always have this by their own means. In the very worst cases, they might even be facing difficult or even abusive situations at home, leaving them with virtually nowhere to turn. Every teacher that is willing to step in, going above and beyond for the sake of low-income students’ wellbeing, is a building block towards real change.

The first step is to reassure students that even though they may feel shame and try to hide their situation, the reality is that they have nothing to be ashamed of. They didn’t ask to be in a low-income situation, and they very much deserve to be in a place of learning just like everyone else. Leann Smith of Cullman County explains that you might just be the perfect candidate to connect with a student in this way; don’t hesitate to share any of your experiences of when times were tough financially. Even if you don’t have a story of your own about poverty, being the person who listens openly and doesn’t judge goes a very long way. Especially for the students who have been through or are currently going through traumatic situations, this type of support is essential and is one of the best ways to fight against the hardship that low-income students face.

Fighting For Low-Income Students

When basic needs are met and emotional support is aptly provided, the way forward from there is for teachers to become advocates for low-income students. These students need teachers in their corner, especially in a world full of victim-blaming and apathy. Where others will turn away and keep going about their business, the right teacher who chooses to become an advocate can create sweeping changes, on top of an increase in awareness of the issues at hand.

Poverty can happen to anyone, and this fact is exactly how best to promote awareness. Economic hardship is indiscriminate, and the sooner that a student population understands that by affecting one person, it can affect all of them, the better. The concept of altruism states that deep down, everyone has a desire to see justice, whether it’s wrongs being righted, or everyone being treated fairly without any exception. Sometimes all it takes is one little spark to shift the balance, resulting in those being aware of and combatting the hardships of low-income students changing from the few to the many.

Being an advocate isn’t just about change in one educational institution, either. Low-income students are counting on someone to take things even further, taking concerns and insights to those in authority and opening their eyes. It can even escalate as far as being a determinate factor in who you vote for; although the vast majority of people can make an impact, they also need to be a voice heard by those in power, so that change can happen even more quickly and with less resistance.

Hailing from Hanceville, Alabama, Leann Smith has devoted 22 years to the education and well-being of children. She is determined to be a compassionate advocate who speaks up on the behalf of children who cannot speak for themselves.

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