10 challenges poor students and teachers face


9. Room and locker decorations are out of the question

Think back to the days when you got your first locker in middle school. Did you put magnets or a small mirror inside, or even cover the sides with polka-dotted locker wallpaper to dress it up? Many of today’s teens definitely are personalizing their lockers to the nth degree—websites like Target and Pottery Barn Teen have entire categories devoted to locker décor and accessories. But for low-income teens, these sorts of accoutrements are lavish and unaffordable. The same problem obviously extends to teachers who are expected to create warm, welcoming classrooms, yet are working with extremely low budgets that need to be allocated elsewhere.

But even beyond cutesy embellishments is the fact that some impoverished students can lack access to the most basic necessities, like a fresh change of clothes. In a February 2019 op-ed for USA Today, eighth grade math teacher Yoo Eun Kim detailed washing uniforms for the poorest students after realizing that a lack of clean clothing kept some of them from attending school.

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