Trapped in a World of Poverty and Trauma. Education

The book Me, Earl and the Dying Girl written by Jesse Andrews is a great example of the effects that trauma and poverty have on teenagers. In the book, Greg becomes close to a girl named Rachel, after she has been diagnosed with Leukemia. As Greg and Rachel grow closer together, Greg stops attending school in order to spend time with Rachel. This is because Greg has a feeling that she will die. As the story expands, Rachel gets worse. As the story starts to wrap itself up, Rachel passes away. Greg becomes traumatized, when he finally returns to school, his teacher Mr. McCarthy, tries to ease Greg and make him feel comfortable back in school. The question that is trying to be answered is how does being a traumatized student in poverty affect their education?

Many children become traumatized from different events. They usually are about family problems. Some examples of this include a parent's loss, arrest, abuse or divorce. What does have to do with education? Surprisingly, it has a lot to do with education. According to the article “How Schools Are Helping Traumatized Students Learn Again” talks about helping kids who have trouble learning or getting an education after they have been through a traumatic experience in their life. When my parents got a divorce it was definitely traumatic, but it did not keep me out of school. However, I know people who have had traumatic experience in their lives and it did keep them out school. This has changed my perspective on education, I have never thought of another reason of why education is problem today. Lastly, a majority of kids that have been through traumatizing events are below the poverty line.

Picture of a teacher helping a traumatized little boy learn-

Traumatized students not learning becomes a problem because then they don’t get the education that they deserve. The article that was mentioned previously, “How Schools Are Helping Traumatized Students Learn Again” also discusses how teachers are helping children who have been through traumatizing events feel happy and safe in a school environment. This relates back to the book I read “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews because after Rachel died from leukemia, Greg becomes traumatized because he was lost someone who he became close with. Greg misses a lot of school which affects his education and he is a senior in high school. However, one of his teachers, Mr. McCarthy helps him through his tough time, and helps him feel comfortable and safe again in school. In the book, Greg says to the reader, “Mr. McCarthy is the only teacher I have anything close to a kind of friendship with, and he lets me and Earl eat lunch in his office” (Andrews 133). This quotes shows that Greg can trust Mr. McCarthy because they have a close relationship, especially when Greg needed Mr. McCarthy the most. If you haven't noticed already, helping traumatized students get an education is very important not only for them, but for our future generation and society as well.

A majority of U.S. public school students live in a world of poverty. Most of these kids cannot even pay for their school lunches. In fact, 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. This shows that if parents can’t even pay for their students lunch, how are they supposed to buy books? They can’t. All this is because the parents make such a low-income and can barely afford to buy food for their families. The article “Majority of U.S. Public Students are in Poverty” states, “These children can learn at the highest levels, but you have to provide for them. You can’t assume they have books at home, or they visit the library or go on vacations. You have to think about what you’re doing across the state and ensuring they’re getting what other children get” (Layton). If parents cannot afford to buy books, then shouldn't the government buy them for the kids and funding schools as well? The article also states, “The government has done nothing to help the families living in poverty go to school.” Lastly, the Southern Education Foundation study indicates clearly that poverty, which has long been the biggest obstacle to educational achievement, is more important than ever.

This picture shows the low-income of students in public schools across America-

The public school education is increasingly getting worse. According the article “Public Education’s Biggest Problem Gets Worse” talks about how academic achievement, and psychosocial outcomes and physical health is not being reached because of the poor public education system. The article also mentions how the government has done nothing to help the families living in poverty go to school. If the public education system is bad, this can result in teachers who aren’t motivated to teach students. Furthermore, there was a news report done by PBS News which asked mostly high school students what they thought about the education system and why so many students have dropped out of school or not doing well. Most students said that they don’t have the motivation to learn. This is because if the teachers don’t have the motivation to teach, then students will not have the motivation to learn. Also students tend to “give up” when they start getting bad grades and when they don’t have the energy to learn. Adding on, Rita Pierson an educator said that teachers and students need human connection. Students need teachers that they feel comfortable around and also need to know that they are going to learn with the idea of human connection. Pierson explains to the audience that teachers need to encourage children to learn and never give up. Even if they fail, teachers need to tell their students that it's okay because you learn from your mistakes. She also explains that children need the teacher's energy, if the teacher doesn’t have the energy to go to work that day, they still need to go and give it all they have.

As we look closely into student poverty, as stated previously one of the number one problems in education is poverty. According to the Southern Education Foundation study says that, “Fifty years ago, we educated mostly working-class kids and up, and we did not expect those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to graduate. Now we educate all students, including the very poorest and otherwise disadvantaged. And we expect them all to graduate” (Strauss). In addition a majority of U.S. students are either living poverty or slightly above the poverty line. The number of U.S. students in poverty is increasingly rising. Adding on, according to the Washington Post says, “In 2000, students who were eligible for free or reduced-price meals made up at least half of the student body in four states. Just eleven years later, over half of public school students are poor in 17 states, including every Southern state but Virginia and Maryland, and most Western states. Student poverty is the dominant reality in schools in three of the biggest states – California, Texas, and Florida—and nearly the majority in New York, Michigan, and Illinois” (Strauss).

This is a picture of school students living in poverty. These students get payed lunches from the schools/government because they cannot afford to buy their own lunch-

It is clear that poverty and trauma affects a child's education. Although this is an ongoing issue, at least the government and teachers/public school systems are trying to improve/solve this issue. Researching this topic has changed my thinking because it showed me other problems within the educational system, and how many other problems lead to education problems in the school. This paper has allowed me to dig deeper into education problems today.

Works Cited

Flannery, Mary Ellen. "How Schools Are Helping Traumatized Students Learn Again." NEA Today. N.p., 30 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

Alexie, Sherman. "Cline." Callaloo 17.1 (1994): 17. Web.

“Public Education’s Biggest Problem Gets Worse” Strauss, Valerie The Washington Post September 14, 2011.

“Students Speak Out on the Biggest Issues in Education” PBS News

“Public Education’s Biggest Problem Keeps Getting Worse” Strauss, Valerie The Washington Post October 17, 2013.

“How Much Does Stress Affect Learning?” Strauss, Valerie The Washington Post June 10, 2011.

“Should Schools Start Later to Improve Academic Performance?” California Academy of Science September 2, 2016.

“ Poverty Affects Education--And Our Systems Perpetuate it.” Slade, Sean The Huffington Post July 24, 2016.

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