Book Giveaway: Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind


EngagingStudentswithPovertyinMindIn his new book, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement, brain expert and best-selling author Eric Jensen emphasizes the strong and significant correlation between engagement and achievement. He reveals how educators can master engagement and use it to help students of low socioeconomic status excel.

For a chance to win a copy, answer his prompt—it’s in bold at the end of the post. All answers must be received by 5 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday, October 16. If you prefer to e-mail your response, send it to Eric. Full giveaway rules are available online. Two winners of the author’s choosing will be announced here on Friday, October 18. The books will be signed by Eric himself.

How to Involve and Inspire Every Student Every Day

By Eric Jensen

This summer, I published Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind with ASCD, and it may be the best book I’ve ever written. Here’s a true story from this amazing new publication about one teacher and her class.

At the start of each school year, the teacher asked her young elementary level kids what they want to do when they grow up. One kid responded, “I wanna be like my daddy and be on welfare.” Some teachers would have rolled their eyes and thought, how am I supposed to teach kids in poverty that have a home life like his? How can I teach kids who don’t want to even learn or graduate?

What would you have done?

This teacher did what high-performing teachers do. She refused to lower her goals or her standards. Her strategy was to broaden his horizons and help him think bigger.

All year long, she shared with the class her interesting microtrips: She went to national parks, made car trips to see friends and family, and took short vacations. Once a week, she brought and showed pictures, ticket stubs, screenshots, and souvenirs to inspire her kids in class and tell stories of her adventures. These adventures were often modest, but they were outside of the school’s zip code.

At the end of the school year, she asked all her kids the same question from the start of the year. That same kid who said earlier that he wanted to be on welfare was a changed student. How? He had a new concept of what life could be like. He had a high-performing teacher. He now knew who he wanted to be when he grew up. Now, guess what the same student said? That’s right! When the teacher called on him at the end of the year, he said, “I wanna be a teacher!”

If you want to find out what it takes to become a confident, high-performing teacher working with kids from poverty, I encourage you to lean in and read closely.

What would it mean to you to be able to engage every single student in your school or class? Share your answer in the comments section for a chance to win a copy of my book courtesy of ASCD.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to all who participated. The two lucky winners are Ellen Frazier and Susan Denton. We are pleased to offer all other readers of Inservice a 15 percent discount on orders of Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind placed through the ASCD Online Store by Friday, November 1. Simply enter promotional code Z205 at checkout.


  1. One of the most meaningful moments of my principalship was hearing a student remark “That’s what I want to do!” after hearing a career day speaker address his class. We cycled multiple presenters through each classroom so students could dialogue with the presenters in an intimate setting. The presenters were community members, parents, and friends of teachers and staff in a broad range of professions from attorney, to truck driver, to home attendant, etc. Our goal was to expose students to a wide array of people working in careers who looked like them or had stories similar to theirs. We wanted our kids to envision themselves one day doing what our presenters do and taking the necessary steps to achieve that. All of our presenters emphasized the importance of mastery of basic skills, good study habits, and determination as key to their success. This was a day of engagement for students, teachers, and presenters as well.

    • It is very important that we as teachers engage all students with the tools and skills that are need to become successful today’s society. We must change our methodology on how to reach and retain students in schools today. Students are more successful, when they see that you have a genuine concern for their welfare and about their learning different types of material in your class. When you just take the time out to share another approach on how a student can be successful in their studies infuses them with belief beyond measures. They are apt to cling to their environment, but as teachers we are intrusive with our teaching methods to change students into leaders of tomorrow. With this stride to work harder and becomes determining factor of their very existing and it adds to their accomplishment of succeeding. To this end, once we as teachers are able to listen to our student and understand where they are coming from, we are unable to capture their mind of learning. Engaging them to become part of a forum or an activity outside of the common classroom setting, will allow them to grow beyond their comfort zone, by pushing them from good to great.

  2. To make a difference in the life of just one student is a worthy goal; how much greater an accomplishment to engage every child/student in the classroom. For a child of poverty to recognize his/her potential and realize that worthy dreams CAN be achieved is the “lightbulb” moment we seek for each student every year. Breaking the cycle of poverty is undeniably critical to the future of our citizens and our country, and the teacher who is willing to broaden the worlds of the children of poverty, give them a taste of success, and help them find direction for a life outside what they currently know is the front-line catalyst in the battle for the future.

  3. If we were to engage every student in the schools I work in, would be revolutionary! Students would see their own resilience from poverty, historical trauma, and daily violence. They would advocate for themselves and other Native American groups to connect the past to future growth. Culture and tradition would be blended with technology and standards so our students would thrive in continuing to colleges or careers, while still being grounded in family, home, and traditional values and understandings. Our students have been introduced to leadership techniques and responsibilities, so they understand they have a voice, which can quiet a roomful of adults. They are working across multiple school sites via video conferencing, to develop student-led conferences which connect them to supporting colleges, student-identified interests for careers, and a chance for students on different reservations to connect in person to dispel misconceptions and develop interrelationships to support growth in all of Indian country. The students are taking the opportunity to not only build a conference for themselves for the fall, but also planning a spring conference in which to engage other schools in other reservations across our state. When we (the adults) allowed the students to plan and deliver, they produced more than what we could have ever done. We just had to allow them the authority to make real decisions. When they realize they have a true stake in the school environment, they are more apt to attend classes, be part of the teaching and learning cycle, be a leader for other students, be involved in positive after-school activities, and connect to the parts of community that teachers and principals may never see.

  4. I work with teachers in SE Iowa where we have the highest rates of poverty in the state so being able to provide resources to them to increase student engagement would be transformational in our rural communities. Using technology resources to widen students’ views and opportunities would be a great fit and allow students to see the endless possibilities that await them.

  5. I would love to broaden my students’ horizons to let them know there is more beyond the streets they live on. I want to help them make connections so they know how they will use their “school smarts” when they are out of school.

  6. If we could engage every single student we would see a dramatic change in the educational culture of the school. Teachers would spend more time facilitating instruction and less time on classroom management. Students would see purpose in their education and this intrinsic motivation would help them strive to do their best. The high truancy rate would decrease (if not diminish) because the students want to learn. If we could engage every single student we would have all of our students reading at grade level. If we could engage every single student…they would have a chance at life!

  7. Having every student be engaged would be the factor that most directly closes the gap. I work in a high-poverty school with limited school and home resources. Making do with what we have just never seems to be enough. Many of my 1st graders come to school with bigger things on their minds. The active engagement is sporadic for me and I would love more tools in my toolbox. Our campus goal is to have all of our 1st graders reading on- or above-level (of course), but they start the year off with a deficit and if I don’t catch them up, the gap will only widen.

  8. Every student in our school engaged! What a wonderful thought! We are not a Title I school and not a school with big PTA pockets, so we get by. It would mean students connect engagement to understanding the value of their education. It would mean their education finally has purpose to them.

  9. If every student at my school was engaged, it would probably be because they all had arrived from a stable home, with breakfast in their bellies, sent off by parents who love them. They would’ve had a full night’s sleep, tucked in and read to by a responsible adult. This isn’t real life at my school, where the free and reduced lunch population is 70%.

    If all my kids were engaged at school, we wouldn’t have to cajole them into participating or constantly dealing with behavioral issues. There would be no bribery, only intrinsically motivated kids with long-term educational goals.

    School would be an amazing place to be if all my kids were engaged. I would spend my day facilitating relevant educational experiences. My kids would see the value in spending their time engaging in scientific exploration. That would be incredible.

  10. I teach remedial mathematics in a Title 1 school. I feel that a huge obstacle is simply engagement! I know my students can succeed if I can consistently find ways to keep them motivated. Engaging every student would prevent a huge amount of students from dropping out.

  11. Engagement to me would be an already established relationship and a community of caring for all. Vestment and relational trust go hand in hand.

  12. As the principal of a high-poverty K-2 school, our mission is to help each student on their journey to academic and social success. If all students were able to be engaged, the possibilities for growth would be limitless. My staff is committed to supporting students, but lack the collection of tools to truly reach all learners. If every student were engaged, I would have more time available to support student instruction rather than deal with misbehaviors due to lack of engagement. Simply put, engagement unlocks the gates of learning and success.

  13. Engaging every single student would be a dream come true! All students would have the opportunity learn new information, share, collaborate and create, utilize critical thinking and problem solving skills; all which will be needed for future success for themselves and our society.

  14. To reach every student–including the student at the back of your room attempting to slide under your radar; the student who puts his or her head down because it has already crossed his or her mind to drop out; and the student whose attendance has been abnormal– would be… miraculous. Although it’s an extremely challenging task, because there are so many different factors, internal and external, our job as educators require us to maintain the expectation that we CAN reach such students (even if it doesn’t happen). If it were possible, the world would be a better place; values would be better maintained in our country; and generations could strengthen the next,

  15. We are a high poverty Title 1 school in California’s southern-Central Valley. Many of our students have parents who’ve been incarcerated, or have substance abuse issues. Home life is often unstable. Regular meals and proper clothing, the most basic of needs, are often missing in the lives of these children. We care for our students deeply and believe we are educating the whole child, our future citizens and we want them to have skills and abilities that will make them successful throughout their lives. To engage EVERY student would have a HUGE impact on our school and community! Giving our children a vision and hope for the future by empowering them through engagements in meaningful ways would be life changing for many of them. We may not remember the subject or topics we learned from our own childhoods, but we do remember HOW we were treated and how our teachers and schools made us feel. Special. Important. Valued. As the principal, that’s my wish for every one of my students. To be so fully engaged in school, they have not other option but to succeed!

  16. I began to write this comment many times because I was overwhelmed by thinking about what it would mean to be able to reach every student in my care. It’s what I strive for every day. And, realistically, I often feel fatigued by my attempts to achieve this. But during my drive home, I think, I refresh, and I recommit myself to this goal.

  17. Most teachers are middle class and have no true understanding of living in poverty. We all want to reach our students, so it stands to reason that reading and studying research behind engaging students who live daily in poverty can bolster our understanding.

  18. I teach middle school math in a Southern California school system and more than half of my students are considered socio-ecomomically disadvantaged. In my opinion, the key to helping any student is to build a positive relationship with them. This year I’ve focused my attention on building a strong sense of community within the classroom. My school adopted a new code of conduct which I emphasized daily for the first two weeks. (THINK before you speak. It’s it True, Is it Helpful, Is it Inspiring, Is it Necessary, Is it Kind). At least once a week, I find a way to reference it. I do not allow for others to laugh or snicker when peers are presenting. It has to be a safe environment to learn.

    I read The Growth Mindset over the summer, so I integrated praise that acknowledges process and growth.
    I create group activities which lead to mini presentations. After each presentation, the class appropriately congratulates the presenters.

    I started pulling students in at lunch the second week of school to help them learn concepts they were struggling with and to make up missing work. They quickly realized in order to enjoy lunch with their friends, they had to do their work. Otherwise, they’d be spending lunch with me.

    Students also began to realize that I wanted them to succeed and I would be there to ensure their success. They began to trust me.

    When students or a class had a bad day or were struggling with a topic, I start the next day with an inspiring quote to energize them. We talk about what hard work means. I reference those conversations, when students want to give up. Once the student or class sticks with it and makes a break through, I acknowledge their growth progress. It’s important for students to connect success with effort and persistence.

    I have kids show their work to their peers as much as possible. I acknowledge their hard work privately (one on one) and publicly (presenting work to the class). I contact home and let parents and guardians know how their child is progressing in math.

    I encourage students to help each other out. I acknowledge their helpfulness and make a point of highlighting a quality part of their explanation.

    I integrate a variety of methods and activities into my math lessons. I’m always looking for ways that kids can interact and talk about math.

    At this point in the year, I see children blossom into solid math students. Students understand that the purpose in the classroom is to learn math. And sometimes in that process, we make mistakes – but that’s ok. No one will laugh at them. Instead, once they understand their mistake and correct it, their peers will cheer for them.

  19. I would love to engage every student in my school. We are in a very rural community with a very depressed economy. There was once the opportunity for many jobs in this textile community but over the years the prosperity has dried up. It is hard to impress upon the students that there can be a better life than they are used to if they would give their full effort to their work. Being able to get them enthused about learning would fulfill the reason why I am an educator in my hometown.

  20. To have each and every student in my class engaged in learning, would mean a start to fully reaching the minds I am responsible for. It would allow more time for advancing their understanding and an opportunity to increase their love for learning.It would free up time to spend on more in depth lessons that may lead to students pushing further and further into the material. This is the goal of a teacher, to go further than the surface or just below the surface and reach deep into their students abilities to learn and grow and then for them to take that knowledge as they go into the world.

  21. I am the lost soul with many ideas, strategies, techniques, creativity, and the determination to make it happen in a setting that is new to me. I grew up in a different lifestyle and culture then what I am currently teaching in and now have to find the right connection to make it work and reach success. This book could help give a perspective that is needed to have a better understanding and refocus what the needs of the students are. I am excited to read this book and find out great ways to engage and connect with the students at a level that is deserving of all students. I would be honored to lean in, listen closely, draw into my heart, and share the ideas presented to reach success in engaging every student. Thank you for seeing, sharing and making us think……”What would you have done and what will you do with this insightful information?”

  22. If I were able to engage every single student in my school or class, it would mean to me that I’d finally succeeded!! It’s uplifting enough to have the majority of one’s class or school engaged, but to be able to create an environment where students totally enjoy learning and participating would be the ultimate fulfillment of my goal as an educator. To me, this is the type of education that each and every child deserves each and every day of his/her academic life–not to mention that of a teacher.

  23. It would mean that students were absorbing the content, instead of just reading or hearing the content. Our school is a Title one school with a 98% poverty rate. We involve Kagan strategies into our everyday practices, but Kagan is not right for every student. Our fourth grade team would really appreciate another resource to help us keep our students engaged in the classroom every minute of every day. We strive to teach rigorous lessons with complex content, and it would be helpful to have some more strategies to help make our lessons more engaging. Thank you.

  24. For 37 years I have worked in Title 1 schools. What I have learned is that every child must be treated as an individual and given what they need to be successful. Each child needs their own individual education plan. For some, it means finding what they are interested in and integrating it into academics. Showing them the real world value. For others we must first show them that they are valued and address their social and emotional needs. All children can learn and each child deserves a teacher that will go the extra mile for them. That starts first with understanding that even though our students may come with environmental delays but there are steps we can take to regain the skills and knowledge they may be lacking.

    I have been fortunate enough to attend your workshops and have read your book more than once. The ideas that you have shared are things I have tried to incorporate into my day to day teaching. Any additional strategies I can grasp upon would only make a better teaching and learning environment for my students.

  25. True confession…In a classroom of 18 students in a Title I school, I observed the following during a literacy lesson:
    2 students with their heads on their desks-MAYBE they were listening, but I’m doubtful
    1 student with her hair pulled in front of her face and braiding it
    4 students “sneak reading” in their desks while the teacher talked- I was secretly proud of them!
    5 students completing worksheets from another content area
    2 students taking bathroom and water breaks
    1 student creating a sculpture out of pencil lead
    2 students doodling- Again, I was secretly proud of the amount of creativity I was witnessing!
    1 student looking at the teacher
    1 teacher wondering why reading results are poor and behaviors are off task.
    Please send me your book. I know who to recommend it to!

  26. Working in a K-4 Title 1 school with struggling readers, my most compelling issue is engagement. If all were engaged I know I could change their lives in a very big way. If they were all to experience total engagement, I know I could change their thoughts about what they were capable of, to change their thinking from a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset, so they would be more likely to work through the “struggles” rather than merely giving up. If they would be totally engaged, they would straight up experience phenomenal success, due to the structure and breadth of my daily lessons. I know they would be empowered by their sheer experience of success. Success in building foundational skills along with thinking strategies would ensure opportunities to rise from poverty.

  27. My first six years of teaching have been for high poverty, Title I, elementary schools. This year and last have been my toughest years yet. Last year I actually had a young girl who, like the student portrayed above, said all she wants to do when she grows up is be on welfare like her mom. This same child has a father that is illiterate. Another student from last year was in foster care. She was so worried about her five other sisters that she could hardly focus on her education. This school year is shaping up to be my toughest yet. I teach second grade, but the majority of my class is on a first grade level in reading and math. Their attention spans last maybe ten minutes at the most. I am trying new methods to differentiate my materials and meet the students at their levels. The few students I have that are on grade level, I am trying my best to motivate them and keep them moving forward. I would love a copy of your book so I may learn new ways of reaching this group of students and be better prepared for future classes. I love my job and deeply care for each child. I couldn’t see myself teaching anywhere else.

  28. I teach kids in a residential treatment facility for teenagers with chemical abuse and also at an alternative school. Many of these students are in poverty and see it as a way of life. One student told me of his plan to live off the government his entire life. He enumerated the services, steps and programs he could use to do this. So how does student engagement help this young man? Well, when he came to me a few weeks ago and asked if he could use the computer to apply for a job, even though we found out he was too young for most job, he kept looking, he kept asking about other possibilities for employment. He did not give up. Somewhere during the precious few hours I have with him each week, I connected with him, enough for him to trust me enough to take the risk to make his life better. Is this not what we want for our students?

  29. Engaging every student would mean increased engagement of parents. Increased ingagement of parents then increases community involvement. Creating a community of involvement and engagement creates an educated, stable environment for the economy and well-being of our future. If we can accomplish this, then we may be able to END poverty!

  30. Our elementary school has a slogan –“We learn everyday, whatever it takes, no excuses”. It would be easy to find excuses in our population of 66% free lunch, single parent families, mental health and high needs EBD program school…but we choose to look beyond our students cicumstances and believe that each and every child can succeed. Having grown up in a family of 5 siblings, using food stamps and free school lunch program to survive–I know great things can happen if a seed of hope is planted by someone who believes it can. Often, with the students I teach, it takes creative “out of the box” strategies to draw them in, to make learning REALLY matter. I would love to read your book for more insight –whether i win one or not, I AM going to read it !!

  31. To be able to unlock learning for every child is my goal every year. It is why I read articles and books, attend PD sessions, join professional communities and keep up with current research. Engagement is the key that unlocks learning for every child. I would love to read Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen, because his view of classroom reality is very realistic. My motto for my career is to teach the love of learning and the learning will follow… I know engagement is the key in making this a reality.

  32. Getting students to relate to you is key. I tell my student about growing up with 4 brothers and sisters and my Mom had to accept to welfare payments to make it. I tell them of how much it hurt our pride and that we raised to take care of ourselves. I saw a way out through education. I tell the kids…it was education that moved all four of kids out of poverty and into a nice middle class life. My brother got into construction, my sister into Cosmetology, my other sister got into teaching middle school science, and I got into computer science and now teaching. I inspire my students to reach out and up to change their circumstances by educating themselves. My brother and sisters came into the classroom and talked to the kids about how hard it growing up being poor, and how focusing on education changed our lives. The experience becomes real for the kids and they begin to see a way to a better life.

  33. To be able to do a book study within my school using this book would greatly increase teacher moral and help us be a better teacher. I had already brought this book up at a teacher meeting but was told there was no money to purchase the books. It was suggested that I get the book read it then share. We are in a high poverty area and need help to restore positive feedback within our selves as well as being the best teacher we can be. I know this isn’t a long response but, your book is just what I ( we) need. I hope you chose me so I can share the news with my teachers.
    Thank you

  34. It is a struggle that my rural title one campus struggles with every year – increasing a students view of the world and of what thier life can be. My middle school campus provides as many experiences as we can think of to help our students realize that they can go to college and that their is life beyond what they currently know. We talk about our experiences with our students and parents and have a “college wall”. We discuss different professions with our students and encourage community members to come in and talk with our students. We take our 8th grade students on a field trip to a college day each year – many of our students have never traveled that far from home. All of these things have helped increase our students world and future view but more needs to be done.
    The idea of engaging all students in a future view of themselves where they could be anything with the monetary block is so encouraging. What a world we would live in if this was true – what a difference it would make in today’s world.

  35. If I were able to engage every one of my 170 students so that they were able to achieve success in my course (high school chemistry), then I would know that I was finally being a “highly effective teacher” & making a difference in their lives & future.

  36. If every student was engaged, inspired, empowered…it would mean
    they had ownership of their learning, hope for their future
    and an amazing teacher who loved them and worked from
    a growth mindset. It would mean a bright future!

  37. Engaging students means reaching all students. Showing that you care. Taking extra effort to meet all of their needs not just the academics . I have a very strong supportive staff that are professionally driven and passionate about student learning. They constantly do everything it takes to help support kids.
    I am very lucky to work in an early years school with fantastic people .

  38. It would mean that teachers are equipped to appropriately engage students in holistic learning/consideration of all aspects of US history, and in our democratic society, able to support his/her beliefs with evidence, and to respectfully consider the merit/foundation of opposing viewpoints, and to become leaders in their respective communities (classrooms, schools, neighborhoods, teams, churches, etc.).

Comments are closed.