Monday, March 3, 2008

Poverty and Education

Please pray for Marquel as she begins taking her TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) achievement tests. Her 4th grade tests will cover Reading, Language/Grammer and Math. Passing these tests is a requirement for proceeding to the next grade level.

Marquel has had a tough time in school. Randy and I were completely unaware of "Generational Poverty" and how the rules of poverty apply to children and education. What an education we have had! Let me explain:

When Marquel came to San Antonio following Hurricane Katrina, she had just started 3rd grade. The shelter quickly threw together a school for the kids, but after a week they moved to Camp Promise (where we met them), and school was interuppted again as arrangements were made for registration and transportation to the closest school district. After a month at this school, the family moved into their new home in San Antonio, and another school transfer was made. By this time, over 2 months of precious and important school time had elapsed.

With the family settled in their new home, Randy and I backed away for the most part, allowing the family to regroup and begin a new life. The girls were enrolled in school, Marquel in 3rd grade and Annie in 1st grade.

One day we stopped by their house and the kids were not in school. Asking them why, one of them said, "Mom has a headache." Looking over at Mom, she nodded her head in acknowledgement and I realized "headache" really meant "hangover".

School became more and more sporadic, and we began to realize that mom's lifestyle was paramount, and education for her children was far down on her priority list. When Randy and I learned about "Generational Poverty" we realized that there were really 2 reasons for Mom's way of thinking: 1) What Mom wants (more beer) and needs (plenty of party time) is the most important thing on her agenda for any given day; and 2) Education for her children is not important for 2 reasons: a) she cannot perceive her children to be smarter than she is, as that is a threat to her Matriarchal position, and b) there is no thought about the future or belief that an education can ultimately be a bridge out of poverty (there is no comprehension of any other way of life, so there is no point in to education. After all, Mom can function quite well in her world).

May 5, 2006, Mom took the kids back to New Orleans with her. There was no thought of checking them out of school, because there was no thought of enrolling them in school in New Orleans. A month later, when Mom allowed us to come get the girls one of Marquel's first questions as she climbed into our car was, "Am I going to go to school tomorrow?" The look of excited anticipation quickly turned to disappointment as I explained that school was over for the year.

August, 2006 - When we went to enroll the girls in school we learned that Marquel had not passed her 3rd grade TAKS tests and too many days of school had been missed the prior year. Marquel and Annie were both required to repeat 3rd grade and 1st grade, respectively.

This was a hard pill for Marquel to swallow, and it took Annie most of the school year to figure out that she wasn't in 2nd grade. As the school year progressed it became clear that Annie was doing exceptionally well, loving school and learning quickly. Marquel was having a harder time, and I spent as many hours on weekends as I could helping her study and review for her tests.

One day I said something to her about 1st and 2nd grade in New Orleans (before Katrina). "I didn't go to school in New Orleans," she said. When Charlie was elaborating about something fun he had done in Kindergarten class, Annie said wistfully, "I wish I could have gone to Kindergarten." We questioned the girls several times, but they had no memory of school in New Orleans.

Why this is, we are not sure. Did the trauma of the hurricane create memory lapses, or was it that school was not important to Mom, and therefore not important, and not even memorable to the girls? Was their life so focused on survival that school was secondary? Or was school more like a babysitting service than a focus on education?

Marquel passed her 3rd grade tests, much to our relief! She continues to work very hard, and we have made a more concentrated effort to study with her on a regular basis. Without the basics of 1st and 2nd grade, it makes 4th grade work much harder.

We are so very thankful for the Angels who have offered to tutor Marquel. Her session with Miss Margaret every Sunday is her own special time (the high school English teacher who lives across the road from us). Our friend, Teresa, comes on weekends and spends time helping her as well. The girls adores Miss Teresa, because she does all the "girly" things with them - like pretty smelling lotions and fingernail polish.

There are many more Angels: Randy's sister, Deb, who is a teacher and her friend Cec (too bad they live in Nebraska!), and everyone who gives the kids attention and encouragement. I don't think people really understand the profound effect that a few words can have to kids who look up to and adore them.

Several weeks ago we asked that you remember Marquel in your prayers as we worked with her therapist. I know the prayers were answered, as some of you have commented on how much she has blossomed in the last few weeks. She opens up to us a little more all the time, allowing us to help her work through her feelings and thoughts.

Please keep Marquel in your prayers as she takes her tests over the next few weeks. Ask that she will be able to remember what she has worked so hard to learn. We know that God has special plans for sweet, tender-hearted Marquel!

As always - thank you!

Learn more about Generational Poverty at I highly recommend "A Framework of Understanding Poverty" available in the book section. Click here for a preview used by permission.

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