Teachers in the Schuylerville Central School District experienced some of the struggles of poverty on Wednesday, Sept. 7 as part of professional development for the upcoming school year. The group took part in a poverty simulation, in which they experienced one month of poverty comprised of four fifteen-minute weeks.
“The idea behind the simulation is to help people understand the realities of poverty by role-playing what it is like to be part of a low-income family, working to provide shelter and other basic needs,” said Assistant Principal James Ducharme. “We asked our teachers to spend an hour literally walking in the shoes of some of their poorest students to help give them a sense of understanding and empathy.”
As part of the simulation, teachers were placed into families made up of one to five members. Each family received an envelope that described their demographics, income/resources, and bills. Each family member had to interact with “Community Agencies” (trained volunteers) who sat at tables around the perimeter of the room. During the course of the simulation, teachers had to cope with a mortgage/rental company, school, pawnbroker, banker, employer, and others. Afterwards, in the debriefing, teachers had the opportunity to share insights about the experience. Here is what one teacher shared:
“I thought the seminar was a realistic portrayal of the many hoops people in poverty need to jump through in order to receive services, make ends meet, and keep their families together. As an educator, it reminded me that school is perhaps the least stressful part of a student’s day. As educators we should strive to create positive learning environments so that students in poverty can excel in the classroom and apply that success in real life.”
To view photos from the simulation, click below.