Education: Learning to Rise above Poverty 8
performance (Bryant & Maxwell, 1999).
One connection between poverty and school performance is stress. It is a well-known fact that money issues are extremely stressful and cause more stress and family problems. This can be especially problematic for children who live in poverty, due to the ongoing cycle of stress and family issues caused by the inability to meet basic needs.
Eric Jensen (1998) explained the function of the brain in the learning process, and specifically addressed the issue of stress. He discussed how the brain is programmed to respond to stress and repeated exposure to stressful situations can cause many difficulties. For example, physical symptoms are increased. This includes nausea, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing, which are directly related to anxiety. The cycle of stress and physical symptoms greatly affect the child’s ability to learn and can result in lower test scores and academic achievement. This is due to how the brain functions. It responds to emotions, and some emotions take precedence over others. If the brain senses great fear, the focus remains on that stimuli and shuts all other forms out, including learning. Clabaugh (2006) also stated this in his research. He said that people are a product of their environments and sometimes allow emotions to overpower their intelligence. With all of this being said, many will question how educators can control the emotional aspect of learning. It will be the argument of many that teachers are not psychologists or counselors, but is that an accurate assumption? According to educational theorists and researchers, this would be an inaccurate assumption. Throughout history, theorists and researchers have addressed the social-emotional aspect of learning, which includes the stress and its effects. Alfie Kohn (2006) specifically mentions the need for teachers to form caring, trusting relationships with students, to have the ability to teach social