Poverty simulation gives Geneva City teachers look at struggles of some students

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- Over 50% of the school lunches handed out each day in Geneva City Schools are free or reduced. That led school leaders to give their teachers a closer look at the lifestyles their students may be going through every day.

Geneva City Schools Superintendent Ron Snell said, "Anytime you can get a teacher to be empathetic why would homework not be on time? What are the thing, the things a child faces before he ever walks into your room? Why does he not have his materials? Why would he behave that way? Well, the only way to do that is to walk in somebody's shoes."

The Alabama Association of School Boards teamed up with Geneva City schools to take teachers through a two-hour poverty simulation.
teachers were guided through four 15 minute week scenarios.

Whitney Miller Nicholas, Assistant Leadership Director for Alabama Association Of School Boards said, "They're tasked, they have to accomplish everything from paying rent to cashing checks, making sure their family is fed to maintaining their benefits through social service."

Volunteers from all walks of life participated in the simulation and organizers believe everyone could benefit from this training.

One teacher said, "I was a classroom teacher myself and I firmly believe if I would have had this experience as a pre-service teacher and a classroom teacher it would have fundamentally changed the way I interacted with my students and families. It really allows you to take into consideration what your families are going through and to evaluate your classroom practices or even your school system practices to make sure that you're accommodating all the angle of experiences your students have."

Scenarios included single elderly adults, homeless, co-parenting and teenagers acting as guardians.

For one volunteer this experience got him out of his comfort zone.

Steve Skidmore said,"I'm used to folks coming in and I do everything I can to try to not have to charges, food clothing rent, things like that I can help with but with this payday loan their strict roles they have to go by if they don't meet certain qualifications they just have to get turned away."

Organizers hope teachers gained a better picture of what their students are going through and how better to accommodate them.

This is Geneva City Schools first year hosting this simulation and next year they plan to do it for the high school.