Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Communities for Rural Poor (page 2)

By — Diversity in Education Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Apr 11, 2011

What Teachers Can Do To Promote Inclusion

Regulate language. Teachers should work to ensure that language used in the classroom reflects a commitment to and respect for diversity. Terms such as “white trash” that disparage the poor should be added to no tolerance policies already in place for minorities. Clothing with similarly offensive content should be banned as well. 

Mix it up. Encourage interaction and provide ample opportunities for children and their families to get to know each other across class boundaries.

Be direct.Don’t be afraid to engage in conversations with students about social class. We have too few opportunities to talk explicitly about the relative challenges and advantages that have more to do with the social class into which we are born than our individual talents and efforts.

What Schools and Communities Can Do To Promote Inclusion

Examine policies. Consider carefully whether and how school boundaries function to integrate or segregate the community’s poorer children and families. Planning and zoning policies often isolate lowest cost housing to certain sections of town. Policies should be monitored for the type of community they may create.

Create inclusive programs. The developmental value of participation in after-school sports and enrichment programs is clear. Yet struggles with transportation, pay-to-play fees, and the cost of extras like special clothing, equipment, or travel food can keep poor and working poor kids from participating. Local pecking orders can mean that while stigmatized children and youth can make the team, they may not have a chance to play. Ensure that scholarship programs are widely advertised, equitably offered, sufficient, and shame-free and find ways to allow everyone to play.

Outreach to families. Schools provide an ideal local institution through which to focus interventions. Specialized training can prepare teachers and staff to work more effectively with all kinds of families. Support for outreach approaches like home visits can provide the first steps for building home-school connection with hard to reach families. Social events that allow parents to interact can also provide additional opportunities.


1. Elder, G., & Conger, R. (2000). Children of the Land: Adversity and Success at Century's End. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

2. Salamon, S. (2003).

3. Fitchen, J. M. (1981). Poverty in rural America: A case study Boulder: Westview.

4. MacTavish, K., & Salamon, S. (2006). Pathways of youth development in a rural trailer park. Family Relations, 55, 175-189.

5. MacTavish, K. (2007). The wrong side of the tracks: Social inequality and

Katherine MacTavish is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. Her research focuses on child development and family well being in the context of rural communities. For the past decade, Dr. MacTavish has been examining how growing up in a rural trailer park shapes the eventual life chances of children and adolescents. Prior to completing her graduate training, Dr. MacTavish was a public school teacher and program administrator in rural New Mexico.

Newcomers to old towns: Suburbanization in the heartland Chicago. University of Chicago Press. Duncan, C. M. (1999). Worlds apart: Why poverty persists in rural America New Haven Yale University Press. Duncan, C. M. (1999). Worlds apart: Why poverty persists in rural America New Haven Yale University Press. Mbile home park residence. Community Development, 38, 74–91.

View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.