- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - More than 70 Lefler school district educators recently participated in a role-play event hosted by the Food Bank of Lincoln to experience the kind of poverty that 56 percent of their students live every day.

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2b018QD ) reports that Lefler is the first school to go through the simulation. Organizers hope other schools will soon do the same.

Lefler Principal Jessie Carlson had his staff participate in the exercise as part of a five-year effort to reduce the gap in both achievement and discipline rates for students living in poverty.

The role play exercise divided teachers into different groups, each with a packet that told their family story. Identities were assigned to each participant.

Reading teacher Josh Hawes, who took on the persona of 17-year-old Dan Duntley, quickly went from thinking the exercise was a fun challenge, to getting mad at the roadblocks that got in his way.

“I was trying to do things right, but there was no way to get out of the hole. There was nothing we could do. No light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

His 17-year-old identity got sent to jail for selling drugs. His mom got him out. When he got picked up the next day for truancy, he got angry at the cop, defensive.

“I was much more combative than I am in normal life,” he said, and it surprised him that he intuitively acted that way.

Teachers said the exercise put them in the shoes of struggling children and teens, and gave them a new perspective on why parents aren’t involved at school, and why kids act out.

“There was no long-term planning. Everything was crisis, crisis, crisis,” said Michalla Schartz, a special education teacher. “I don’t think we understand how big a problem it is for kids.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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