It’s Not My Fault Pt 2

2 November 2012

In the previous post I spoke of my reaction to the phrase, “It’s not my fault.”

One of the contexts that I regularly hear the comment “it’s not my fault” is in the area of poverty.  Now before we get too far into this topic please understand three things:

1.  I am trying to reflect and write on an incredibly complex topic in around six hundred words – this is not designed to be an exhaustive commentary

2.  I am speaking generally – every situation is unique and I am trying to address what I believe are some universal principles that deal with poverty as it intersects education and the excuse it’s not my fault.

3.  My whole purpose is to help you reflect and respond.  I am not trying to solve the problem, rather just have a discussion about it.  Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section below.  I posted a link to the previous post on LinkedIn which has sparked quite a discussion!  Feel free to comment wherever you feel most comfortable.


A lot of people talk about poverty being a major inhibitor in education.  Too often I hear it’s not my fault and then the person will continue to talk about the role that poverty has played in their results.  Whilst this certainly is the experience of many schools in low socio-economic communities, I’m not so sure that it has to be the reality.

Here’s why:

1.  Overcoming adversity is not just a Hollywood thing

Over the last five years I had the pleasure (and yes I do mean pleasure) of teaching some of the most difficult and disadvantaged students in the state, and I would imagine in the country.

Some of my students were homeless for varying lengths of time, came from abusive backgrounds, and were managing all manner of addictions.  They often smelt; well let’s just say unpleasant, came without bags or food and often blamed their present reality on their circumstances.

Despite the overwhelming circumstances every year without fail, there would always be that small handful of students who decided that enough was enough, and they were going to take responsibility for their future.

At the beginning of the year you couldn’t predict who that group of students would be.   Would it be the single mum?  The guy just released from Juvenile Detention for break and enter?  The sixteen year old pregnant girl?  Or any of the other types of situations that had to be faced?

Every year I witnessed real students overcome despite their poverty.  Most started off the year saying it’s not my fault, but some learnt that whilst this is true, it wasn’t their fault, it didn’t have to be their future.

2.  I think money can make people lazy.

 I was just reminiscing with my wife about when we were first married.  Both of us were studying full-time, and were living off a very tight budget.  My wife reminded me of a conversation we once had where we dreamt about the day where we could buy lots of vegetables and wouldn’t have to eat so much rice.

When I look back on those days, some of my most creative moments came when I had  limited resources.

The same is true with my teaching.  Some of my most creative moments have come when I have not had the resources I needed.  These students find a way despite their circumstances.

3.  Poverty isn’t the issue.  However a poverty mentality is.

When you have a poverty mentality you don’t see the possibility, you see the circumstance.  Those with a poverty mentality usually have a victim mentality that believes that this is just my lot in life.

When people have a poverty mindset the next logical step is to blame someone else.  “It’s not my fault” can become a default position.  Rather than taking responsibility for their future, they blame someone else for their past.

Let me be clear.  I didn’t say that poverty isn’t AN issue; I said that it’s not THE issue.  We need to understand the difference (more of this in the next post)

As teachers, we can play an amazing role in helping you people change their thinking and outlook on life.

My challenge to my students has always been, get over your victim mentality, choose to see the potential and get creative in how you are going to solve your problem.

It’s not my fault has never gotten anyone anywhere!

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