According to Payne, how a person thinks is determined by their relationships and knowledge, their resources and the demands of their environment. Further, the thinking between poverty, middle class and the wealthy is vastly different. These differences lead to misunderstandings in daily interactions at school, work and on the streets.
“I learned there are hidden rules. Hidden rules are unspoken cueing mechanisms people used to let them know you don’t belong,” Payne explained. “How many people have gone to a church and stood up at the wrong time? That’s a hidden rule.”
Payne has been actively involved in education since 1972. Her experience with people in poverty has given her a different view in approaching students and issues in school. Since 1996, Payne has certified 7,000 trainers in “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.”
“Let me tell you a couple of more rules of poverty. First, the noise level is higher. Let me explain to you why,” Payne said. “First, you have more people living in a smaller space. Second, you keep the TV on and whatever else because it drowns out noises you don’t want to hear.”
Payne went on to say another hidden rule in generational poverty is that important information is given nonverbally.
“Everybody in this room gives about 240 nonverbal signals at any given time,” Payne said. “When you are in a survival environment, you learn to pay attention to nonverbal, because nonverbal tells you a person’s intent.”
According to Payne, survival is one of three matters of focus for people in poverty. The other two are relationships and entertainment.
“Poverty is painful and one of the tools you use to survive is entertainment, because it takes away the pain,” Payne explained.
Dr. Jerry Faulkner, Cleveland State’s former vice president for Academic Affairs, sought Payne out to speak at this year’s in-service. Faulkner hoped Payne would provide insight into the minds and behaviors of the students in and surrounding Cleveland State. This includes the students from generational poverty backgrounds, as well as the middle class and wealthy.
“As educators, we need to understand the culture, language, and attitudes that often accompany the economic state,” Faulkner said in a recent press release.
Payne provided insight and several hidden rules for each one of the backgrounds.
“In your role as staff members you will help your students if you form relationships. There is much these students do not know,” Payne revealed. “Number one: [the students who come from poverty] do not know that it is going to be lonely. Number two: [the students] do not know that it is going to be frustrating and discouraging at times. If they are the first to go to college in their family, then they do not have the stories that middle class or wealthy students receive from their parents.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Payne discussed the hidden rules of wealth.
“One thing people do not know is there is no place more competitive to live than new money,” Payne began. “You have the money to give your children opportunities, but not the connections. The only way for your child then to have those opportunities is by your child being the best. When a parent comes to you and says, ‘My child needs to receive straight As,’ they are not joking.”
The five hidden rules of wealth are: It’s not OK to not be perfect; details make or break you; if you do not have connections or wealth you will be grilled on your expertise; time is more important than money; and social exclusion is the weapon of choice.
Payne explained the difference between poverty and wealth is just as large as the difference between wealth and the middle class.
“In middle class, if people want to know if you are worthy of respect they ask you what you do,” Payne said. “In wealth, if they want to know if you are worthy of respect they start by asking where you went to graduate school to see if it was Ivy League. If it is not, then they will ask questions about where you travelled.”
The middle class, according to Payne, base their decisions off of three things: work, achievement and pursuit of material things.
Lauralyn Anderson, the division secretary of Math and Natural Sciences at Cleveland State, said she was pleasantly surprised by how engaged she was by Payne’s presentation.
“The big thing for me is relationships with the students,” Anderson shared. “Instead of being quick to speak, I am really going to stop and think about where they are coming from.”
The second half of Payne’s Tuesday presentation was focused on resources and how resources impact a person and his or her ability to navigate daily life.
When asked what she wanted the audience to take away from the presentation, Payne responded, “That your environment shapes so much of your knowledge base and your knowledge base is such a form of privilege.”