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Monday, March 16, 2015

Do Black Children Do Better with Black Teachers

New research confirms that black students excel when they are taught by black teachers. Interestingly enough, three years ago, a different study contended that the race of children doesn't matter. The way I see it, each of these statements is true... and also false.

I have observed through personal relationships, and/or just plain observation that a child will be who you set in their mind they will be.  If you tell a child he is stupid, he will act stupid. If you say a child is bad at math, she will continue to be bad at math. Children are very open to suggestion. This is just part of the problem.

I also know, just from dealing with my own kids and observing others, that children will meet the bar you set, and no more. So if you place the bar low, the child will meet it and then coast from that point.  If you keep raising the bar, children will work to meet the bar. Eventually, if you keep raising the bar, they will learn to keep excelling on their own... if you keep lowering the bar to meet
them, they will become lazy and won't produce.

So this becomes a racial issue when children are exposed to instructors who know nothing, and don't care to know anything about that child's background, from a cultural or personal perspective, and instead makes assumptions based on their own experiences with a person of that race, and places that assumption on the child and what they can accomplish. In other words, Miss Sally Jones, a white women who is well educated, and had limited exposure to black kids, goes to teach in a black school. Her only exposure to black kids is a couple of people she met in college and did not find them especially bright  for whatever reason.  Likewise, she dismisses these kids as not very bright, and 'bless their hearts', she just humors the children and accepts work that is barely acceptable and calls it an A.

Miss Dora White, on the other hand, is a black woman who has taught in inner city schools for years, and knows a spark of genius when she sees it.  She also, being a black woman, knows very many black kids who are very bright, and so expects the most from her students, regardless of what color.  When a child brings her sub-par work, she grimaces and tells them to try again.  You can do better she says.  The child goes back to the drawing board and does better.

This is not to say that the same child won't also encounter Mr. Levine, a white male, who has grown up with and worked with black people all his life, and he has learned to not judge any child on first glance. Mr. Levine will engage, try different tactics that might even stimulate a child from a cultural perspective, having lived in and around that child's racial culture and having some insight. He could even do a better job than Ms. White, and he may have developed a passion and special interest in learning about that culture from a fresh perspective.  He may connect with children in a way that not only inspires them to raise the bar, but also excite them and make learning fun.

So,  my point is, black kids with black teachers, will most certainly do better than black students with white teachers... if the teachers are equally inexperienced and approaching the teaching of these children from within their own cultural framework. But take a teacher of any race who takes time to understand where a child might be coming from, who can excite children, and not make judgements, and it won't matter if that teacher is orange, and those kids are magenta. They will learn from them.

The problem is we just don't have enough Mr. Levines.  We have far too many Miss Sally Jones' who are new to teaching and don't have enough social experience to deal with a kid who is not like them. And then, the Ms. White's are spread too thin, mostly because their value is clear, but we have to few of them. Hopefully, over time, Ms. Jones' will turn into Mr. Levine types, but chances are many will leave the school system before getting there.

Oh, and I should probably add that black mothers who homeschool their black kids will have the best results probably because they already know their kids and expect them to succeed.  They will continually challenge and encourage them to meet the bar, and sometimes even lower a bar or two temporarily to give the child a sense of satisfaction.  There is a certain insight a homeschooling parent has with their own child (regardless of color) that even Mr. Levine will have trouble competing with.

In the end, we need to stop worrying about the race of each child and each teacher, and staff schools with a good mix of races, so children will look around and see themselves represented among other students, teachers, and administrators, and even if they don't have a black teacher for each class, or even each year, they will feel represented in the school.  Also, with a good mix of teachers, there will always be someone to whisper to the young Miss Jones' and remind her that a child who she isn't giving the benefit of the doubt can accomplish more than she thinks.  This is how she will transform into a future Mr. Levine.

I'm not saying race of teacher is not important to students, because it is, because understanding of the child is important to students, but that can be fixed with some cultural and sensitivity training (done regularly and often).

1 comment:

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Black homeschool moms "will continually challenge and encourage them to meet the bar, and sometimes even lower a bar or two temporarily to give the child a sense of satisfaction." Perfect! Wish all teachers had that sense. Including me sometimes. :)