As the summer break comes to an end and our teachers prepare to transition back to the all-important business of teaching and learning, I would like to offer a challenge to every classroom teacher to go “above and beyond” the business as usual mindset to better meet the needs of all students in the county school systems. No one should get a pass when it comes to the education of all our children and youth during the 2015-2016 school year. All teachers should stand firmly on the belief that all children can learn and deserve and education worthy of their promise.
Every year, our schools receive the disaggregated data and statistics, reporting an analysis of test scores and lament the poor educational outcomes of mostly students of color. However, we seem to stop short of developing concrete strategies, based on the best practices, that do help improve the effectiveness of instruction, along with the general school experience for youth of color.
Yes, there are best practices that teachers can use to become more skilled and successful with their work and interactions with our youth of color, helping them to develop a “constructive identity.” Additionally, the research clearly shows that there are best practices that can be used to create culturally affirming education for students of color. Increasing the reach of culturally affirming teachers will do more than anything else in positively impacting student achievement.
Also, culturally affirming teachers aren’t afraid to examine their own values, myths, stereotypes and worldview, believing that America’s history has evolved from all demographic groups, enriching each other. They remain cautious about making assumptions, remembering that students are individuals who “function best when they know the time and place for everything.” Knowing the importance of the classroom setting, these teachers make the classroom a place where all students feel honored, respected and valued and are engaged in learning that supports academic achievement.
When our community comes to terms with the root causes of our racial disparities in education, acknowledging they are due in large measure to the centuries of harmful effects caused by the lie of black inferiority and generations of inequality, we will take real action to change the climate of negative stereotypes, and our schools will be made better for all our children and youth.
Let me be clear: we need teachers who will let all students know they’re “still worth fighting for,” empowering them “to be where their skills, desires and opportunities will take them.” With each teacher serving to validate his/her students’ dreams and aspirations, you can empower your students to see their future.
Larry Sutton is a former Clinton High School history teacher.