In a recent article, Texas student Ahmed Mohamed has exposed discrimination in schools through his arrest for bringing in a science project. Evidently the lack of communication between teachers and administrators played a major role in this fiasco. Ahmed Mohamed is one of many children who continue to face discrimination in schools for which many schools can avoid by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.
According to the article, #IStandWithAhmed lesson: Curiosity is for white kids, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to his high school located in Irving, Texas. School officials and police have termed the engineering project as a “hoax bomb.” The youth was arrested for the incident that has received national attention.
The response from the community has been overwhelming in favor of the Texas muslim student. Ahmed Mohamed has revived several invitations from organizations and national figures. For example, he has invitations to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to a television show hosted by a Canadian astronaut, and a personal invitation from Mark Zuckerberg. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted “stay curious and keep building.” And even President Obama has extended a personal invitation for Ahmed Mohamed to bring the engineered clock to the White House.
Ahmed Mohamed has faced the same discrimination in schools that many Black and Hispanic students continue to face.
What are the factors that continue to contribute to discrimination in schools for students like Ahmed Mohamed?
Schools encompass cultural expectations that present challenges for Black students. Schools and Black student conflict result from expectation differences. The lack of cultural synchronization between Black students and administrators coupled with negative teacher expectations result in hidden and often unintended conflict between educators and their students. Black students believe White educators have low estimates of the students’ ability and worth. Black students believe their teachers are more prejudiced toward them when compared to White students and indicate a strong feeling of rejection.
Teachers who are culturally different from their students have a greater challenge creating a trusting environment when cultural diversity and race factors are not put on the table by the school and students perceive these factors as important to their identity and school success. School leaders must stop operating on the assumption that all the reasons for Black children’s problems with school rest with the children and adopt a perspective that the responsibility for Black students rests with the school system.
Many school social codes are unfamiliar and opposed to culturally diverse student home codes. Blacks have difficulty with school instructional concepts and ideas that are absent in their community, culture, or economic environment that ignore or misrepresent their present condition. School instructional procedures include cultural values, orientations, and perceptions that differ from those of Black students. Inappropriate curriculum and instruction are concerns that make reversing underachievement for culturally diverse students difficult. Most elementary and secondary school curriculum has a focus that benefits White middle-class children. Public schools continue to have culturally based philosophies and curricula that focus on White European and Judeo-Christian values.
How can schools avoid the negative perception associated with discrimination in schools for students like Ahmed Mohamed?
Positive relationships at schools and in the classroom are in many ways the prerequisites for effective learning and behavior. Students and teachers who are warm, compassionate, and friendly toward one another in the classroom have the potential to improve instruction and learning.
In addition, good teacher-student relationships include teachers communicating to students that they care about them. Teachers who are caring, friendly, helpful, understanding, and dependable have the ability to foster supportive relationships with their students.
Caring teachers’ communicate with students in three distinctive ways:
- They think about how what they say sounds from the students’ perspective.
- They respond authentically and respectfully rather than giving patronizing pats on the head or using sarcasm
- They explain what they are up to and give reasons for their requests.
Schools can avoid the perceptions of racism in schools associate with the Texas student Ahmed Mohamed incident by promoting positive racial teacher-student classroom relationships.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President