In a recent article, an author presupposes that the most effective way to remove racism from the school’s curriculum is that it become inclusive of the contributions of all people regardless of their ethnicity. While the inclusion of all ethnicities is important, it becomes more important to consider the viewpoints of the teachers that are in the classroom. The most effective way to remove racism from a school’s curriculum is to ensure that White teachers are placed in a position where they become more reflective of their craft rather than becoming defensive.
According to the article, Getting racism out of school curricula, the author provides an example on how the school curriculum became more conducive for children of color. The teacher, Emily E. Smith – a White teacher – became more in tune to the needs of her students after self-reflection. It was specifically stated in the article that, “…during a classroom discussion, one of my kids bluntly told me I couldn’t understand because I was a white lady. I had to agree with him… My curriculum from then on shifted… We studied the works of Sandra Cisneros, Pam Munoz Ryan and Gary Soto, with the intertwined Spanish language and Latino culture – so fluent and deep in the memories of my kids that I saw light in their eyes I had never seen before. We analyzed Langston Hughes’s ‘Let America be America Again’ from the lens of both historical and current events and realized that the United States is still the land that has never been.”
The materials that teachers can utilize to implement the school curriculum have always been available. It is up to the teacher to decide to use those materials. Without a reflective process teachers will only become defensive.
What factors will contribute to teachers rejecting a school’s curriculum that benefits students of color?
Discrimination against marginalized students is a persistent problem in classrooms throughout the United States which contributes teachers refusing to implement a school curriculum that benefits students of color. Classroom interaction studies have found teachers discriminate against students who are not White, male, and middle class. White teachers create classroom problems when they interpret culture as a limitation to student progress.
When cultural awareness between White teachers and Black students is absent, the impending result is interference with effective instructional processes caused by frustration and alienation between White teachers and Black students. Black students have difficulty accepting teachers as the primary source of knowledge due to becoming accustomed to sharing information on an equal basis with adults rather than the adult teaching them. Teachers treat Black students as though they are incapable decision makers that require their permission to do everything even though the student has had experience caring for younger brothers and sisters, teaching them safety and personal hygiene skills, and taking care of the home. Black students withdraw from the instructional process or become discontented with whatever the teacher does when the teacher hinders student spontaneity and enthusiasm and punishes the student by requiring the student to raise his or her hand in order to be recognized.
Teaching Black students requires creating a culturally compatible classroom that concentrates on developing motivation rather than classroom discipline and management techniques and the teaching process of handling material as well as content. Teachers can reach all of their students when they understand the ways in which culture influences the educational process. How students perceive and react to their classroom instructions may be more important in terms of influencing student outcomes than the quality of teaching behavior. Black students will continue to carry their own culture into the classroom, and they will continue to misunderstand their middle-class teacher as profoundly as she or he misunderstands them.
Students who find their culture and learning styles reflected in instruction are more likely to be motivated and less likely to be disruptive. In order for culturally different students to succeed in the classroom or school, students are required to assimilate by giving up their learning style preference that results from the teacher not modifying their instruction.
Instead of using a process that mandates teachers to rid the school curriculum of racism, ask teachers to become more reflective of their curriculum by using the following steps:
- Establish a pilot team
- Develop a shared vision for the pilot team
- Provide the pilot team with the required State Standards
- Provide the team with alternative resources that are culturally accepted by the students, parents, and the community that they live
- Have the team to develop a strategic plan of implementation
- Implement the plan
- Record quantitative and qualitative results
- Provide overall results to entire school community
Finally, revise the original strategic plan to include all school curriculum successes and implement in the entire school.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
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