12 February 2008

Teachers Advised to Get Real on Race

Education Week has an article discussing a soon to be released book about coming to terms with race in the mixed classroom. The book "Everyday Anti-Racism" is edited by Mica Polock, the author of the 2005 book Colormute. That book chronicled Ms. Pollock's experiences as a young teacher and criticized among other things the refusal of teachers to talk about problematic racial patterns.

Now, Ms. Pollock circles back to that tough issue in a book due to be published in June by the New Press, of New York City. Called Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School, the volume contains 65 essays from scholars who offer advice for educators on recognizing when everyday classroom practices exacerbate racial inequalities and on becoming more constructively conscious and open about race

... several of the authors say, minority students can benefit from occasionally and temporarily working together, a practice that one author refers to at the high school level as “cocooning.”

“Sometimes the most effective antiracist strategy for helping students of color to navigate high school and move on to college is to give them opportunities to be ‘cocooned’ for some period of time in contexts that allow them to analyze in a safe environment what it means to be a racial-ethnic group member in and out of school and to draw inspiration and support from those who have traveled the same road before them,” writes Patricia Gándara, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a co-director of the Civil Rights Project there.

The trick may be to balance those opportunities for students with experience “crossing boundaries” in mainstream classrooms, Ms. Gándara says.

Setting a Tone
...Ronald F. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative...calls in his essay for tempering high academic expectations—or, in Mr. Ferguson’s term, “high perfectionism”—with an openness to helping students and answering their questions.

...students were more likely to report at year’s end that they had put forth their best effort when their teachers were perceived to be practicing both “high perfectionism” and “high help.”

... criticism reflects a high standard, and that they believe in the student’s ability to reach that standard. ...such messages can be more motivating for minority students, who are often wary of the feedback they get from teachers, than when educators overpraise them or give the same feedback to all students.

“Being a member of a stereotyped group puts one in a sort of bubble in which one can’t be certain whether the critical feedback comes from bias against their group or a teacher’s motivation to help one improve,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview. “In general, though, whites can enter a school situation thinking, ‘Teachers here believe in me.’ ”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man, you really get around!
I read this article also. It was interesting. My husband has taught in New York City schools (Bronx and Harlem) and various schools in CPS--almost all predominantly African American schools. I'm really not sure how he would put some of these suggestions into practice successfully. The idea of cocooning makes sense--until someone sees it as segregation. I think approaches like this would need to be supported by the administration and clearly explained to parents and undertaken only with their support. Otherwise it could lead to charges of prejudice and discrimination against teachers.