Recent protests against racial injustice has once again shone a spotlight upon disparities between different ethnic groups. Naturally, as an educator I found myself thinking about how issues of race play out in schools and what teachers and leaders can do to narrow such disparaties. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but as someone who has educated black boys for over ten years, these are just a few of the things that are effective in helping them to achieve academic success.
- Create a classroom culture where it’s okay to be intellectual. Some, but not all black boys will mock each other for appearing smart and bright. You must challenge this, everytime.
- Ensure that some of the curriculum is culturally responsive to the culture of your black students. Find out about their backgrounds and create opportunities for them to see their own cultures in the world’s narrative. Never use lazy arguments to practise the contrary, such as “the curriculum doesn’t allow me to” or “it’s not on the exam specification”
- Keep your expectations high and don’t compromise your demands for excellence. This applies to both behaviour and academic standards. Don’t be overbearing, but send a clear message that you expect their best on all occasions.
- Forge a connection with their families but do this before any problems that might occur. By doing so you are showing that you are invested in their whole being. It will benefit you also as you’ll find that their families will often support you all the way to ensure the best outcomes for their children.
- Make it an expectation that they’ll go on to further study. Speak about college, university and post-graduate education as if you expect this is the natural path for them. Normalise black achievement so that it becomes the rule and not the exception.
The beauty of taking these approaches is that they’re beneficial to all students. You are not a magician. You are not God. You are a teacher. Just teach as well as you possibly can with the resources you have.