Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 6
This week we are going to dive into the final chapter of “Closing the Attitude Gap” titled, Relevance in Instruction, Do I Realize Who My Students Are?
Before beginning Chapter 6, look into a mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:
Do I realize who my students are?
Do my students realize who they are?
Do I think it’s important for my students to learn “their story”?
Do my students think it’s important to learn “their story”?
Do I have responsibility to teach my students “their story”?
Do my students have a responsibility to learn “their story”?
Do my lessons take “their story” into consideration?
Do my students identify with and relate to what I teach them?
Will knowing “their story” affect the way my students see themselves?
Will knowing “their story” affect the way I see my students?
One of the many things I have learned from listening to and speaking with Principal Kafele is that I am personally disconnected from the history many of our students have been raised in. Specifically, he shares experiences travelling from city to city and stopping at historical sites such as the Edmund PettusBridge in Selma, Alabama and Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Do you know what historical events happened at each location?
In learning about both of these events, you are developing a deeper understanding of some of our students’ story. With these two specific examples, and sharing other examples relevant to our students, they begin to view themselves differently and see themselves as a descendant of greatness, which compels them to see themselves in a positive light.
Many of our students, majority or minority do not know themselves fully because they do not know their history. Couple this with the fact that a large percentage of educators do not know their students’ history (myself included) and you have a recipe for disaster in the classroom (Howard, 2006).
Regardless of the number of professional development hours a teacher accumulates, students will not begin to truly soar until they can answer the question, “Who Am I?” Principal Kafele shares his belief that, “the academic problems associated with minority students have little to do with their ability to read, write or do math. It is my contention that these children are brilliant and most highly capable, just like anyone else. I am convinced that when give the opportunity to learn in learning environments that are conducive to them having the will to strive for excellence, they will do just that.”
In Principal Kafele’s book, Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life, in 2009 he focuses on black males and their struggle to answer the question “Who Am I?” relative to their history and culture. Knowing who they are in history increases the probability that students will develop a deeper sense of purpose for their lives; it gives their existence in the world greater meaning whey they know about those who struggled so that they could have the opportunities that they have now.
It’s difficult for students to answer the question “Who Am I?” if his teacher is not in a position to answer the related question “Do I realize who my students are?” Tens of thousands of educators across the country do not realize who black and Latino children are historically , because we, just like the students were not adequately educated about their history. (Singleton & Linton 2006)
Realizing Who Your Students Are
Every student at Sigler has a story. Do you know the stories that exist in your classroom? Their stories define who they are as individuals. By learning their story you are learning about them. Their stories are those life experiences that have shaped them into who they are today.
In addition to their unique story, they are part of a bigger story. Each of them belongs to a racial or ethnic group, the history of which also serves to define each student. It is imperative that we familiarize ourselves with who our students are historically. It is a must that you learn their collective stories, which can clarify the reasons for the life challenges that so many of our students face on a daily basis at Sigler. When students are disconnected from who they are historically, they risk gravitating to anyone who looks like them, regardless of how destructive their behaviors may be, simply because they are offered no alternative role models who share their race or ethnicity. In order to alleviate this challenge, you must learn your students’ stories and teach the stories to them.
With that said, this week’s Twitter Task, for those who choose to participate is, “Tweet one thing that can be used to teach our students about their history”. Do not forget to include the hashtag #siglerlearns.