Can teachers reduce classroom discipline involving Black students?

In a recent article, it has been reported that public opinion considers California teachers as racist because of the over representation of Black student suspensions which results from classroom discipline. Many teachers believe that the major cause is student behavior and not the racial differences. White teachers can use other strategies that will ensure that they are not considered by public opinion as racist due to their classroom discipline techniques.

Presently, the California schools are utilizing a process termed ‘Restorative Justice’. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.

Even though the Restorative Justice System has had success with reducing the number of Black student suspensions, it is limited because it does not transform the culture of the schools nor does it transform the teachers behavior in such a fashion that it becomes conducive for both the student and the teacher.

It is important for teachers to understand that excessive Black student suspensions are counterproductive to academic achievement. The academic achievement of Black students is fast becoming a major priority in the United States. Many parents and other supportive organizations believe that if White teachers do not posses the capability nor ability to instruct Black students, then they are not qualified as a teacher. We find this movement becoming prominent in the United States under the guise of merit pay for teachers.

What strategies can White teachers use to reduce classroom discipline?

White teachers must understand some of the racial challenges that exist and have the high probability of producing classroom discipline. One possible source of classroom problems between White teachers and Black students is the trust factor.

Trust is developed before the White student and Black student have any type of verbal encounter. Trust is developed through initial facial expressions such as eye contact. Whites believe maintaining eye contact in face-to-face communication is most desirable. White American employees and employers believe maintaining eye contact communicates trustworthiness, masculinity, sincerity, and directedness and conclude when Black employees fail to maintain eye contact that the Black employees have something to hide. European Americans view looking away or looking downward as a sign of disinterest, shyness, or disrespect.

Some Black parents teach their children that looking an adult in the eye is a sign of disrespect while White children learn to do the opposite. When reprimanding Black children, they tend not to look at the teacher as a sign of respect. Blacks are less likely to maintain eye contact with persons in a position of authority, and Black children increase eye contact as they begin to trust the teacher. Black students who avert their eyes and verbally express themselves may be just as attentive as White students who gaze directly at the speaker. Students may avoid teacher eye contact when they do not want to be called on or do not know the answer and respond by busily taking notes, rearranging books and papers, and fropping their pencils. Black adults gaze at others when talking to indicate interest. Blacks often “give the eye” as a displeasure indication related to negative feelings.

One way to reduce classroom discipline that results from distrust between a White teacher and a Black student is to ask the class, “What steps can we take to develop trust?” You can take this opportunity to set-up classroom expectations with the intent of reducing classroom discipline.

The next possibility for classroom discipline that result from the racial differences between White teachers and Black and minority students is standing differences. Colleges teach teachers to ensure there is a distance between themselves and the students so the teacher can maintain discipline in the classroom. European Americans are more likely to have close social distance with Mexican Americans when compared to Blacks and prefer to keep their personal space at arm’s length. Hispanic Americans stand close to or side by side instead of face-to-face when talking to another person. Hispanic Americans stand 6 to 8 inches within an arm’s length when talking to another person. Latinos interact at a close distance and frequently touch one another. Latino Americans prefer closer standing distances when compared to North Americans. Blacks prefer closer social distance when compared to Mexican Americans. Blacks are more likely to touch each other in a conversation when compared to Whites. Individuals who perceive a proximity violator as someone who will provide them with negative rewards will react negatively when the proximity violator moves closer. Maintaining the appropriate or comfortable proximity is associated with a positive effect, friendship, and attraction.

One way to close the standing distance challenges is when students are working, examine and critique their work from a close distance. You can go as far as placing your finger on their papers that are resting on the desk to close the standing distance without it being considered offensive.

The next possibility for classroom discipline is the verbal exchange between the White teacher and the Black student is debating techniques. Blacks not only debate the idea; they also debate the person while Whites debate the idea rather than the person debating the idea. Blacks often probe beyond a given statement to find out where a person is “coming from,” in order to clarify the meaning and value of a particular behavior or attitude.

A White teacher can elect not to take this debating technique as a personal attack on them or their character. Or use this opportunity to teach students the proper techniques for winning a debate as an instructional tool.

Another point of contention for classroom discipline is talking during instruction. Black students contrast White middle-class communication when they speak over others’ voices and repeat the communication until they are responded to or until they have someone’s attention. Spontaneity in conversation is an acceptable component for Blacks, although others perceive interrupting another speaker in conversation as rude. Speaker and audience are often interchangeable as Blacks who are listening will often “call out” or respond to a speaker. Black communities accept the approach that their children use by interrupting others or speaking out of turn, which is an unacceptable school practice, and teachers view this behavior as disruptive and inappropriate.

Teachers who are confronted with students who talk during instruction can as that student, “Do you have something to add to the instruction?” You can also have students involved in additional cooperative learning activities which allows them to talk about the instruction and further setting the expectations for talking in the classroom.

You will notice that not every cultural challenge that leads to a classroom discipline has a recommended solution. In some cases, in order to avoid classroom discipline it is better to equip teachers with the cultural knowledge in a hope that it will become a more acceptable standard operating procedure for the classroom.

 

Related Articles

Classroom chaos? Parents, students say discipline reforms send wrong message

School chaos ahead: Dropping basic discipline

A look at local districts’ discipline numbers

How teachers are taught to discipline a classroom might not be the best way

Report Faults Charter School Rules on Discipline of Students

Racial disparities in suspensions decrease, but remain, under Madison schools discipline plan

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
www.positiveracialrelationships.com
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

 

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About Classroom Racism Management Specialist

Racism is a menace and so we’ve been taught for ages which is the primary need for a diversity expert. However, even in this modern society of today where we see a lot of colored celebrities performing on stage with huge fan followings and of course an Afro-America President for the USA, we are still in a phase where racism exists in all its brutal glory and has been eating away at the society like a plague. Classrooms, are one of the most affected areas where color differences and racism exists to its extremes. Even after decades of progress and a lot of communal efforts at bridging the gaps between colored students, white students and teachers, it is sad to say that the disparities still exist and are just as pronounced today as they were back in the 1950s. Colored students, even in the likes of New York City, are attending under resourced schools or have been significantly isolated and made to be unequal in regular schools. Even if the teachers are well-intentioned, perpetuating the structural racism that has taken deep roots into the fabric of our education system is a tough task and make the need for a diversity expert imperative. Teachers need to recognize the biases that exist within the classroom and also take conscious measures to address them and their own biases of course. James Baldwin once said, “it is your very own responsibility to change this society, if you think of yourself as an educated person.” Dr. Derrick L. Campbell took this quote very effectively and straight to the heart and thus this Classroom Racism Exterminator happened. Classroom Racism Exterminator is an initiative that will teach you about your duty and moral obligation towards eliminating racism from the classrooms. This is where and how you will learn about what you need to do to produce a better society that is free of biases and disparities amongst the blacks and the whites. Because we understand how classroom biases and conversations about racism are difficult and how teachers and students almost avoid the topics altogether, we have put together a range of effective methods and products to help address the problem at hand and talk meaningfully to counter issues related to race and racism in the classroom. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell understands that it takes a lot of courage to talk about race and racism and that racial issues need to be viewed through a very critical lens that can understand and attend to the pertaining aspects of racism in the classroom. And therefore through this website we have made a conscious effort to eliminate racism from the classroom and make the educational system equal and beneficial for all. We know and we understand that there are no words that can actually describe how racism feels. There are cases and everybody tends to deal with it in their own manner. Some might lash out verbally or others might just withdraw into shells. Whatever the case, people don’t talk about it openly and teachers don’t really make a conscious effort at addressing the issue. We don’t really know if our children or if the youth is learning to be educated or become racists in their classroom. Our program is focused on helping children of color and regardless of their race, their full potential. We want every student to be able to recognize and reach their full potential so that they think of themselves as responsible citizens of their country and not regard themselves as worthless human beings. Here you will find motivational books and flash card games, all of which have been designed focusing on eliminating racism completely from our classrooms. The books and the games have been consciously designed keeping in mind the American society and educational system. It is a small effort on our and Dr. Campbell’s part to help this society become a better place to live in. A little about diversity expert Dr. Campbell Dr. Derrick L. Campbell the driving force behind Classroom Racism Exterminator is a dynamic figure and a constant source of motivation for us. He has a Bachelors of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology, Math Education, a Masters in Education Administration and also holds a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Dr. Campbell is a well known personality throughout the nation. He has lectured at various events including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference and a lot of local churches. He is a personality well dedicated towards eliminating the plague of racism from our classrooms and helping every child recognize his/her true potential not the color of their skin. He realizes how a child would feel if he/she was made to think they are worthless human beings. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell is compassionate and related to the experiences and therefore this initiative is a constant and continual effort to eliminate racism manifested in us, completely from the classroom and from our society.
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