Educators and psychologists know that learning is significantly affected by factors such as stress, anxiety, self-image, cultural expectations and societal expectations. The increasing number of students diverse backgrounds in today’s classrooms introduces a tremendous diversity of lived experience which influences how students learn.
In today’s public schools, the majority of teachers, 80% are white, and the majority of learners are students of color. This fact alone suggests a strong potential for a cultural and communication gap between teachers and their students. Research findings confirm that black students face significant challenges to their learning as a result of unconscious bias and lack of cultural awareness on the part of teachers. It is well documented that black students, particularly boys, are more likely to be on the receiving end of disciplinary action, more likely to be suspended from school, and are at greater risk of failing than are other students. It is also well documented that black children are perceived to be older than white children of the same age and are more likely, as a result, to have expectations for behavior that are developmentally inappropriate. These factors, along with micro-aggressions that are common, and sometimes racially motivated aggression by peers render the learning environment for black students fraught with challenges that may be unseen or unrecognized by educators.
In this course, we will examine the factors that come together to create unique challenges to black students in the classroom and explore ways in which teachers can minimize those challenges and support school success for all students.