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  • Lasha Pierce MD

The Road to Engagement Starts with Trust

Learning is not passive. Learning is active. Students learn more if they can

talk about what they are learning, write about it, sing about it, relate it to past

and present experiences and apply it in a meaningful way to their lives.

Sitting in class and listening to teachers, then memorizing content for the test

is certainly not evidence based and is not proven to be effective.



However, having the courage to publicly discourse about topics and ideals

requires a student to have trust. Trust in their teacher, in the school

community as a whole, trust in their peers to accept and value their

perspectives. And most importantly, trust in themselves and their abilities.

The trust of African American students in the educational system has

historically been betrayed and is need of repair.




Increasing engagement among African American students decreases the

achievement gap. Teachers that emphasis effort, not merely ability (thus

improvement is under each student’s control) and incorporate this value into

feedback are most successful engaging students in the classroom. African

American students who can develop positive interpersonal relationships with

their teachers [and peers] perform better academically and I think we can all

agree that any positive relationship is built on trust, acceptance and good

communication. Communication assumes mutual two way sharing of ideas

and mutual respect.


Re-engaging African American students in the classroom requires an

intention and commitment to earn and keep their trust. It requires

purposeful, specific planning around incorporating best practices suited to

those learners. It requires rewarding effort, striving to make them feel valued,

safe and comfortable, and accepting constructive criticism. Remember,

communication is a two way endeavor and students feel respected when

their experiences are validated.


Teachers must protect this historically neglected group of learners from

further in classroom neglect. Parents must advocate for the just and gentle

treatment that their students deserve. Administrators must enforce strategies

that improve performance among these learners and rebuke old practices

based in bias, prejudice and a general apathy toward them.

We as community members must always hold education in the highest esteem and

reflect back to the children the mental liberation that it encourages.


Dr. Lasha Pierce

Executive Director AFRE

Co-founder SILE school

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