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