Relating to Students

“Effective teaching involves in depth knowledge of both the students and the subject matter”

                        — Gloria Ladson-Billings, ­The Dreamkeepers, page 125

 A couple of weeks ago one of my professors, Rebecca Walker, let me borrow Gloria Ladson-Billings’ The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Teachers. After sitting down and talking with Rebecca about my senior project for a bit we got to talking about relating to students (as I was having a hard time developing lessons for imaginary algebra I students; I didn’t know what algebra I students were like). As my ultimate goal is to end up teaching in Boston, she suggested I started thinking about making my lessons culturally relevant to African American students because it is likely I will end up teaching a classroom consisting mainly of African American students. Previous to reading Dreamkeepers, I had the mindset that my students are students no matter if their skin color is black, white, green, or blue. As I read the book this idea slowly unraveled. It’s opposite of everything I’ve been taught in my life to ignore skin color, but the ideas really struck me, and they really make sense. I need to know my students in order to make problems that are interesting and engaging to them. Engaging their culture and lifestyle is more likely to be interesting to them. Moreover, by trying to draw their home lives and interests into the classroom I am not only making the material relevant, but showing them that I respect them. I respect their culture and their interests. I think that there is value in what they like and what they do. Coming from a middle class white family I really have no idea what my Boston students will like, so it’s difficult to come up with these culturally relevant problems. I am, however, slowly researching and trying to educate myself further. For now I have observations set up in my high school the first week back from winter break and I plan on getting to know some students and hopefully developing activities interesting to them that can be transferred and used in Boston.

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~ by Cassie.Becker on December 7, 2011.

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