From Don’t Kick Them Out: Why Black & Latino Students Frequently Get Suspended, by Dr. Jesse W. Jackson III
How can students learn when they are not in school…and what does this mean for “at risk” & minority students? Certainly, there must be alternatives to suspension. These are the very questions that the NEA has recently posed via NEA Today (click here to read more & to view the corresponding national data), and is the very question that Dr. Jackson seeks to answer in his text. The fact is that many districts throughout our nation are facing this challenge and there are no easy answers; however, Dr. Jackson makes some fantastic recommendations.
In preparation for his Fall 2015 visit to Glassboro, I have collected some reflections in response to his text that will help to support our learning as a district. Enjoy…and who better to get us started than Dr. Jackson himself!
A Socio-Economic History – Dr. Jackson begins our conversation by establishing a socio-economic history that has led to our current reality. In short, he focuses on two main factors: the breakdown of a “traditional” family unit (including the role that a father plays in the development of children) & poverty as a mindset (making a clear distinction between this mindset & being “poor”). As you read Chapters 1 & 2, consider our students and your classroom routines…
- What routines have you established within your classroom to meet the “five primary methods of love distribution?” – See page 24
- Consider a previous/current student. Which one of Jackson’s “Tiers” does he/she fall into? – See page 27
- How have you responded to students/parents when their values do not match yours? What strategies were successful? – See page 39
As we consider these various socio-economic factors, we must not fall victim to “misplaced empathy” as this can cripple student growth (Dr. Jackson refers to this as “guilt”). While empathy is an essential piece of building relationships and understanding the challenges that our students face, we must not let it impact our standards for achievement!
Teacher Personalities & Conflict – Reflecting often & accurately is essential part of growing as a professional, and is an important piece of the puzzle as we seek to meet the needs of our minority students. Throughout Chapter 8, Dr. Jackson establishes 7 “personality types” that we, as educators fall into (from the “rookie” to the “task-master”). As you read, remember that Dr. Jackson isn’t trying to fit all educators into a box, but rather, is attempting to get us to reflect and consider how our personalities shape the way we interact with our students and their families.
Dr. Jackson also does a fantastic job of providing some strategies to help us deal with conflict and communicate effectively with parents. As a Principal, I have often used numbers 1 & 2 – Acknowledging problems & addressing issues…without making it personal; however, #4 (Keeping Parents Informed) is by far the most important and proactive item on the list. Over the years I have found that regular contact to share small successes, new initiatives, or just check-in goes a long way (and just takes a few minutes of our time)!
As you read, consider the questions below…to paraphrase an old expression: You can’t control other people, but you can control your reactions to them!
- What “personality type” do you fall into? How has this impacted your classroom routines for the better; how has this created challenges? – See page 71
- What strategies have you used to diffuse conflict & solidify relationships with your minority parents? Have you used any of the strategies that Dr. Jackson presents; if so, which ones & what were the results? – See page 97
The Disruptive Student & What to Do – Dr. Jackson challenges us to consider that “a student with his head down…is just as disruptive as a kid who keeps getting up & interrupting the teacher.” In fact, he goes on to define a “disruptive student” as any student that “engages in behavior inconsistent with the reason he came to school.” The truth is that these disruptions (either in engagement or in the classroom environment), if not handled effectively, can lead to defiance/disrespect and ultimately physical aggression from many of our students. Suspensions and/or Special Education classifications may help relieve the adults in the short-term, but they will not help teach these students how to “do school” (Dr. Jackson calls this “home training”).
Addressing disruptive behaviors requires two essential pieces: understanding the root cause of a behavior (the “function” in FBA terms) and establishing routines to change the behavior (the student’s, and in some cases ours). This all begins with teacher reflection! As you read, consider the questions below:
- What are your core beliefs in addressing student conduct? – See page 81
- What strategies have you successfully employed to analyze the function of student behaviors? – See page 77
- Which of Dr. Jackson’s “21 Do’s & Don’ts” have played a role in addressing behaviors within your classroom? – See Page 83
There were two major take-aways for me as I read through Dr. Jackson’s “Do’s & Don’ts”: to accept responsibility for our classrooms & to “forgive & forget.” The fact is that our students associate behaviors with specific individuals & environments; therefore, the teacher must establish a dynamic that ensures high expectations & positivity! Most importantly, it is essential that we maintain our own “resiliency” so that our students can have a new beginning each and every day.
Three Things EVERY Student Wants to Know – Many emotional issues are deceptive and dangerous because they are not readily visible; they can be hidden or masked for extended periods (Jackson, 2015, p24). However, when they do become visible, emotional issues tend to be explosive (much more so than general academic issues, for example, which educators tend to be better trained to cope with). Therefore we must do everything possible to ensure that our minority students know that we care, we want to help and we can be trusted! If a student does not know these three things, our relationship with them will not reach its full potential. After all, as the late, great Rita Pierson said: kids won’t learn from someone they don’t like!
As we conclude our four part #DontKickThemOut series, take a moment to share some final reflections in preparation for @drjwjackson3rd ’s visit. Remember (to paraphrase Maya Angelo) our students may forget what you said, and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
- How have you displayed a “teachable spirit” throughout your career? How has this benefitted your students? – See page 70
- How will you ensure that you communicate Dr. Jackson’s “3 Things” to your students this year? – See page 69
Click here to check out the Curriculum Corner Prezi on “The Culturally Responsive Classroom” to learn even more!