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In order for African-American male students to improve their academic performances, they require teachers who are making the content relevant to their cultural experiences. Culturally relevant teaching is an approach that embraces diverse students in a classroom and adjusts instructional methods to ensure all students are able to make meaning of and appreciate course content from their varied cultural contexts. When students are in English class, they need to know how the course relates to them now and in the future. If teachers are not aware of the complex challenges facing minority students, they won’t know how to make their instruction relevant to these students.
School administrators should consider incentives for teachers to gain cultural competence, and commit to hiring a diverse faculty to ensure cultural competent teachers are present in the classroom. Black male students academically under-perform all students throughout every level of education, including higher education.
In my experience teaching and interviewing many black male students across the country, they have disclosed that the instruction they receive in the classroom does not seem to “speak to them” and “is not relevant to them.” While a quality education is a gateway to success, it can be difficult to convey this to a 13 or 14 year old black boy who is frustrated with having to go to school when he has barely had enough to eat and sees abject poverty all around him.
Teachers need to present students with practical opportunities to apply their academic studies. This would boost teachers’ cultural competence and would help black male students to see how classroom instruction is relevant to them. Parents must demand that school administrators observe and evaluate teachers for how well they incorporate culturally relevant teaching into the classroom. If there are teachers who consistently show no signs of progressing when it comes to culturally relevant teaching, then those teachers need to be replaced with ones who have a zeal for it. When teachers are not committed to culturally relevant teaching, then they are not invested in working to see that minority students are being served well. We have to demand better.
What can you do right now?
Establish a parent conference with your children’s teachers to discuss the ways they attempt to make instruction relevant. Encourage teachers (when needed) to make their instruction more culturally relevant. If you find one or two teachers are resistant to culturally relevant teaching, identify those teachers for school administrators and hold the administrators accountable for addressing the matter.
Mr. Antonio Maurice Daniels is a Research Associate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) obtaining his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also blogs at Revolutionary Paideia.