Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cultural differences in the classroom?

It's hard to describe the words I felt after reading Rod Watson's column yesterday in the Buffalo news. The article was about an important topic:educating black children. Watson is high on some author who wrote a book describing how he "got to" inner city students. A Buffalo teacher is inviting this author to speak to current teachers. I had several issues with the opinions expressed in the article...

We need different ways of reaching the at-risk student,” said Doyle, who recalled rearranging her classroom to accommodate “hyperactive” boys who needed to move around.

"Needed" to move around. During class? You "need" to move around in gym class and in recess. In the other classes, you need to sit down and pay attention to what the teacher is saying, regardless of your skin color. This is what the students in Buffalo do when they "need" to walk around. They walk by other students and grab them, hug them, or slap them. They try to put on a show for their peers. It has nothing to do with being hyperactive. Wait, there's more...

Kunjufu argues that many white teachers aren’t prepared for the cultural differences. For instance, the black extended family with relatives constantly in and out of the house, multiple radios and TVs blaring and the active inner-city street environment produce kids used to functioning amid a high degree of stimuli rather than studying alone in a quiet room.

Female teachers, many from the suburbs, who don’t grasp the cultural differences— or find such boys intimidating —can be too quick to write them off.

Could you imagine the outcry, if a white author said black teachers aren't prepared for the cultural differences involved in teaching white students? Cultural differences? That is nonsense. Does Watson think we need to start blaring multiple radios in class? Will this provide the "stimuli" necessary to learn how to read? It's not very complicated. You go to class and pay attention, because a good education is one of the keys to success in life. What a child needs is a parent (preferably two) to get this point across to them at a young age, not a teacher who is sensitive to their cultural needs.

The reason some female teachers find many of the boys intimidating is not because they don't grasp cultural differences. It's because many of the students are intimidating. They know this and know there is not much the teacher can do about it, in the current system. I've seen students get in teachers' faces. I listen to students talk back to very good teachers in the Buffalo schools on a daily basis. To say it is about cultural differences is a bunch of garbage. Watson needs to spend less time watching Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds and go into the Buffalo schools and see what is really going on.

I subbed for two years at a charter school in Buffalo. I remember a new student (a black girl) who had just transferred from a Buffalo public school. Her first week at the charter school, she thought she could boss all the teachers around. She was yelling across the room at lunch at the top of her lungs. After all, she was able to get away with it at her old school, because many of her peers did the same thing with little or no consequence. They ran the school because they had the numbers. She was immediately removed from class at the charter school. Her mother was contacted. She was told, in no uncertain terms, that she would be removed from the school if her attitude didn't improve. About a month later, she was a well behaved student. It had nothing to do with her culture. The school was 50/50 white and black, yet race was rarely an issue there. The white students and the black students all got along and worked hard. They knew what was expected of them and that there would be zero tolerance of disrespect towards adults.

There is nothing wrong with the majority of teachers in the Buffalo schools. Most (but not all) of the students who disrupt the class with their nonsense learn this type of behavior at home (or don't learn proper behavior at home). It's called rudeness and ignorance and does not discriminate between the races. People can write as many feel good books as they want. Until we stop making ridiculous excuses for the abhorrent behavior exhibited by the students in the Buffalo schools and blaming the teachers, it will continue.

It’s all about connecting with students

You want to talk about cultural differences? What about these two? The straight laced Conservative and the surfer who's been "stoned since the 3rd grade"...


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