Many people of color have come across someone –an educator, manager, co-worker –who’s doubted their abilities to do something simply because of the color of their skin.
But this is particularly concerning when it’s teachers doubting impressionable kids.
“I definitely think it’s prevalent, I really think it contributes to the achievement gap,” said Denver-based Educator Jennifer Garcia.
But there’s hope to remedy this, as some educators are already working hard to change that trend. Other remedies include cultural competency training for teachers and student mentoring.
On South Florida teacher, who declined to be named, said it works to have high expectations.
“When I set the bar high, they achieve high because they know they can,” she said, adding that 90 percent of her students in her Title One school are Latino.
Recently a Huffington Post story said there’s a continuation of lowered expectations for low-income students of color, regardless of data that shows when given the opportunity, low-income students of color excel at just as high a rate as their richer white counterparts (and without as much preparation).
But according to the New York Times, the achievement gap between rich and poor students has grown despite attempts to close it.
“When I was very young, I went to school in Las Vegas (N.M.). My teachers expected the best of all of us. We did well,” said Inez Russell Gomez, the Opinions Editor at the Santa Fe New Mexican. “When I moved to Texas, those expectations changed – not really of me so much, because I had an Anglo last name, but it was evident in how the teachers treated the Mexican-American kids that they didn’t expect much.”
Russell Gomez said her son’s teachers aren’t any better, one even warning, “Natives come late to reading.” Both Russell Gomez and her husband, who is Native American, have advanced degrees and at that point they’d already taught their son how to read.
Support systems at home – like the one Russell Gomez provides – are essential to a child’s self-confidence in education. But when that type of support system isn’t available, programs like University of Denver’s Bridge Project, which offers free tutoring and mentoring at public housing developments in Denver, are available.”
Garcia said it’s important to have family involvement in education, but another answer is cultural competency training for teachers already working.
“Learning about some of those cultural differences might help support you in the classroom,” Garcia said. Knowing it’s disrespectful, in some cultures, to speak up to adults could keep a teacher from thinking a student is struggling.
Another remedy, Garcia said, is training early childhood educators to teach kids to expect more from themselves.
“Give a child a love of learning and really work with the parents to help them understand they are their child’s most important teachers,” Garcia said, “and we can help children when they enter elementary school to know they have it within themselves to be able to excel regardless of what the expectation is that teacher places on them.”
By Being Latino Contributor Ana Trujillo. Trujillo studied journalism and political science at the University of Miami and after working for several years at the Santa Fe New Mexican, now writes for a trade publication that covers the outdoor and fitness industries. She has her own fitness blog at anitasfitnessadventures.blogspot.com.