The Dayton Daily News
Learn to Earn Dayton
Maya Dorsey, director of family engagement and community partnerships
Think about the best teacher you ever had. Even if she or he was tough, you liked that teacher. We learn best from people with whom we have a relationship.
While teachers work hard to get to know and understand their students — even in the face of so many demands on their time — the profession is getting better at learning how to make deep connections with increasingly culturally diverse student populations.
Everyone grows up differently. In some homes, looking mom or dad in the eye when being disciplined is a sign of respect. But, in other families, that behavior is perceived as defiance.
These different rules of behavior can create misunderstandings between teachers and students — misunderstandings that get in the way of learning. Learn to Earn Dayton is partnering with area school districts to help teachers increase their cultural awareness.
The training isn’t about teaching political correctness. Rather, it’s about the importance of really understanding students — for the purpose of increasing achievement.
Nationally and locally, there are tragic achievement gaps between white and African-American children, and between girls and boys.
Eliminating those gaps requires understanding children’s cultures and differences.
Consider suspension rates.
Study after study has shown that African-American children are suspended at much higher rates than white students — too often for behavior that doesn’t result in suspension for white children.
Being culturally aware and recognizing implicit bias causes those in authority to ask, Am I misinterpreting a student’s actions? Teachers involved in culturally responsive training say the knowledge helps them get more from their students. In her book, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain,” Zaretta Hammond makes the case that being culturally responsive isn’t about improving motivation, but rather building brainpower.
“... social neuroscience reminds us that relationships are the on-ramp to learning, meaning if a student doesn’t feel heard or seen, then it leads to increased stress,” Hammond explains.
“Stress hormones like cortisol impair the brain’s executive function. So in order to create a learning environment conducive to all students’ learning, we need to lower stress hormones by building those relationships.”
Research shows that when children don’t feel safe and respected in their classroom or in response to a particular situation, their brain switches gears and their learning can be disrupted for up to as much as 20 minutes.
Research about the impact that connecting with students has on their achievement just keeps growing. Ensuring that educators have the knowledge they need to connect with every child is critical to their success — and to the success of all students.