Vanderbilt Peabody’s Donna Ford was recruited by the Baltimore school system to share her wisdom about student achievement and motivation with all 7,000 of its teachers following attacks on teachers last year and continuing problems with disruptive students. Ford spoke for 2.5 hours yesterday to teachers at and will continue her presentations this week.
Getting a handle on classroom disruption must begin with respect and understanding by teachers of their students’ lives and motivations, Ford said. As reported by the Baltimore Sun:
“African-Americans have an attitude that says, ‘When you respect me, I will respect you,'” Ford said. When teachers seem detached or uninterested in their students, black students see that as a sign of disrespect, she said. Students who don’t feel the teacher likes or respects them are then more likely to talk back and be disruptive, leading to a classroom that can be more out of control.
It is up to teachers, she said, to get to know their students and the backgrounds they come from so that they do not fall back on preconceived notions of what it means to be poor or black. Baltimore schools are more than 90 percent African-American and have a high percentage of children who qualify for federally subsidized school meals.
“The less we know about each other, the more we make up,” said Ford, who added that a teacher’s race doesn’t guarantee understanding of low-income students.”