In a recent article, Minneapolis Public School administrators have opted to reduce suspension rates for disruptive students by rendering classroom teachers powerless. The shift has produced a vacuum in which those targeted students became the power brokers in the classroom. Minneapolis Public Schools can maintain the appropriate power relationships in classes that contain disruptive students by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.

According to the article, Soucheray: Powerless teachers make it easier for unruly students to rule, Minneapolis Public Schools elected to reduce the suspension quantity for disruptive students due to systemic racism. The school boards decision has resulted in increased student fights and reduced stability in the classroom environment. The first problem with the decision with Minneapolis Public School disruptive student initiative was to focus on the product of systemic racism and not the process that produces the disruptive students. The process that produces systemic racism is the relationship between the teacher and the student. Teacher-student conflicts result from a difference in desires, and even though this difference may be reduced, it remains in schools. Cultural background influences attitudes, beliefs, and values regarding education, ideas about how classes should be conducted, how students and teachers should interact, and appropriate classroom relationships for students and teachers. The classroom conflict between teachers and students results from the different cultural contexts that students and teachers bring to the classroom.

Some minorities believe they cannot trust White institutions. Adolescents may develop oppositional social identities that are contrary to the social expectations of mainstream society when they experience racism and respond with anger and rebellion. Black students are convinced that White teachers are racist and prejudiced and reject White teachers’ authority due to their experience with racism. Black students frequently find themselves in classrooms where their culture, racial, and linguistic identities are under constant attack that manifests as a multitude of disciplinary actions, suspensions, and expulsions.

Classroom racism results from the dominant or more powerful group defining cultural values and value characteristics. Anti-Black prejudice in America has historical roots in slavery, carpetbagging, and the failure to reconstruct the South after the Civil War. The army set the stage for labeling Blacks as inferior by using the Alpha and Beta test that contained a number of visual information processing tasks that Blacks are not proficient at.

The second problem with the Minneapolis Public School disruptive student initiative is that the shift in the power relationships between the teacher and disruptive students left a vacuum that eventually had to be filled. Before the disruptive student initiative, the normal relationships between Minneapolis Public School teachers and disruptive students was consistent with Theory X leadership principles. Theory X leaders utilize coercion, tight controls, threats, and punishments which lead to the unusual amount of suspensions for disruptive students. Over a period of time the result of Theory X leaderships includes low student achievement, student opposition, and teacher classroom management sabotage. Instead of the Minneapolis Public School rendering classroom power to disruptive students, the initiative should have started by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.

Positive relationships at schools and in the classroom are the prerequisites for effective learning and behavior. Teachers who have positive feelings toward their students are more likely to have students reciprocate those positive feelings. Students and teachers who are warm, compassionate, and friendly toward one another in the classroom have the potential to improve instruction and learning.

Having positive and caring relationships in schools increases resilience and protects children from academic failure, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and destructive behavior and violence. Teachers who develop positive and personal relationships with students may prevent psychological development problems in their students. Students are more willing to develop positive relationships with teachers who tend to form close friendships with their students.

Long-term teacher-student relationships result in increased teacher job satisfaction. Minneapolis Public School teachers would enjoy any initiative that helps students as long as the teacher student classroom relationships remain productive for all.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

www.positiveracialrelationships.com

PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

 

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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