Expanding our Discussion on Educating Children of African Descent
Education in the United States has been described as being in a state of crisis for well over thirty years. Local, state, and federal governments have debated the best ways to educate our youth, which has resulted in reform after reform coming into classrooms across the country. While some reforms are better than others, they all seem to come and go as administrations change and the rhetoric evolves.
After educational trends move on and standards are adjusted, what remains in the classroom are teachers and students. Alas it is the interaction between teachers and students that is impactful and sustaining. Oddly, these interactions are rarely the focus of conversations in education, yet they are where the most complex aspects of teaching lie. How do students and teachers make sense of one another? Parents trust educators to do right by their children, but teachers are not often given the support to interact with students in healthy, positive ways. Teaching students takes more than content knowledge and a general caring about students. In order to effectively interact with children, teachers must see them as whole beings that are not missing anything. They are not deficient, lacking, or incomplete in any form. When teachers begin to recognize the full humanity of their students, then learning can take place through healthy interaction.
The vast majority of teachers, and all those who work with our youth (e.g. early childcare workers, youth workers, counselors, tutors) want the best for our children and are committed to helping them succeed. It is often said that in order to teach children, we have to first reach them. To effectively reach students means understanding them within the context of their cultural heritage, family and cultural community. This can be challenging especially when students’ home and cultural environments (outside of school) are in-congruent with or even clash with the school culture that students are asked to navigate. For instance, if low income youth and youth of color, particularly students of African descent, are thought of as being unprepared for school due to cultural or environmental deficits, tensions can arise between the child and school that can inhibit or prevent learning.
It is critical that educators, youth workers and others are equipped with the tools to better understand their students as complete cultural, social, intellectual, and even political beings that bring a wealth of cultural knowledge and lived experience with them. Professional development institutes such as Network for the Development of Children of African Descent’s (NdCAD) Summer Training Institute are vital to ensuring that all of our youth receive the highest quality education by helping those who work with children gain insight into the intersections between healthy cultural identity development and academic achievement as well as the educational roles of cultural communities, parents and schools or programs. This Summer Training Institute will assist educators of all types (teachers, youth workers, tutors, etc.) to provide avenues for learning so that children are not asked to choose between maintaining their cultural integrity and achieving success in school. During the Training Institute, educators will gain deeper understanding of the cultural aspects behind literacy, African identity development, and why some students are reluctant to participate in school academics. Educators will be able to better develop and refine their own teaching practices and successfully interact with students no matter what educational policy or reforms they are faced with.
Third Annual Summer Training Institute
DATE: August 9-10, 2012
LOCATION: St. Paul
Download the Catalog and Registration (PDF)
For information on NdCAD’s Summer Training Institute, contact Gevonee or call 651-209-3355.
Brian Lozenski, Contributor
Uhuru Youth Scholars Program Administrator, U of M Grad Assistant
Network for the Development of Children of African Descent
NdCAD is a non-profit organization established in 1997. The organization offers a variety of literacy and cultural enrichment programs and services and is a nationally recognized leader in effective educational and culturally-based approaches aimed at insuring that children succeed in school and life.