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For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education (Race, Education, and Democracy) Kindle Edition
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- Part of: Race, Education, and Democracy (4 Books)
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—John Warner, Inside Higher Ed
“Teaches the unlearned lesson that a hip-hop people’s critical perspective must matter in order for authentic teaching and learning to take place, but more importantly the book offers a bigger case for colleges to make room for other hip-hop scholars.”
—Dr. Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report
“Dr. Chris Emdin...inspired me to become fearless while teaching for social justice.”
—Bryan Mooney, contributor PBS NewsHour’s Education Lounge
“As the cries to recognize the relevance of Black lives in this country grow louder...Emdin’s advice about how to more effectively serve students (people) of color is a reminder that recognizing their humanity is a critical first step.”
—Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
"A brilliant, blistering, and bracing call to arms for those who teach and learn in urban America.…Emdin reminds us that the children and young people who throng our urban schools are worthy of every attempt to sharpen their minds and prepare them for a satisfying life far beyond the classroom. If you’re looking for the revolutionary meaning, and imaginative transformation, of teaching for the real America, you’re holding it in your hands! Christopher Emdin is Jonathan Kozol with swag!”
—Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
“Essential reading for all adults who work with black and brown young people...Filled with exceptional intellectual sophistication and necessary wisdom for the future of education.”
—Imani Perry, author of Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip-Hop
“A compelling and accessible road map for anyone (not just white folks!) teaching twenty-first-century urban youth. It also confirms Emdin’s reputation as one of the most important education scholars of our generation.”
—Marc Lamont Hill, author of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life and Distinguished Professor of Africana Studies at Morehouse College
“This volume is a powerful dance of teaching and art. It engages both the art and science of what teachers must do to be successful with all students. It is simultaneously lyrical and analytic, scientific and humanistic, a work of the heart and the mind. It belongs in every teacher’s library!”
—Gloria Ladson-Billings, the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison
About the Author
- ASIN : B00Z3E2LVO
- Publisher : Beacon Press (March 22, 2016)
- Publication date : March 22, 2016
- Language: : English
- File size : 1421 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 234 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #58,045 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As a teacher, you're often told to just relax and try to make everything fun. Just let the active kid be active and move around, loosen the classroom rules. Dr. Emdin echoes that sentiment, and it sounds great until you're trying to teach linear equations to a room with 15 ADHD kids who have been socially promoted and long since (years ago) stopped paying attention in math class, all immaturely interacting with each other because you let them be themselves, walk in a couple minutes after the bell after they finish their conversation, then emotions inevitably get high and you've lost total control with 80 minutes to go in the period.
He constantly talks about how first year teachers are grilled to "don't let them see you smile until November", and what he misses is that this is largely learned behavior from bad experiences when teachers invariably crash and burn in their first year. Most teachers I talk to will say that in their first year they tried to be open and friendly as a young dynamic teacher and they got eaten alive by teenagers who instead sensed weakness from a new, nervous teacher still learning the ropes. Then they barely hung on for the next 8 months of their first year, because students have gotten used to taking advantage of the freedoms that the teacher gave them too easily. Meanwhile the teacher is going home every night saying, "I shouldn't have smiled in September!" and all the older teachers laugh and say, "I told you so!", the administrator gives them a stern talk at the end of the year about how first year is always tough but second year needs to be better, then the next year the teacher is much more stern.
That said, his anecdotes did encourage me to start letting the controls go a bit (in my 4th year I'm a little less overwhelmed). I'm going to give the students some choices about lesson plans when we get back. In my first few years my tendency was always to up the pressure when I saw students underperforming, now when I recognize that I play a little mind trick where I visualize a balloon popping with a pin in my head, then I try to figure out how I can be the pin and depressurize the room, then get everyone back on track. The big thing is to try to understand as much as you can and attempt to meet students where they are.
Example of this that hit home for me: His comments and examples highlighting how many underperforming students react to discipline highlights something that I've only started to recognize this year - many students get very angry when called out for behavior because they don't know that it's wrong. I learned very early on to explain every action I was taking in the classroom because otherwise students create their own narratives (I will always say something like, "let me just enter the attendance in the computer" because otherwise students will say "oh sure when I raise my hand he ignores me!"). But only this year did I realize that it's also often far more effective to pause, and instead of discipline, just review the behavior with the student and explain why it's wrong. "XXX, do you see how you just interrupted me? That's what I'm talking about when I'm referring to disrespectful behavior. I don't interrupt you when you're speaking," works better than, "XXX, please stop talking while I'm talking" because it's not confrontational. It's been a huge adjustment for me recognizing that 14 year old students aren't consciously misbehaving, they just don't know any better. Dr. Emdin's stories helped me understand their frustration a bit more and hopefully will allow me to be more patient and connect better, and have the conversation on a meta level. He relates a lot of this to cultural differences but that didn't hit home for me - if I allowed students to walk in late, interrupt me, and get out of their seats to stretch whenever they feel the need, I would be fired with cause by March. When you're outnumbered 25 to 1 you need to set some behavioral norms.
When he gets into practices, I was happy to hear him say that administrators should actually come watch teachers teach instead of reviewing lesson plans. That said, the other pedagogical ideas are just far too ambitious for the reality I live in. Teaching 4 different subjects in 5 sections to 130 kids, with the curriculum evolving every year and, like most teachers, making hundreds upon hundreds of handouts each year, there's just not time in my schedule to set up ad hoc meeting groups during free time for all 5 of my classes, or to manage a constant rotation of assignments and supervise student led lesson planning groups (I don't even see how that would work anyway, with math being as cumulative as it is, most students aren't prepared for the next lesson until the previous one is done, how can they start creating a lesson a week ahead of time? This seemed more applicable to science). I am in my 4th year, and I have to create over 400 hours of unique, high school level mathematics lessons every year. This year about 200 hours is repeat and 200 hours is new.
And now for the sad part. Where I am (high school math) all creativity has long since been stifled. Students have been failing and hating the subject for years. My average student is half a decade below grade level (but I'm supposed to teach grade level material). If I try to give students assignments that emphasize creativity I get blank stares. They're not ready for it. A big part of my job is just to teach the students that in high school there are some minimal expectations, and that they can actually get an F and find themselves repeating the class if they don't meet them (middle school students never fail). I stress routines, and I focus on effort. I send notes home and constantly tell students what they need to do to turn that F into a D. In the end, most do, with a lot of creative gradebooking by me, and I celebrate their achievement and try to foster a sense of accomplishment. I spend a tremendous amount of effort on anti cheating measures (multiple versions of tests, and actively following up on every case of cheating I see - there are tons at first but then they wise up that they can't get away with it. I'm usually a softy on consequences but just the fact that they got caught is eye opening). I have several students who crumble under the weight of anxiety as they're not prepared for the stress of a class where grades actually count, and that usually means meetings with parents and guidance counselors to try to come up with something to help the kid.
The reality is, I don't think it's reasonable to turn my classroom into a rollicking church where everyone buys in. I think it's my job to hopefully turn my kids into high school students, to build good habits and remediate at least some of the massive educational deficit every one of them is struggling with, hopefully by springtime build up their confidence a bit more, so that somewhere, someday, they'll finally be in a place where they're ready to be creative instead of walking in angry, confused and with PTSD from 5 years of disastrous math classes. And again, I think a lot of this is specific to mathematics, and how bound we are to the curriculum and to the idea that students need to just keep moving on to the next topic regardless of preparedness.
I'm open to the possibility that with a lot more seasoning, I'll get to a point where I actually have the time and capability to accomplish more with my math classes, but I'm not ashamed of where I am today. I can't flip a switch and become the teacher Dr. Emdin wants me to be, and I don't think it's because I'm a bad teacher, I think his expectations are unrealistic. He's insightful, he has clearly been in the classroom, and I'd love to see him focus more on "here's how you survive your first 5 years, and THEN here's what you do to start becoming more transformative in years 6-10" because I think he'd hit on some great ideas that might help new teachers without burdening them with another level of stuff to do. When he says, "One of the first things a teacher must do is to identify the possible roles that everyone who comes into the classroom can take on to help it function properly", I'm thinking about the blur of September, when I get 40 ieps to read 3 days before school starts, the district announces 3 new initiatives, we have parents night in week 3, you're figuring out who else is teaching the same classes as you and when you're going to meet and discussing how you want to evolve the curriculum from last year (or just learning the new curriculum yourself while frantically writing lessons and making copies 20 minutes before the students walk in), and it takes 3 weeks to learn the names of all 130 students. This bit of advice is just not fundamentally actionable.
The cultural divide is a real problem, and I know every year that I'm going to have to work harder to connect with many of my students because they won't trust me. But Dr. Emdin's advice here is pretty vague and again doesn't feel actionable. I don't expect every kid to like me, and my class is never going to feel like chuuch, but I do aim to get every student's respect and also get them on a path to accomplishment. Whether that comes in one on one conversations after school, pulling in guidance, or even using students I connected with last year as a bridge to this year's group, I work at it. I'm very open with my history and using examples from my life in class (just talked my class through the car I bought and the budgeting process that went into it). But it takes months to get them to respect you and understand that your fundamental goal is to teach them. I recently had a student complain that I cared too much about whether he learned the material, arguing that he's his own person and can make up his mind, but to me that's a small victory because it means that my positive intentions are at least coming through. I also get a lot of, "Mr., this just isn't my thing. I know you love it but it's just not for me", and that's also ok! I can work with that and talk about how you can't expect to love and be good at everything you do. That said, one of my electives is absolutely chuuch... which is a reflection of the students in the room, who are generally older and volunteered to take the class, and the flexibility I have with the curriculum because it's not aligned to the standards. But most of the time math is gonna be a grind and that's ok.
Anyway, as you can see, this book got me thinking! Made me want to take a class with Dr. Emdin. Hopefully my review, where I probably talked way too much about myself and not enough about this interesting book, helps others think too.
TLDR: This book is useful for all teachers interested in best practices, no matter what population you are teaching.
I teach in a school where the majority of the students are truly violent and victims of socioeconomic hardships as well as subjected to witnessing drugs, alcoholism, flagrant sexual immorality, and violence. My students are lower elementary and are already extremely hostile, yelling, hitting, throwing things including furniture, saying the most vulgar things, choking others, stabbing with pencils, etc. This is every day and the majority of the students act this way, not only a few.
I try to teach them how to respect each other and themselves, the golden rule, etc. This does not mean I am trying to make them “act white”, it means that I am teaching them to be kind, respectful, and responsible human beings.
Top reviews from other countries
I got the book on Kindle the first day as I couldn’t wait for it to ship! This book needs to be in the hands of every single educator. Not just in urban settings and those working with youth of colour, as all our students would benefit from this work. I watched Dr. Emdin’s TED talks, read his papers, seen his articles, caught his news clips, re-tweeted his tweets, read his other book and seen him live multiple times in NYC and Toronto (so this review isn’t biased at all :) ). I thought I knew what he is all about…but I was wrong! I didn’t know about his work and experience around indigenous education. The first chapter opens up on indigenous education! With a lot of work happening in Canada, this comes at a perfect time and based on the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Education Recommendations it is a perfect compliment. Indigenous and Neo-Indigenous youth share very different histories but common circumstances and oppression in and out of schools.
I started writing this review and had summaries and quotes from the book but I can’t possibly do the book justice, you need to read it. So I will continue on with why this book is important and how we can use the book to better education.
Dr. Emdin breaks the book down into 11 chapters filled with amazing ways to transform education. It isn’t just about the students and “fixing them of their problems”, it is really about a complete change needed from top to bottom. Schools are failing students and Dr. Emdin is giving us the manual to fix it! As educators working with students, we need to look critically at the extremely complex and interwoven factors that impact the success and failure at school. The deeply engrained Eurocentric model of schooling that many of us as teachers were extremely successful at navigating in order to get to where we are today, is hard to disrupt. It is replicated class after class, year after year, with many teachers, teaching as they were taught (this includes teachers of colour as well). Dr. Emdin eludes that the “white folk” may not actually be white at all.
I would challenge teachers of all colours, backgrounds and religions to evaluate the narrative they provide to students. This book is excellent for system leaders, policy makers, educators and parents, to understand the deeply rooted issues in our education systems. Dr. Emdin eloquently brings them to the surface and identifies ways to make change. This book looks at the past and theory but most importantly moves forward with actions and recommendations. I see this as a book I read again, return to and refresh myself as an educator.
I read many of the other reviews and articles on this book with so many doing the book justice. A few articles though, try to undermine and suppress the work that is desperately needed calling this pretty much a manual for teachers to run schools like gangs. These authors need to check themselves and evaluate the hegemony in their own work. I took out the citation to them as the click bait they used in their titles get them enough clicks. ;)