What Black Students Want From Educators: Relationships First!

kidsWhat we need most in education, and what we need to see among educators are practices backed by data-informed logic and demonstrated “culturalinguistic”[cultural/linguistic] proficiency with increased capacity for collaboration between systems and stakeholders-students, families, educators, provider agencies, and community-at-large. Developing racial competence is fundamental to a genuine appreciation and respect for diversity without any ‘immaculate perceptions’  or ‘implicit biases’.

For optimal student academic performance in schools, the development of global competence involves skills building within a healthy, safe, and supportive climate, with family and community involvement.

” What more do you want? I opened my classroom doors to you people. Shouldn’t that be enough? What more do you need from us?”

Let’s  count what we must do to meet the diverse needs of students and their parents to connect with them and facilitate academic achievement. From your students’ perspective, relationship building consists of the following components:

lil hip

“What we want is this:

1st: Respect from staff, students and the entire school community. I want to be respected for who I am, where I come from, and the great strengths I possess. Whether my sense of humor, my snazzy way of dress, my creativity with language, dance, or assertiveness, please don’t make me demand respect, and don’t make me apologize for wanting it. Get to know what respect means to me. Try asking! Don’t ask yourself if it’s possible for me to achieve or excel in school and life beyond; tell yourself that it is a certainty with the right amount of guidance.

vr class


2nd: Supports that promote a real sense of belonging, not charity or you doing me a favor. I need to receive messages from everyone, staff especially, that I really do belong in this school and every classroom. Because I have great potential and lots of existing strengths and talents to build upon, you can help me learn and expand my sense of self. I want to feel supported in all that I do-even when and if I fall short while doing my best.

3rd: Representations of myself that are positive. I want to see someone who looks like me, and who I and everyone can be proud of, grateful, appreciative. If not in person, I want to see them in my and everyone’s textbooks, on the walls, in assignments. I want to feel included and need to learn about great people who share my heritage, race, religion, etc… I need validation and affirmation! Don’t make me fight for it; It is only right.


4th: Equal opportunity. I want to be able to access the same things, classes, special projects, and I need you to see to it that it is provided willingly and authentically. Once again, I don’t want to feel like I am an exception; just exceptional! I want to be understood, not seen as this alien-like being, so strange to all. I want you to know about me, before I arrive and upon my arrival, I need you to want to discover more about me as I learn more about you.


5th: I want to feel special and unique, because I am special and unique. But, so are you. If my skin is a different hue, or my hair is a different texture, that is my gift to you. View me as an added color to your box of crayons. If my neighborhood is different from yours and we express ourselves differently, don’t think the worse-just ask me to explain myself in terms that you may understand. If my native language is different from yours, then ask me to teach you a few words in my language. I am learning to speak and understand yours in school, although it’s not difficult, really. Your people and your language, values and traditions are everywhere-not only school.


6th: Relationships and Role Models. With the right positive relationships between myself and my teachers, the adults in my life, and strong peer relationships, I will thrive in any positive environment, and you will see that I am resilient, too. No matter the dynamics of my family, or my home life, with supportive, and caring adults at school, I can triumph over most adversity. I need to be able to trust you, and trust that my best interest is your guide.”

Either you are part of the solution, or part of the problem. Be the solution!
Either you are part of the solution, or part of the problem. Be the solution!

7th: No immaculate perceptions.  I need you to not assume you know all about me, my family, and my life outside of school and at home. I especially need you to avoid jumping to inaccurate conclusions about my behaviors. I act out for many of the same reasons as other students.  My boredom doesn’t always mean that I intend to disrupt others. Sometimes, my behavior is an ‘automaticity’ or automatic response or learned behavior. Sometimes, my behavior stems from hunger, lack of sleep, or I can’t relate to a particular concept introduced in your class.

Also, I feel embarrassed when you single me out, or try to make an ‘example’ of me.  And then, there are times when I just want to make everyone laugh, totally intentional. Please find out why my behavior is disruptive to you, and although the impact may be negatively received, know my intent before you discipline me unnecessarily. Understand that I am not always the only one who acts out; you just focus on me. Put that in check, please!  Be fair, and acquire less punitive behavior management strategies. I am not a bad person. No child is bad!

8th: Parent Partnerships:  I need you to establish a good relationship with my parents, whether it’s my mother or both my mom and dad. No matter who you meet, understand that they love me unconditionally and want the best for me. Just because they don’t come to your conferences or meetings doesn’t mean that they don’t care about my progress at school. Consider that not all parents have had pleasant experiences with teachers at school. Some have my sisters and/or little brother at home. Some parents are working multiple jobs to support us and don’t have the time off to come to your events. In that case, email or text or phone contacts will work. And, when you call my house, share some pot me, not just when there is a problem.

If you don’t understand my mother or father ‘s demeanor when you do see them, consider the reasons there is ‘attitude’ or reluctance to engage. Last, don’t talk at or for my parents. Talk with them, and SPEAK PLAIN ENGLISH[or the language understood by all]. We already know that you are an expert at school, but my parents are MY experts at home. You need to partner with my parents-both of you can join forces and help me succeed, for I am the future- theirs, yours and OUR future!

This list is not exhaustive, but you should have an idea about what I/we need from you.”

Now that you have this information in your hands, begin connecting with all of your students, and with sincerity, establish two-way communication with their families and caregivers. The 21st Century  demands that we embrace diversity, teach children to embrace globalism and in their best interest, we must model it too!

Isn’t that what ALL students and families want? Relationships First!


1 thought on “What Black Students Want From Educators: Relationships First!

  1. Great post. Relationships are key!

    Liked by 1 person

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