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Author Tells White Teachers to Learn From Their Black Students Instead of Playing the Savior

By: Krystle Crossman

Columbia University professor Dr. Christopher Edmin has some thoughts about the way that urban schools are run these days. He has written a book called “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too” where he speaks about the biases that students face in urban schools and how teachers can change their views to help them. Edmin states that the majority of teachers in urban schools are white teachers who come from other communities. He says that they have preconceived notions of what the students are like and treat them as such instead of getting to know them before they label them.

Edmin calls these types of teachers out for trying to be “saviors”. He says they go into the schools when they are not properly trained and automatically label the kids that they are teaching. The teachers feel that all of the students need “fixing” or “saving” because they are of a minority and come from urban neighborhoods. The problem with this is that the teachers are not getting to know who the students really are. They are not trying to find out what the student is capable of and instead label them as kids who are going to need a lot of work. Edmin says that this goes for a lot of black teachers as well that come in with the “white mindset” and label the students before really getting to know them or their community. This puts the students at a severe disadvantage.

Instead of having a savior complex, Edmin says that teachers need to look at the students as equals. He states that if teachers and students work together instead of an “I teach, you learn” approach, even the teachers will learn a little something. Teachers should be taking the time to speak with the students to learn their strengths when it comes to learning. They should get to know the community that these kids come from so that they can better understand the environment they are working with. Edmin claims that the only way that the students and teachers are going to be able to work together this way is if the students have an outlet where they can express what they are and are not comfortable with. They need to be able to tell the teacher that they do not understand how to do something. They need to be able to tell them when they do not like a certain learning style or an approach that the teacher is taking. This way they will be heard by the teacher and they will be able to work as partners.

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