Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interesting thoughts on race and classroom behavior.

The kids at the high school I teach at are 70% Hispanic, 28% African American, 2% other. If I didn't admit there was racial tension between the two predominant groups, I'd be lying. Most of the fights pit the two against each other for one reason or another. And I've seen it spill over into the classroom. And while the two groups mostly get along with each other in my English classes, I have noticed a marked difference in the behavior of the two groups while in class. And I'm trying to figure out if this has to do with race or if there is some other factor I need to consider.

Five out of six of my classes are almost primarily Hispanic. I have a few African American kids sprinkled in here and there, but for the most part I have kids whose families have immigrated to the US from Mexico. I only have one class with a significant number of African American kids mixed in with their Hispanic counterparts. Is it a coincidence or not that this is my worst behaved class? I am trying to figure out why it seems that my Hispanic kids are mostly quiet and respectful in class, but the African American kids in this class are by in large very disruptive and very disrespectful at times. This is the only class in which I have this problem. It is also the only class where I have more than one or two African American students. And I started noticing this trend a few months ago and made it a point to sit back and observe to make sure I wasn't just making sweeping accusations. But what I thought was true. The Hispanic kids sit and do their work, my group of Af Am kids disrupt, run around the room constantly, and are often disrespectful when corrected.

Why is this?

Is it the environment of the school and the tensions that already exist outside of the classroom? Is it me? (I try to be very aware of my responses and my behavior and try very hard to be even-handed.) Is it the cultural differences between the two groups and the way they've been taught to respond to authority?

I have no answers. Only questions. But I need to figure this out, because more than anything, I want all of them to succeed. And when I have one group distracting, no one's succeeding.