What happens when students notice racial bias

(CNN)Children rarely forget the moment when a teacher might inadvertently display a racial bias.

Sara Sidner, CNN’s Los Angeles-based national and international correspondent, remembers sitting in class as a child while her teacher stood and starting taking roll, marking down the race of each student in the room.
“He was trying to figure out whether I was black or white, and he looked at me, and he said, ‘You know what; you’re a smart kid; I’m going to check white,’ ” said Sidner, whose mother is a white British woman and whose father is African-American.
    “It definitely had an impact on me,” she said. “It made me want to fight back and say, ‘I can be black and smart. Those are not separate entities. Those are not different things.’ “
    The researchers found that after receiving the more encouraging letter about “high expectations,” fewer black students had discipline issues the following year than those who received the other letter, and they were more likely to attend a four-year college. There were no significant associations found between the letter and behavior or college enrollment among the white students.
    However, Cohen said the results of this small experiment should not be misconstrued to suggest that giving a nice note to a student will increase their chances of going to college.

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    “That’s not the message. The message should be that we can have more influence than we think, through timely acts that recognize and validate kids’ potential,” Cohen said.
    “The note that we gave kids was one example of this, and it worked, in this place, in this time, in this school,” he said. “Whether it would work in another school, I don’t know. I think it would depend. It’s not a magic bullet. The school where we used this note was one where the kids had the resources they needed to learn and to grow.”

    Tips to help teachers build trust

    Teacher and student relationships are improved when teachers make an effort to better understand a student’s life both in and outside of school, said Richard Milner, a professor of education and endowed chair of urban education at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the new study. He is author of the book “Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting poverty and race in schools and classrooms.”
    Based on research he has conducted in middle and high schools, Milner offered the following advice on how to build, cultivate and maintain trusting relationships with students:
    • Develop assignments that allow students to share aspects of their lives inside and outside of school.
    • Build powerful discussion opportunities for students to share their point of view across all subject areas.
    • Attend some extracurricular activities of students, such as a school or community play, sporting event or band concert.
    • Visit local community sites of students, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, beauty salons or community centers.
    • Interview or talk directly to students themselves, rather than talking about them.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/10/health/racial-bias-teachers-schools-study/index.html