Building Productive Student-Teacher Relationship with Black Male Adolescents
Gannon, Colleen C
Peercy, Megan M
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Teachers often struggle to initiate and maintain productive relationships with their Black male students, which can have detrimental effects on Black male students’ academic and personal development. Therefore, teacher education and professional development programs as well as K-12 school administrators need to prepare and support all teachers in developing productive student-teacher relationships with their Black male students. The purpose of this collective case study was to identify the practices teachers use to build productive relationships with their Black male students and explore how the dimensions of a teacher’s identity influence their enactment of those practices. This study took place in a racially and socio-economically diverse all-boys parochial high school and focused on the relational practices of three teachers, who students identified as consistently building productive relationships with Black male students. The findings highlight five common practices the focal teachers used to build relationships with their Black male students: a) interacting with student in a humanizing manner; b) engaging in conversations about race with students; c) engaging students as active participants in their own learning; d) preparing students for short and long term success; and e) being consistently present in the students’ school lives. Each teacher also enacted unique practices including being transparent with students, mentoring students, treating students with unconditional positive regard, prioritizing student growth, and allowing opportunities for redemption. Additionally, the findings suggest that a teacher’s race, gender, instructional role, and life experience influence their ability to develop productive relationships with Black male adolescents. This work emphasizes that teacher education programs and K-12 schools need to support teachers in building productive relationships with Black male students regardless of a school’s racial composition. Furthermore, this work emphasizes that teacher education programs should provide future teachers with multiple visions of how they can enact effective relational practices and should address how and why the teachers may need to modify their practice based on dimensions of their identity, particularly their race and instructional role. Finally, this work supports the need for K-12 schools to adopt policies that facilitate and support teachers’ formation of productive relationships with their Black male students.