In a recent article, several administrators have resigned in the wake of alleged racial equality roadblocks at the Boston Latin School. According to Harry A. Blackmun, in order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently. Overcoming the racial equality roadblocks at Boston Latin School will require treating students differently by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.
According to the article, Headmaster of Boston Latin School resigns amid allegations of racism at the school, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang accepted the resignation of Dr. Lynne Mooney Teta as headmaster of Boston Latin School. According to Teta, the decision was a very difficult decision, but one that is in the school’s best interest. “I believe that it is time for a new headmaster to lead the school and carry on the tradition of excellence,” Teta communicated.
BLS Black Leaders Aspiring for Change and Knowledge responded by calling on the new administration to promote racial equality and establish an independent reporting system so students can report incidents to administrators. It is difficult to respond to the challenges associated with racial equality without responding to the unseen factors.
What are the unseen racial equality factors that contribute to racism in schools?
Many of the unseen racial equality factors the contribute to racism in schools are associated with nonverbal communication expectations.
Nonverbal communication contributes significantly to communicative interpersonal interactions when compared to verbal communication. Nonverbal communication has greater significance than verbal communication that results from nonverbal communication, having a greater impact:
- In determining interpersonal context meaning
- When accurately determining feelings and emotions
- When revealing meanings and intentions that are deception and distortion free
- When attaining high-quality communications that represent a much more effective communication medium
- Represent a more suitable means of communication when compared to verbal communication
The primary function of teachers’ nonverbal behavior in the classroom is to improve affect or liking for the subject matter, teacher and class, and to increase the desire to learn more about the subject matter. When the teacher improves affect through effective nonverbal behavior, then the students are more likely to listen more, learn more, and have a more positive attitude about the school. Students who perceive that teachers feel favorable toward them demonstrate desired classroom behaviors. Students are more likely to complete assignments in classes that they feel accepted by the teacher.
Nonverbal communication includes three interacting systems, the visual, auditory, and invisible communication systems. Auditory communication involves loudness, pitch, rate, duration, quality, regularity, articulation, pronunciation, and pitch. Visual communication is the most important nonverbal communication system, and includes kinesthetic, proxemic, and artifactual subsystems. Kinesthetic communication includes facial expression, eye behaviors, gestures, and posture. Proxemic communication involves the use of space, distance, and territory for communication purposes. Artifactual communication involves facial and bodily appearances and the options that communicators use to alter their appearance. Individuals who nonverbally communicate in a manner consistent with a culture are perceived as more interpersonally attractive by members of that culture. Teachers who identify, analyze, and modify, if necessary, their nonverbal behavior improve their effectiveness. Nonverbal behaviors that become problematic for ensuring racial equality include standing distance, facial expressions, and listening techniques.
Colleges teach teachers to ensure there is a distance between themselves and the students so the teacher can maintain discipline in the classroom. European Americans are more likely to have close social distance with Mexican Americans when compared to Blacks and prefer to keep their personal space at arm’s length. Hispanic Americans stand close to or side by side instead of face-to-face when talking to another person. Blacks prefer closer social distance when compared to Mexican Americans. Blacks are more likely to touch each other in a conversation when compared to Whites.
Individuals who perceive a proximity violator as someone who will provide them with negative rewards will react negatively when the proximity violator moves closer. Maintaining the appropriate or comfortable proximity is associated with a positive effect, friendship, and attraction.
Teacher facial expressions can convey approval or disapproval to students. Individuals can also use facial expressions such as eye contact to convey liking for another individual. Individuals use nonverbal cues to indicate a liking for another individual by initiating and maintaining eye contact. Whites believe maintaining eye contact in face-to-face communication is most desirable. Within the Black culture, avoiding eye contact is a sign of disrespect.
Moreover, some Black parents teach their children that looking an adult in the eye is a sign of disrespect while White children learn to do the opposite. When reprimanding Black children, they tend not to look at the teacher as a sign of respect. Blacks are less likely to maintain eye contact with persons in a position of authority, and Black children increase eye contact as they begin to trust the teacher. Developing trust between teachers and students needs to become the center of all efforts to ensure that racial equality becomes a prominent factor in the education at the Boston Latin School for all students.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President