|Speaker bridges gap in classroom|
|Written by Elizabeth Brei, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Tuesday, 26 June 2012 18:43|
Thurman Bridges expresses need for acceptance in diverse classrooms to avoid stereotyping
Thurman Bridges, associate professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., presented “Culturally Responsive Instruction” on Tuesday, June 19, in the Prairie Room.
Bridges holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia.
He was awarded the Promising Research Fellowship by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was formerly a middle school teacher in Richmond, Va.
Bridges has conducted much of his research on African-American male teachers from the hip-hop generation and on students who are trying to learn in diverse circumstances.
He said that part of what drives the way teachers instruct students of diverse backgrounds is the way they respond to the stereotypes that have become rampant about them.
“What you see in the media is really sexed and criminalized. You see kids getting arrested,” Bridges said.
“When you see Latino students, you immediately see them as being a part of violent gangs. You see a young female of color with a baby and automatically assume she’s a welfare mom.”
Bridges said that stereotypes affect how teachers approach their students.
“[They’re] nothing but words in space,” he said. “But they affect the way we see these kids, even when we don’t want them to. None of us are excluded from holding these beliefs about whoever we teach.”
By buying into stereotypes about various groups, teachers can justify not working hard at teaching certain students or justify not pushing someone to work hard because his or her life seems difficult anyway.
“Students have these experiences with teachers, and they begin to feel this way too, to carry it with them and internalize it,” Bridges said.
He said that even though he was brought up in an “Afro-centric” household that celebrated being African-American, he has still found himself over the years discounting his own worth or uplifting whiteness.
“I didn’t create that,” he said. “But in a pivotal crisis moment, that seed sprouted in me and activated that.”
Bridges said these feelings about self-worth are created by students’ experiences, and then affect the performances those students give throughout their lives, both in school and in life, and affect the decisions they make about the direction their lives can go.
“These stereotypes affect how these kids feel about themselves fundamentally,” he said.
The solution to this is a teaching strategy in which teaching is culturally responsive, which Bridges said goes further than just being aware of diversity in the classroom, but also means recognizing the ways that ideas about being the “other” group affect self-worth.
“Being a culturally responsive teacher is such a great job, because you’re not fighting against a culture, you’re fighting against the internalization of a deficit perspective of one’s self,” Bridges said.
“Never sit down in workshop on culturally responsive teaching and start discussing strategies first. It’s hollow, it’s impotent, without understanding the gravity of the problem first.”