Responding to socio-economic and racial differences

Walker-Dalhouse, D.  (Fall 2005).  Discipline: responding to socio-economic and racial

            differences.  Childhood education.  Retrieved on January 24, 2008, from


Discipline:       Responding to Socio-economic and Racial Differences

            The article relates the experiences of the author teaching in a 4th grade class form of disciplinary methods that have been proposed by Marva Collins, which she termed as the “Marva Collins method.”

            The author selected to apply the method in a class who is mainly composed of African-American children coming from low-income families because based on research and study, children who come from a minority ethnical group as well as from low-income families are less likely to possess positive student-teacher relationships.  Based on the findings she made on her research, she had discovered that elementary teachers, who are predominantly Caucasian females, view African-Americans as more aggressive than their Caucasian counterparts.  As such, African-American children, specifically male children, are more likely to be disciplined than their Caucasian classmates.  The severity of these disciplinary actions range from the use of verbal punishment, physical punishment, exclusion from classes, suspension, grade retention and even expulsion.  These disciplinary actions not only hinder African-American children to succeed in the classroom, but allowed the children to foster feelings of alienation and rebellion towards their teachers and eventually to the entire academic community.

              The author then explained the concepts of the “Marva Collins method.”  This method involved the teacher explaining to the students what the teacher’s expectations are and encouraged the teacher to praise his or her students on their achievements and show genuine concern for the behavior of their students.  In the event that the behavior of the student would need to be disciplined, it must be done in an emphatic and understanding manner, taking into consideration outside factors that may have contributed this behavior.  Since the part of the behavior of the student is linked to his or her cultural background, Collin stressed the importance of teachers to understand the cultures of his or her students to be able to address any behavioral issues in the classroom more effectively.

            The author then recorded her experiences in teaching 4th grade low-income African-American students for an entire year.  Her efforts included setting a goal for the class for the school year and the children to write daily journals based on quotations she had selected focusing on the values of self-control and motivation, asking the child to write in his or her journal regarding this matter to give an opportunity to realize their mistakes.  The positive change in the behavior of the students by the end of the school year made the author concluded that Marva Collin’s method for classroom management and discipline were more effective compared to the use of various forms of punishment.

            On one hand, I am confounded by the article because it had exposed that the ethnical background and socio-economic status of a child do not dictate whether the child’s behavior will be disruptive or otherwise, but it is due to the bias of teachers who come from a different cultural background and income class as compared to the students.  The severity of the punishments stated in the article indeed would cause the student to resent their teachers at an early age and thus would carry this even after he or she completes his or her education.  It is perplexing that such discrimination and prejudice is still present in schools.  Even more perplexing is that this is occurring in elementary schools in the country.  On the other hand, I am pleased that educators such as Marva Collin have recognized this issue and developed a more humane method of classroom management.  The method validates the saying that in order for one to be respected, one has to learn to give respect.  The experiences of the author in this article is proof of that.

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