A Review of Because of the Kids

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					        Because of the Kids

Facing Racial and Cultural Differences in School

              Jennifer E. Obidah
             Karen Manheim Teel
 A Review of Because of the Kids

Facing Racial and Cultural Differences in Schools

                  Sarah Judge
                 Joseph Petrak
                    Group 3
                   EAD 850
          Dr. Reitumetse O. Mabokela
               February 21, 2005
           Table of Contents
1) Brief outline and premise of the book
2) Key themes and arguments of the book
3) How this book has helped clarify and enrich the
   understanding of history
4) How this book helps the development of a
   personal multicultural perspective
5) How this book helps curricular and policy
   issues in education.
6) Conclusions/Our thoughts
7) References
      A Brief Look and Outline
•   Description of Study
•   Reason for the Study
•   Purpose of the Study
•   Individual Background of the Participants
•   Results of the Study
      Description of the Study
• Between the years 1993 and 1996, two women,
  one Black and one White, work together to
  explore the racial and cultural differences in an
  urban middle school classroom.
• African American children made up the majority
  of the student population at this California
• This study took place in the confines of Karen
  Manheim Teel’s seventh grade social studies
        Reason for the Study
• Karen Manheim Teel is a veteran White teacher
  in a middle school that over time, saw a change
  in its student population.
• Karen, through her doctoral studies, believed that
  “low achievement” of urban African American
  students was due to inefficient teaching materials
  and strategies used by their teachers.
• Karen learned and applied alternative teaching
  strategies from her doctoral work, but
  experienced continued resistance from some of
  her students.
   Further Reason for the Study
• Discipline proved to a major problem for Karen.
• Karen did not experience these same kind of
  problems with her White students.
• At the same time, she was hearing that White
  teachers may never be successfully able to work
  with African American students because of racial
  and cultural differences.
• Karen rejected this concept and thought that a
  possible way of improving her teaching was to
  find help through the benefit of a respected
  African American teacher.
         Purpose of the Study
• Karen asked Jennifer Obidah, a fellow teacher in
  the middle school, to observe her teaching.
• She also asked Jennifer to give advice on how to
  modify her teaching strategies to best serve her
• Through this relationship, the purpose of the
  study began with two goals:
  1) to improve Karen’s teaching practices
  2) to examine the impact of racial and cultural
      differences on the teaching and learning that
      occurred in the classroom.
   Individual Backgrounds of
         the Participants
• Jennifer E. Obidah’s background
• Karen Manheim Teel’ background
             Jennifer E. Obidah
• Jennifer was born in Barbados and moved to New York
  City when she was an adolescent.
• Her life in Barbados was peaceful and imagined her new
  life in the United States to be idyllic.
• Instead, her family struggled financially and her parents
  marriage ended. She moved with her mother and brother
  to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a more dangerous area of New
• “Life had a dangerous edge. The potential for emotional
  explosions was always there. These explosions occur to
  serve as salve for the crush of oppressions” (Obidah and
  Teel, pg 11).
Jennifer E. Obidah’s Later Years
• Jennifer did not think her neighborhood as one to get out
  of, it was simply home.
• Jennifer goes on to attend Yale University for graduate
  school, to complete a master’s degree in African
  American Studies.
• While there, Jennifer experienced feeling dissimilar from
  other Black students due to her background from
  Bedford-Stuyvesant. This isolationist feeling plays a part
  later in the study with Karen Manheim Teel.
• She goes on to Berkeley to pursue a doctorate degree.
         Karen Manheim Teel
• Karen grew up in the 1950’s in central
  California. Her mother stayed at home to raise
  her family while her father worked in sales.
• Karen’s mother gave much of her time to her
  children’s lives, volunteering at school and as a
  Scouts leader. Her mother also taught Karen the
  importance of self-respect.
• In her neighborhood, there were no threats of
  crime or violence and her school years were very
       Karen Manheim Teel’s
            Later Years
• Karen goes on to study at UC Berkeley in 1964.
  She studied political science and became
  engaged. She then finishes a one-year teaching
  program and realizes she wants to be a classroom
• She is offered a full-time teaching position
  teaching seventh grade world history in the late
  summer of 1969. This is in San Francisco,
           Results of the Study
• Three perspectives emerged in the teaching framework of
  this study:

  1) Beliefs, intentions and personalities of
     individual teachers play a greater role in student
     success than materials or texts.
  2) Unintentional biases of White teachers
     may interfere with the process of teaching and
  3) White teachers have great influence over the
     education of African American children but
     many of them are not prepared professionally
     to deal with these circumstances.
     Key Themes and Arguments
1)   Exploration
2)   Collaboration
3)   Investigation
4)   Relationships
• Because of Karen Manheim Teel’s self-exploration in her
  relationship with her African American students, she
  realized she was not successfully educating this student
• Despite Karen’s efforts to use refined teaching strategies
  developed in her doctoral program, these were not
  successful with her African American population.
• Karen was struggling with utilizing effective discipline
  and how the African American students treated her and
  one another.
• Karen had a fear of being deemed racist if she were to
  reprimand these students.
• Karen rejected the notion that White teachers could not
  effectively teach African American students.
• Because Karen actively sought assistance in improving
  her teaching with African American students, she began a
  teaching relationship with Jennifer E. Obidah, a Black
  teacher in her middle school.
• Jennifer agrees to work with Karen on the condition of
  two goals:
  1) To improve Karen’s teaching practices
  2) They would look at the impact of racial and cultural
  differences between Karen and her students played in her
  interactions with them.
• Karen and Jennifer worked together for three
  years between 1993 and 1996 on this study.
• Jennifer observed Karen and her teaching in
  Karen’s social studies classroom.
• Jennifer cited circumstances where Karen had
  observable discipline problems with the students.
• Jennifer noted situations where Karen was
  observably racist in her lessons.
• These experiences pointed toward racial and
  cultural differences between Karen and her
  African American students.
• Jennifer and Karen anticipated that racial and
  cultural differences would have an impact on the
  student-teacher relationship and student academic
• Jennifer and Karen did not predict that racial and
  cultural differences between them would become
  a possible threat to the research project.
• These differences almost did end the project, but
  their efforts to comprehend and resolve these
  differences deepened their teaching relationship
  and ultimately, their friendship.
         More on Relationships
• Karen lacked use of and consistency of discipline in the
  classroom. Karen would at times develop plans that were
  culturally insensitive to her students. This would result in
  student antagonism toward Karen.
• When critiqued by Jennifer, Karen was sensitive to her
  comments, at times causing feelings of anger.
• Karen would internalize the negative feelings, or sort
  them out with another co-worker before approaching
• Jennifer would prefer to openly communicate the
• Jennifer finds that Karen’s sensitive reactions are
  similar to hers during her first year at Yale.
  Clarification, Enrichment, and
    Understanding of History
• Karen’s childhood experience in the 1950’s was
  seemingly without political conflict or introduction to any
  other culture than her own.
• Karen’s parents were not particularly involved in civil
  rights, and she herself does not become more involved
  until the end of her college years studying political
• Through this ignorance, we see examples of Karen’s lack
  of cultural understanding in her lesson plans.
• Karen’s lack of understanding results in “Why you call
  me a barbarian?”
         “Why You Call Me A
• Karen had prepared a lesson on six groups of people who
  lived during the Roman Empire. The students were
  assigned various roles and asked to problem solve
  scenarios during the fall of the empire.
• The various roles included barbarians, common
  people/farmers, emperors, nobles, soldiers, and
• Students were upset by some of the roles assigned, such
  as a student named Sam who is affronted with the
  connection that Romans were prejudiced against the
  barbarians because they looked and behaved differently.
  In response, Sam demanded, “Why you call me a
  barbarian?” (Obidah and Teel, pg 49).
           Karen’s Response
• Karen responds to this interchange by saying,
  “I thought the students would think the role
  playing was fun. I never expected this approach
  to insult them. I have been trying to think
  through and explain how I could have been so
  oblivious to my students’ feelings, which come
  from their history of slavery and oppression in
  this country. I think that since I grew up without
  that personal history on my mind, it did not occur
  to me that this role playing might be offensive”
  (Obidah and Teel, pg 51).
   Clarification and Enrichment
• In another example found in Karen’s classroom, Karen
  misses a learning opportunity for herself when she fails to
  identify home language usage in her classroom.
• During this activity, one of Karen’s students states that
  his student group is “raw” when describing their power in
  a game. Karen does not understand this terminology and
  thus ignores it.
• Jennifer later points out that Karen missed a learning
  opportunity for herself in that moment.
• Additionally, Jennifer tells Karen that because the
  students were using home language, the students were
  fully involved and comfortable with Karen.
          Further Clarification
• These examples from the text clarify the need for
  teachers to understand student African American
  cultural roots and home environments to learn
  better interaction with them.
• They also clarify that African American students
  want their White teachers to ask about their
  culture, such as way of life, vocabulary, and
• These examples clarify that we should not
  assume that African American students
  automatically give respect to authority; rather it is
     Development of a Personal
     Multicultural Perspective
• Reading this text, sheds distinct light on Black and White
  cultural perspectives.
• The inclusion of personal biographies in the text on
  Jennifer E. Obidah and Karen Manheim Teel
  demonstrated the impact of individual histories on
  multicultural perspectives.
• The book evokes many emotions while reading through
  the vignettes of both a Black educator and a White
  educator and their interactions with one another.
• The group members, as White educators with experience
  teaching African American youth, the text taught
  invaluable lessons. These include the value of personal
  histories and their impact on children.
  Multicultural Lessons Learned
• Reading the text provides White educators the
  opportunity to be more keenly aware of African
  American history in all interactions with students.
• We learned that home language usage in the
  classroom is not a negative circumstance, but
  potentially positive, as it means the student is
  comfortable in their classroom environment and
  with their teacher.
• This text emphasized the importance of getting to
  know your students as people, and not simply as
  students. Teachers do not have to distance
  themselves to have authority.
  Help for Curricular and Policy
       Issues in Education
• The study by Jennifer and Karen clearly identify that
  textbooks and new materials are not the solution to
  improved student achievement.
• Their study clarifies that revising teaching strategies
  alone are not a solution.
• Strategies can be revised but must be combined with
  caring about the student as a person, as is understanding
  their culture.
• Only when White teachers understands the needs of the
  African American students will they understand that
  current curriculum may not be written for the African
  American student in mind.
          Needed Policy for
          Teacher Preparation
• This study showed the need for field experiences
  to prepare pre-service teachers for work in
  sometimes radically different settings from which
  they are accustomed.
• Teachers must also learn to engage in self-
  reflection to understand their own cultural biases.
• Jennifer and Karen both believe that a classroom
  in a teacher preparation program would be a
  positive place to establish collaboration such as
  Community Efforts in Needed
      Policy Changes
• Jennifer and Karen admit that despite the
  recognized need for more skilled and effective
  teachers in the urban classroom, teacher
  education programs are still ineffective in their
• Jennifer and Karen suggest community mentors
  of teacher candidates would improve the
  candidate’s knowledge of future students
  (Obidah and Teel, pg 103).
• Ultimately, the differences between Karen and
  her students effected the way she was teaching in
  the classroom, their attitude toward her, and their
  academic progress.
• Collaborating with Jennifer Obidah provided a
  relationship that allowed a perspective Karen
  could never understand with her guidance. Karen
  fully acknowledges this fact.
• Although their relationships was strained at
  times, their commitment to the children and the
  process of the study was the factor that held them
         Personal Conclusions
• It is imperative to understand the whole of a
  student to teach the student effectively. This
  means learning and understanding the individual
  child, his culture, personality, and abilities.
• We must learn from this study between White
  and African American populations. What is
  learned here can only apply to other cultural
  groups as well. Would this not improve teacher-
  student relations, allowing for true learning and
  improved academic performance to occur?
• Obidah, Jennifer E., and Teel, Karen
     Manheim. Because of the Kids.
     Teacher College Press, New York, NY.

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