Viewing the World Differently

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, School Administrator Magazine

April 01, 2022

If the priority is serving students well, then educators must understand their cultural identities and act to change learners’ attitudes
Baruti Kafele
Baruti Kafele, author of The Equity & Social Justice Education 50, believes teachers need cultural competence to make a difference in the lives of Black students. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MILKEN FAMILY FOUNDATION

When I meet teachers on the road, I routinely ask, “What’s your name and what do you teach?” In response, most tell me their name and the subject or grade they teach. However, I occasionally meet someone who responds, “I teach children.”

For this teacher, children are the priority. Content is second. A teacher who prioritizes children over content is a very different teacher from the one who prioritizes content over children. Looking at children first translates into seeing the whole child — including the child’s life experiences, reality, challenges, obstacles, pressures, demands, needs, interests, goals, aspirations and how the student learns, thinks and makes sense of new information.

Rooted in all of these experiences are the student’s racial and cultural identities. That is to say, their racial and cultural identities play a significant role in how they see, experience and react to the world, all of which have unavoidable classroom implications.

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Baruti Kafele


About the Author

Baruti Kafele, a former principal in urban schools, is a consultant based in Jersey City, N.J., and author of The Equity & Social Justice Education 50: Critical Questions for Improving Opportunities and Outcomes for Black Students (ASCD).