SCENARIO: Feisty Black Girl Student
“Hey, Doctor Brown.”
“Good morning, Mayella.”
“What are we doing today, Doc?”
“Have a seat first, and I will explain.” Mayella takes her seat: another black girl student sitting behind Mayella pulls Mayella’s hair. Mayella quickly turns around and pops the girl in her face. “Don’t touch me, goddamit!” Mayella retaliated.
The girl hits Mayella back—in the face.
”Whooaa! What on earth?” Doctor Brown squealed. “Julia! Outside, please. Now.” Dr. Brown approaches Julia. “I said outside. Remain there until I come speak with you!” Mayella hollers to the girl, “You better not come back in here or else I’ll beat your ass.” The entire class roars with excitement. “Mayella, please. Hush. Sit down. Allow me to speak with my class!” Dr. Brown races toward the front classroom wall to turn out the room’s light, and then she hurries to the backroom to adjust the air unit to cool.
With agility, Dr. Brown works the room as she speaks through a mini-mega phone, “Calm down class. Please. I need to speak with you.” Dr. Brown walks up to individual students that are laughing: “Please, class. I need your help. Remain quiet, so I may address the class.” The class quells—somewhat.
“I am very hurt. I feel extremely disappointed with the confusion brought into my classroom”—
“Julia started it,” Mayella shouted.”
“Please, Mayella, allow me to speak . . . I have spent weeks training you, my precious students, how to behave with civility . . . You know the rules, yet you break them. Obviously I must repeat the rules to remind you: Remember. I am your teacher. My responsibility is to protect you and to teach you lessons you must understand for high school graduation . . .”
“In life, soon, you will encounter a greater responsibility to uphold than to upset expected organization in a classroom setting, understand? You must be able to control yourselves, students. You must keep your hands to yourselves and keep your mouths from spewing hurtful words toward other people. You would not appreciate another person disrespecting you, so why must you disrespect them!” (Pause).
The class listens, except another feisty black girl intervenes, “We have heard this speech before!” The teacher adjusts her demeanor yet maintains a calm but dominant voice: “Katina, one more word from you, and I will call your mom, interrupt her job, and allow her to speak with you!” Dr. Brown pulls a cell phone from her pocket and points it at the student: “All I have to do is dial.” The student puts her head on her desk.
“Students, listen, enough! We have work to honor . . . Please open your Chromebooks to define the terms listed on the Promethean board. Write each word’s definition, its part of speech, and access the speaker-button to listen to each word’s sound! Use your headphones, so not to disturb the other students.”
“Remain quiet for remainder of the class-period. This lesson is a graded assignment and will be due at the ring of the bell.” The class proceeds with working. Dr. Brown goes outside, leaving classroom door open to look in on students as she contends with feisty black girl, Julia. She grabs a pen and notebook paper and scribbles on the paper. In a dominant voice, “Julia, I am sadden by the trouble you have caused in my classroom today, and be clear that I will speak with your parent about it later. In the meantime, take this note to the behavioral specialist. Remain in her office for the remainder of this class-period.” The feisty black girl huffs and puffs as she leaves for the office, and Dr. Brown returns to her classroom to monitor students as they complete their daily vocabulary assignment . . .
BLACK GIRL ATTITUDE
Research resounds that a significant number of black students come from neighborhoods where they were raised having to defend themselves from possibly abusive parents or from predators who entered their lives only to harm them. Black girls especially have had to become a woman prematurely to look after themselves and their younger siblings. Growing up, when anyone ventured to harm their family members that someone had to deal with the feisty black girl as a sister! Neglected, harmed black girls had to grow up to be tough. If someone said threatening words to a feisty black girl, that someone might hear a mouth, foul full. Rarely would a strong, independent–though impoverished in home and spirit–black girl allow any other person to be absolved of punishment if threat from the other person was aimed at her or her young family members.
A young black girl living in a sad, unimaginable life for a long time, will show little patience for a bully of any type. Realistically, what happens to the mindset of a sassy black girl, who was mistreated growing up, is that of a “bad day” for the other person who mistreated her.
With no home training, no church support, no reliable family member to help her with a sense of morality, a sassy black, neglected girl will bring into almost any environment the defense mechanism she inherited to protect herself—including the environment of a school.
While unfortunate instances may happen to anyone, any race, incidents of deprivation happens quiet often to black girls raised in poverty and or raised in low-income, single parent—sometimes both parents—homes. Naturally, some black girls have “attitudes” and will inevitably bring those attitudes into a school environment.
Teacher Management Strategies:
What can teachers do to build relationships with feisty black girl students? For starters, teachers can realize the human element. Feisty black girls are human beings, meaning they, like any other race of girls, can be challenged to do the right thing by a deliverance of a proper education.
Teachers can be polite and kind when addressing feisty, black female students. Teachers’ words can be spoken in a respectful tone, not in a harsh, critical tone, towards black, female students. Teachers can also be patient with feisty black girls, understanding that some black girls come from different backgrounds than their teachers. Not many black girls have experienced the same advantages. Because black girls’ backgrounds may be different from their educators, however, should not preclude them from receiving the best education possible. Teachers’ devised strategies to teach moral lessons to motivate students to perform their best and to allow black feisty girl students to be themselves while they undergo a change in behavior for ultimatum school learning is crucial to classroom success.
A lot of understanding about human behavior will help teachers show kindness to all students, but especially will help to transport a smooth operation between teacher and feisty black girl students. When dealing with human behavior of feisty black girls, their individualistic mechanisms of coping should be assessed with their temperaments in mind.
In case, however, a teacher should encounter a volatile situation dealing with feisty, black female students, a teacher can handle the fray in the manner indicated below:
(1) Provide immediate intervention—
As soon as a fight is realized among feisty, black female students, a teacher may call out the students’ names and demand that they stop fighting immediately.
Where possible, the teacher may grab the more reasonable student to embrace her gently as the teacher inch-walk the student safely towards the exit door or towards the desk where the student sits. Teacher should whisper in student’s ear, “This skirmish is not the battle to fight. It’s not worth school suspension.” Teacher should keep talking to the student until the student calms herself and should not release the student from teacher’s embrace until the other feisty, black girl has left the room.
Some interventions of force can be applied to student discipline. Yet, the teacher should use “force” only with a humane approach, one that is not volatile nor dispirited for the feisty student or for the classmates watching.
Force a situation in a way that spares the dignity of the feisty, black female student. In all cases, however, refer to the school’s classroom management policy, and adhere to its tenets.
(2) Use tactics “lights and temperature”
Keeping lights to a minimal in a classroom setting is better than keeping lights very bright. This notion is very true for when students enter a classroom. When lights are dimmed, students tend to enter classroom in a quieter tone. This scene can be compared to that of a theater: when lights are dark, patrons tread cautiously and quietly as they find their seats.
Likewise, if a classroom has windows, the teacher may allow the sun to reflect. Many students prefer natural light to artificial light, claiming they can “relate” to assignments better in natural light.
Furthermore, dark light reduces opportunities for student fights to occur because students are usually in a relaxed mood when lights are dark. Moreover, ample research abounds that students are better cognitively supported with natural light than they are supported with artificial light.
Equally, temperature has influence on student behavior. A classroom should be neither too cold nor too hot but just right, for contentious scenario tempers may flee with a colder effect. Cold air stimulates the muscles, promoting students to shake off the cool air from their hands and bodies, foregoing venomous blows toward one another.
(3) Use A Megaphone
Confusion may result in a classroom when students do not clearly hear the teacher calling out for their attention, and when students realize that no one else is listening to the teacher, students may become even more vociferous. Claiming students’ attention by repeatedly verbalizing “Class, class, students, hey, class, class”—will eventually cause a teacher to lose his or her equilibrium and sally the no-no “SHUT UUUPPP!” When a teacher loses equilibrium it may be difficult to reclaim it, for while students may be shocked over the “shut up” statement, some students may be unforgiving and rebel against the teacher. What a teacher should do instead of raising a tone in voice is to use a megaphone—a small megaphone, one that is easily portable. A megaphone will lift the teacher’s voice in an organic manner, allowing for students to hear “Class, attention, please” from the first call. A megaphone adds a tone of seriousness to instruction and is immensely effective in helping the teacher set classroom instruction with clarity and appropriate volume. The megaphone should be used minimally, however, for important reasons—greetings—setting the learning objectives—and wrapping up. When students cannot hear a teacher’s call, the teacher will find the megaphone a confusion savior and will make a positive difference in demanding students’ attention from the beginning, within the middle, and until the end.
(4) Remind of Rules
The reasons rules are displayed on classroom walls are so that students may review the rules as often as possible. Truth is contrary, however. Students rarely review rules unless doing so becomes a concerted effort of both students and teachers. If the teacher does not refer to placement of rules nor reiterate them, that’s that: students may not remember the rules and resort to misbehavior. The teacher’s responsibility is to review rules each day, immediately before introducing the learning goals for the day. Mentioning rules before learning helps quell loquacious students, and for feisty black girls—because they are friendly and love to talk with their peers anytime they feel the urge; being reminded of the rules help them. Many black girls desire to do the right thing because it keeps them in touch with their being ladies inspite of their loquacious tones. They need reminding, as the reminder is usually necessary to make a respectable difference. Yet, the teacher must be direct about addressing misbehaved students and review class rules before bginning instruction.
(5) Work the Room
Stay in the zone. Meaning, stay among the students as often as possible, keeping away from the teacher’s desk and the computer-corner. The easiest way to lose control of a classroom is to ignore the students. They will find a way to grab attention. Working the room allows the teacher to provide proximity where possible and to instruct students directly if they need it. A teacher may move about the classroom and stop close by students so not to wear themselves out by moving often, especially if the teacher must repeat the process for more than one class. This caveat is particularly important if a group of feisty black girls are many in one classroom. This scenario could be intimidating, for feisty black girls’ strong, vibrant voices can take on their own form of leadership. Thus, working the room is a helpful way to manage instruction and in recognizing all students—especially feisty black girls when they demand the teacher’s attention.
(6) State Romantic Words
Romantic words? Yes, of course. Romance works in almost every relationship. Feisty black girls appreciate attention and compliments. They yearn for the teacher to notice them. Several strategies allow for romance between students and teacher: Address students by their names, for no other sound is more romantic than the call of one’s name. “Julia, do you need help with the lesson?” “You have a nice penmanship, Julia. Yet, aim to write within the margin, okay?” Wink at the student and move on. Keep a smile on the face. A pleasant face motivates students to continue to learn because the teacher’s face appears friendly and kind. “I am proud of the work you do for my class, Julia: Thank you so much (smile). Here is a ‘kiss’ for you (give student a Hersey chocolate kiss.) the teacher may gently stop next to a student to point solutions to instructional practices. The teacher may accommodate the student for a lengthy minute before moving ahead to appear serious about helping. Being next to a student is a type of romance. It’s proxmity. The teacher shows, “I like you,” just by being close. Any ideas that display appropriate affection, genuine compliments, and timely recognition is romance. It works for feisty black girl students, especially.
(7) Use I-Statements
In the case of class disturbances, immediately address them by mentioning how the offense interferes with classroom instruction and share how the incident brings about hurt feelings. The teacher, Dr. Brown, in the above classroom scenario, does a notable job explaining to students, “I do not appreciate it when . . .” “I respectfully ask that you do not make opprobrious remarks in my classroom” “I would feel honored if you apologize to me in front of the class. . .” I-Statements makes it clear that the teacher’s expectations will be enforced and that students are not in charge. Feisty black girls benefit from I-Statements, for, again, the teacher’s call provides another lady-like opportunity for the female student to improve her behavior. Use I-Statements when the student needs reminding the teacher is in charge.
(8) Play the Parent Card
Teachers need help on the spot dealing with some feisty black girls. Reasoning with them will not always be wise, and arguing with them will be even less wise. The teacher may lose face. A wise maneuver is to call the parent. No, not after school but during the incident. Warn the student: “Please stop the behavior. (Pull out cell phone). I am calling your mom. Is this what you want? You want me to call your mom on her job?” Most likely the student misbehavior will desist. If it does, put away the phone. If it does not, call. If mom responds, explain situation and ask her if she would not mind speaking to her child. Pass the student the phone. This strategy comes with the added benefit that other students are watching. They most likely would avoid future confrontation with the teacher to avoid their parents being called. Still, after school, call parent. Extend apology for calling on the job but thank parent for speaking with the child, thereby supporting proper behavior and the teacher’s pleas. Do not abuse this strategy of student management. Use strategy only if no other type student management-interference is better. Play the parent call. It works.
(9) Use “Withitness”
Dr. Brown—in the above scenario—displays a fine example of “withitness.” When she reprimands Julia outside the classroom door she also peeps into the classroom to monitor the other students. She keeps the reprimand of Julia effective by immediately sending her with a ‘note of reason’ to the office. Doctor Brown immediately returns to the classroom, remaining in the zone until the bell rings for the next class. Withitness is a powerful student management tool. It’s the eyes in the back of the head tool. The teacher sees all. The students realize they cannot get away with misbehavior: It will not happen when “withitness” is the preventive measure.
(10) Assert Easy Lesson
Students will withdraw by putting heads on desks or by being silently defiant unless they are given a lesson to complete soon to thwart the confusion they have witnessed. Students need a quick fix. After an altercation among students in the classroom, a teacher may need to shift gears to continue with instruction. If lesson outlined for the day is new or requires a teacher’s in-depth participation, it must be placed in abeyance. Time is not on instruction’s side. Students need to have something to do that they already understand and can proceed without much ado. The vocabulary lesson Dr. Brown instructs is easy and nonthreatening. Students will proceed with lesson, especially if for a grade. By getting students on task after a fray is important to give the teacher time to regroup and to prepare for the next class. Only an easy, identifiable lesson will work in cases of an unruly start. The teacher must keep the lesson easy and remain in the zone, in a corner, holding up with aplomb until the bell rings.
The above discourse belongs soley to the thoughts and experiences of the writer of this post, Cynthia Mathews, who is a classroom teacher and a Doctor of Education. The ideas herein may not be applicable to all classrooms in America. Further empirical research is necessary to reap a better understanding of how educators may successfully develop a positive relationship with feisty, black female students.