While attending a public-school deemed a “School of Excellence,” I was initially identified as gifted in the third-grade. After scoring in the 99th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), which is a national standardized test, I was referred for gifted testing and subsequently placed in the gifted program at my school. I was the only Black student in the program, and always felt as if I did not quite belong in the program. Being “smart” came naturally for me, and it was something my parents, teachers, and even I recognized at a young age; however, being in this environment was a bit intimidating and created feelings of competition, a fear of failure, and a desire to be perfect.
For too long educational stakeholders including researchers, administrators, teachers, parents and even students placed value in the notion that African American students have less interest and capacity in education. What is most troubling is that African American students may themselves hold these beliefs. This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak, contributing to achievement at standards below actual capabilities. Parents and teachers must be sure that they are instilling positive beliefs around African American students and high levels of academic achievement.
As a child of poor immigrants from rural Philippines, I often heard about how my parents grew up without running water and limited electricity. They told my brothers and me stories about the things that they didn’t have while growing up, and how they overcame traumas of war and poverty. These anecdotes made me feel equally grateful and guilty, while also motivating me to strive for success. In fact, it is through these stories that I learned the importance of attaining a college education as a way of fulfilling our parents’ American dreams and somehow compensating for the historical trauma that my family had overcome for centuries.
All parents have probably noticed that raising a child is not only the parent’s job. You are constantly getting input from other family members, friends and teachers. Children spend more than half their day in school so it is safe to say that the school system, and those who work in it, play a huge role in your child’s life. That means that answering tough questions on topics like race and ethnicity is a challenge that teachers will have to face.
When we create an environment that leads children to feel ashamed of their ethnic identity, or to think that they cannot be both ethically identified and American, we are robbing them of a crucial protective factor that enhances their development. Numerous research studies have found that strong ties to cultures of origin, multilingualism, and multicultural identities provide cognitive, academic, social, and emotional advantages.