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Improving Student Self-Image for Better Academic Achievement Presented by Children’s Resources for Community Day School Network Conference January 13 -15, 2008 Session I Self-Esteem ■ Issues of Hair, Race, and Self-image for African-American Youth

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improving student self image for better academic achievement

Improving Student Self-Image for Better Academic Achievement

Presented by Children’s Resources for

Community Day School Network Conference

January 13 -15, 2008

session i
Session I


■ Issues of Hair, Race, and Self-image for African-American Youth

■ Duality of Socialization

physical attributes
Physical Attributes

A study of fifth grade teachers found that a child’s

attractiveness was significantly associated with the

teacher’s expectations concerning the child’s

intelligence, his or her parents’ interest in

education, the likelihood of future success, and

popularity with peers.

Clifford, M.M. & Walster, E. (1973, Spring). Research note: The effect of physical attractiveness on

teacher expectations. Sociology of Education, 46, 248.

bias in appearance
Bias in Appearance

When the teacher and/or the peers are of a culture

that considers their beauty standards superior to

that of the physical standards held by African-

Americans and Hispanics, a teacher (regardless of

his or her own ethnic background) may behave in a

negative and biased manner with minority students.

Peers who are of the dominant culture may also

favor their own beauty standards, and not recognize

the beauty within all fellow classmates.


This failure to see beauty in every child does carry

implications for the education and motivation of

African-American and Hispanic students. There

are some African-American and Hispanic youth

who are likely to see themselves as unattractive

based on white standards of beauty. Student

perceptions of their attractiveness can effect both

the social and academic self-image.

beauty appeal and race
Beauty, Appeal, and Race

African-Americans are bombarded with beauty

images of European culture. Whether through

music videos, shampoo and cosmetic

commercials, and soap operas, that which is

defined as beautiful is usually defined

by European standards. These images tend to

make us, African-Americans, feel less beautiful

and ultimately impact our self-esteem in a

negative way.

beauty and intelligence
Beauty and Intelligence

If such standards lack appreciation for our unique

physical attributes, then it should not surprise us

to learn that the academic lessons and teacher

expectations are also influenced by racial and

cultural biases.


“A Girl Like Me”

self image performance
Self-Image & Performance

Evidence shows that a student’s academic

performance is related to how the student sees him

or herself in comparison to others. For many

African-American and Hispanic youth, self-image

not only affects academic performance, but also

how they respond in social settings.

Kuykendall, C. (1987). You and yours: Making the most of this school year. Washington, DC:

Mid-Atlantic Equity Center.

impact on self image
Impact on Self-Image

You’re not beautiful

+ (therefore)

You’re not smart


= Low Self-Image

types of self image
Types of Self-Image

Children develop two self-images as they

mature into adulthood:

1. Social Self-Image – Influenced by family, peers, churches, boys and girls clubs, recreation centers, etc.

2. Academic Self-Image – Molded by teachers, school, classroom experiences, and educators.

social self image
Social Self-Image

The Role of the Family

Parents, siblings, and other family members greatly effect how a child

internalizes feelings of love and acceptance.

  • Children who have strong bonds with members of their family are likely to see themselves in a positive light.
  • Children who experience excessive criticism and a lack of love within the family circle are likely to fault themselves and experience damage to their social self-image. This kind of damage can also be caused by sibling rivalry.
social self image12
Social Self-Image

The Role of Peers

When the adults in their lives do not provide acceptance, affection,

appreciation, and approval, Black and Hispanic youth are more likely

to get these needs met through interaction with their peers or adults

who are part of the street culture in their communities.

  • Black and Hispanic youth are especially loyal to peers where there is an acceptance of their shortcomings, appreciation of their strengths, and approval of their unique talents and abilities.
  • Black and Hispanic youth develop their behaviors, such as walk, talk, dress, dance, etc., through acceptance of the peer group, and to reflect their place within the group. (This is especially true for boys, as they do not value academic self-image as much as they do social self-image.)
social self image13
Social Self-Image

The Role of Other Social Systems

Participation in social clubs, churches, or on sports teams can help a

child develop strong bonds and a positive social image.

  • Coaches, mentors, counselors, etc. can serve as role models to youth as they interact in social settings an activities. They can also be there to listen.
  • Children benefit from guidance, attention, and a moral foundation. From mentors in the church and community, children can receive advice and avoid making severe mistakes that stem from peer pressure, sex, drugs, etc.
building student self image
Building Student Self Image
  • Appreciate your students
  • Take the time to build rapport
  • Implement diverse learning activities
  • Find the positive in every effort
  • Learn from your students (mutual exchange)
  • Be sensitive to cultural and socioeconomic differences
  • Encourage your students to try new and challenging activities
  • Find ways to recognize and award efforts
duality of socialization
Duality of Socialization

Cultural Language

Black children have to be prepared to imitate the “hip” and “cool”

behavior of the culture in which they live, such as that of the peer

group, while at the same time, adopting the behaviors that are

necessary to go out in the mainstream society, interact with the

dominant culture, and get a job.

African-Americans and other minority groups in the society therefore

have to become socialized in two distinct cultures: the culture of the

“hood” or peers and the culture of the economic power group or

“white society”.

academic self image
Academic Self-Image

The Role of the Classroom

As youth flee from perceived failure and ego-destroying experiences in the

classroom, they seek success in those social arenas where they feel that success

if most likely. It is not unusual for some children and teens to display positive

social self-image, while at the same time having a negative academic self-image

in educational environments.

  • It is the responsibility of schools and educators to provide an academic environment that offers encouragement, praise, and the opportunity for accomplishment to promote the positive academic self-images of African-American and Hispanic youth.
  • Teachers need to identify and develop the unique cultural and social strengths that African-American and Hispanic youth bring to the classroom.
duality of socialization17
Duality of Socialization

Group Cohesion

African-Americans have used “black language” to promote and

maintain group unity and cohesion in the midst of an oppressive


  • While the appropriateness and usefulness of speaking standard English in certain situations is understood, African-American and Hispanic children are often pressured by their peers to speak the cultural language or slang.
  • African-American and Hispanic parents have the challenge of understanding and helping their children to successfully function within the peer group, while also providing them with the skills and abilities they will need to succeed in the outside society.
respecting both worlds
Respecting Both Worlds

- Teachers should acknowledge the value of

achievement in the social setting, while reminding

the children that academic world has its rewards

as well.

  • Understand the student’s perspective and be

patient with his or her performance.

- Examine your own communication and avoid conveying attitudes of superiority.