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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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Presented by Children’s Resources for
Community Day School Network Conference
January 13 -15, 2008
■ Issues of Hair, Race, and Self-image for African-American Youth
■ Duality of Socialization
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.
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.
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
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
“A Girl Like Me”
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.
You’re not beautiful
You’re not smart
= Low 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.
The Role of the Family
Parents, siblings, and other family members greatly effect how a child
internalizes feelings of love and acceptance.
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.
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.
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
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.
African-Americans have used “black language” to promote and
maintain group unity and cohesion in the midst of an oppressive
- Teachers should acknowledge the value of
achievement in the social setting, while reminding
the children that academic world has its rewards
patient with his or her performance.
- Examine your own communication and avoid conveying attitudes of superiority.