Through Ebony Eyes: What Teachers Need to Know but Are Afraid to Ask about African American Students

Article excerpt

Through Ebony Eyes: What Teachers Need to Know but Are Afraid to Ask About African American Students

AUTHOR: GAIL L. THOMPSON

JOSSEY-BASS, CA 2007, PAPERBACK

PRICE: $1 7.95

ISBN: 0787987697

Gail Thompson affirms that theories that have been proffered to explain the academic achievement of African Americans and to initiate educational reform have failed because they do not address the relationship between academic achievement and the cultural mismatch between teachers and students. Thompson views the achievement gap as the result of an intricate, culturally sensitive chasm between many teachers and African American students. A former public school teacher, associate professor, scholar, and facilitator for professional development for teachers, Thompson uses her "ebony eyes" to illuminate this chasm. Thompson affirms that "Teachers' beliefs affect students' learning" (p. 20). She supports her position and "strong opinions" in ten chapters that are filled with autobiographical anecdotes, research findings and findings collected from professional development seminars. Personal stories and experiences form the core of Thompson's book. She believes that these stories have messages for teachers "searching for ways to increase their efficacy with African American students" (242).

Through numerous personal stories and the review of relevant theories, Thompson identifies differences in beliefs, values, communication styles, expectations, attitudes, socialization, and preconceived notions between African American students and many of their teachers. Similar to a professional development seminar, Thompson offers useful strategies that teachers can apply to strengthen their relationships with African American students. These strategies might be viewed as common sense by veteran teachers, but they could serve as needed guideposts for fledging teachers. Regarding effective instructional practices for African American students, for example, Thompson advises teachers to 1) let students know you care, 2) share the real you, by letting them see you are a real human being, 3) have high expectations, keep reminding them of the big picture and why what they are doing in class is important, 4) use storytelling to arouse their interest, 5) showcase their talent, and 6) give students multiple ways to succeed academically. …