Village of Wisdom (VOW) works through parents of Black boys to enhance their sons’ belief in self, promoting greater academic performance. Led by elder parents, VOW parents form learning communities providing them space and time to thoughtfully consider how to prepare their sons for success.
William Jackson, a doctoral candidate at UNC, is implementing a program in Durham, NC that will improve the lives and academic outcomes of African American boys by supporting their families. Village of Wisdom focuses on parents and their relationship with their children in order to impact students. In a recent School of Education article, Jackson says, “For most of us our parents were really important in making us believe in ourselves. My parents made sure that I knew regardless of what your race is, regardless of who other people say you are, you can achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve.” Village of Wisdom offers the opportunity for parents to learn how to do this for their children.
Jackson leads parents in a series of eight meetings where the focus is on conversations on racial identity development and Malleable Intelligence.
“Racial Identity development is believed to be pushed along by racial socialization, the transmission of messages about race from one person to another, in this case from parent to child,” Jackson explains. The parents develop ways to relay messages that are positive and supportive to their sons, helping them develop a racial identity that is robust and buffers the negative impact of experiencing racism in school.
Malleable Intelligence, also known as the Growth Mindset, is the belief that your own intelligence is not fixed or innate, meaning that you feel that you can grow your intelligence through hard work. Jackson chose these ideas because current research suggests that they have a positive effect on students’ academic and mental health outcomes. This is due to the fact that people maintain better mental health when they privately regard themselves in a positive light even when the public may not.
In addition to building parents’ understanding of racial identity development and Malleable Intelligence through meetings, Jackson also plans trips for the families to experience African American history in person and connects the families to community resources that they may have been previously unaware of.
To date, Jackson has facilitated these parental meetings; at this time, however, he is working on identifying facilitators in order to serve more families and to allow time for him to work on data collection and program development.
Jackson’s Advice for Teachers:
- Teachers should refer to their students’ home culture or vernacular as just that while referring to school language and culture as “School Language,”. Ask students how they feel about the differences that exist between school and home. These conversations allow students to show teachers what they are bringing to school from their home environment, giving teachers the opportunity to communicate that one culture or linguistic practice is not better than the other is, but just different.
- Teachers can create opportunities to incorporate cultural events that are relevant to students’ cultures into the classroom, going beyond events mentioned in the history book. Find ways to celebrate the culture of students of color in your classroom. If teachers are concerned about how to do this or being potentially insensitive, they should reach out to community resources.
- Teachers should examine their discipline policies to see if there are any implicit biases in referral, detention, suspension, or expulsion rates. If teachers do not keep a record, then they should try keeping one in order to enable reflection about who is being punished, and for what offenses, within their classrooms.
- Don’t be afraid to have a racist thought; be afraid to let a racist thought go unchecked and lead to a racist action with unfair consequences for children.
William Jackson was previously a science teacher and is now a fifth year doctoral student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. William has been selected to present at several national and regional conferences on the topics of parent intervention programs and self-regulated learning. He continues to focus on improving the lives of children through his work with Village of Wisdom