I just finished reading For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin. And… wow. While I have about 12 blog post ideas just from reading it, I knew that I wanted to start by doing a recap of the book itself. Mostly because the information inside of it is too good not to share and because I. Couldn’t. Put. It. Down. You know it’s good when you can’t stop reading or thinking about it.
Let’s start with how I came across the book. My district (Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky) hosted a Deeper Learning Symposium at the beginning of June. Christopher Emdin, author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too, was the keynote speaker on the last day of the symposium. He was phenomenal to watch in person and his insights and perspectives about our students in urban settings blew me away. As a white, female teacher, the differences between some of my students and myself are too large to go unnoticed and yet, they’re usually not acknowledged. At one point in his keynote, I remember feeling very uncomfortable, like I was a fraud. But I knew that the growing happens in the discomfort, so like any good lifelong learner, I ordered his book from Amazon and set out on one of the best reading adventures I’ve ever been on.
When I say that it is chocked full of good information, I’m not lying to you. It is a terrible study habit to highlight most of the words in a book, but I couldn’t stop because almost every line was one that I wanted to remember! As a middle class white teacher in an urban area with many students who don’t look like me, I wanted to take in as much as I could so that I could be the best teacher I can for my students. I almost don’t know where to begin this post.
Emdin’s basic premise is that of Reality Pedagogy. Reality pedagogy is teaching and learning that meets each student on, what Emdin calls, his or her own cultural and emotional turf. That means that you take the time to recognize each of your students’ realities and use that to inspire your teaching. At first glance, reality pedagogy is very similar to the popular phrase “culturally responsive teaching.” And, in many ways, it is. There are pieces of culturally responsive teaching that overlap with reality pedagogy, such as learning within the context of one’s life and student centered instruction.
When teaching doesn’t connect to students, it is perceived as not belonging to them.
You cannot teach someone you do not believe in.