teacher bias

How to Recognize and Overcome Teacher Bias

Instructors who practice unconscious discrimination, or teacher bias, can hurt their students’ chances of learning effectively.

Have you ever caught yourself cringing at how many boys are in your class when you receive your class list? Maybe you’ve secretly cheered when a certain student shares he’ll be missing school for a vacation. Even teachers are human, so it’s normal to feel this way from time to time, but it’s essential to schedule time for personal reflection and evaluate whether you ever practice teacher bias.

teacher biasA recent study by researchers at the Yale University Child Study Center discovered that preschool teachers have implicit biases based on the child’s gender and race. According to the Washington Post, 130 teachers were asked to watch video clips of children in classrooms and look for signs of “challenging behavior.” The study found that the teachers spent the most time watching black boys.

The first step to preventing teacher bias in your classroom is to recognize occasions where it may arise. Have you ever done one of these?

1. Assumed a student was “not getting it” because they were very introverted?

2. Punished a boy for something you would have let slide if it was a girl (or vice versa)?

teacher bias3. Given a student a lower grade because of their behavior in the classroom?

4. Assumed a child was “bad” because another teacher said so?

5. Given up on a student who has a learning disability?

6. Believed boys are better at math and science than girls?

7. Only given examples that certain students can relate to?

These are all examples of teacher bias. Follow these steps to help overcome it.

1. Be Honest with Yourself

Every teacher tries their best to be objective with their students, but everyone has biases. Perhaps you had a family member who was very conscious of race or had a teacher who favored the most well-behaved students when it came to grades. Even if you condone those actions, be aware that these interactions may be part of your subconscious.

2. Create a Classroom that Promotes Diversity

Are there boys and girls of all races represented in the artwork in your classroom? Do the stories and lessons you teach reflect different cultures? Make sure your students’ learning space is a place where they feel comfortable, represented, and welcomed.

3. Encourage Students to Speak Out Against Bias and Injustice

Create an environment where everyone is responsible for respecting others and promoting respect. It sounds easier than it is, but every day is a new chance to keep trying.

It’s vital for students to know their educators believe in them in order to work hard. Through self-examination and mindfulness, teachers can get rid of biases in their classroom and make it easier for all of their students to succeed.

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Stephanie Petit

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