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Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

  • 1.  Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-16-2020 11:52 AM
    Im an early educator that spent 8 years teaching first grade in the public school system.  I have heard how some teachers talk about young African American girls as having too much attitude or being disrespectful.  After coming to NC Pre-K, I have noticed that these mis- labels start much sooner than the public school years.

    I recently became the lead teacher of a NC Pre- K classroom that already had a Pre-K classroom.   A few staff members have asked if I have seen any atypical behaviors from one four year old young female of color.  This child doesn't have an IEP or any developmental delay that has been documented so I understand if they were giving me a heads up on her behavior.  Once I was able to meet her and interact with her, I knew she has been labeled incorrectly.  There is nothing wrong with her.  I noticed she was smarter and more aware of her surroundings than typical four year olds.   She doesn't miss a beat and that is a great trait for a four year old.

    Educators have to understand that when students are gifted in one area, usually they will be lacking in another area (typically social/emotional).  With the right eduational setting anyone can trive.

    As educators, we have to make our own decisions about children based on the information that that child presents during our face to face instruction with each child in question.  We have to make our own evaluations based on our interactions with each individual child because my reactions and behaviors will be different from your responses to a child's behaviors.  In the right educational setting, anyone can thrive.

    Young African American girls are labeled as disrespectful or classified as having an "attitude" if they show signs of strong independence or have a strong personality type and this is wrong.  When children are taught to stand up for themselves at home and advocate for themselves, these traits are often seen as unbecoming in educational settings.  Its wrong how African American girls taught to be bold and strong at home, but are sterotyped as showing "attitude" or labeled as being "disrespectful" if they display strong traits of independence in educational settings.  We, as educated individuals, need to see each child as an individuals that don't have to beat to the same drum.  With competent teachers, anyone can thrive.

    Josha Barton
    Lead Teacher
    Little Believers Academy
    Raleigh NC

  • 2.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-17-2020 12:21 AM

    Thanks for the input. I often see children beginning to stretch their wings and they act a little different than they used to act, like trying to a new behavior out. Sometimes they are just beginning to find out who they are. And sometimes it has to do with how they are being raised at home.

    It is important for us all to encourage our children to advocate for themselves. I really appreciate your point of view. And I will pay attention to my reaction to preschoolers behaviors. I will say that I get edgy with the precocious little ones. I have to remind myself  that they are smart and need different outlets. I am more comfortable with all different personalities because of a course I took years ago. The course emphasized the importance of viewing each families culture as unique and valuable. Every year I become more and more convinced of this value when I interact with the children and the families. Thanks for your viewpoint.

    Sherrie Crandal
    Maricopa Unified School District
    Sun Lakes AZ

  • 3.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-17-2020 08:32 AM
    I read with interest to your post.  I have often said to parents of a child that today some might call her bossy or aggressive, but when she is age 22 these same people will say she has great leadership skills.  I tend to look at these skills as plus and sign that she has a more mature look at the world and that she is very bright. I strive to help direct the child into expressing these skills in a positive way that supports her and the whole group. This take on things tends to support her in making good choices, increases inclusion among her peers and reduces complaints from others.  One child I'm reminded of is now age nine (started coming to us at 6 weeks) and comes to our home child care before and after school and during the summer.  She is respected by her peers as someone who will jump in and get everyone else behind whatever the task before them.  The children older than her often look to her when they are struggling to come to an agreement.
    Thank you for your post.

    Joann Gansen
    Dubuque IA

  • 4.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-17-2020 09:45 AM
    Thank you, Josha.  It's a great reminder for educators to check ourselves when we start to label a child to make sure our own biases, hidden or obvious, aren't getting in the way.  I've seen this bias in action also, and have worked to make sure I'm not perpetuating it myself.

    It reminds me of a quote by Stuart Shanker: "See a child differently, see a different child."
    That can work both ways--if we see the child you're writing about as "too much" for the reasons you state, we label her negatively, often based on race, and if we see her as "bright and bold" we feel positively towards her and embrace her.  And she knows how we feel.

    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA

  • 5.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-18-2020 11:50 AM
    This discussion ties perfectly into another recent strand that debated examining racial/cultural biases in teacher training courses. (I'm a YES on that topic)  This is a perfect example of how our biases affect our teaching and students.  There are so many more examples out there; keep your eyes and ears open to them. Humanity will thank you.

    Vicki Knauerhase M.Ed.
    Child Development Specialist (retired)
    Weston OH

  • 6.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-17-2020 12:22 PM
    I couldn't agree with this more!  It's not always the child, many times it's the teacher!  Honestly, we all come with our own biases and beliefs.  That's what makes us all different, our goal is to overcome those and "teach to each child"  find their strengths and sometimes, if we just don't "click" with a child, instead of labeling them, ask for help, find a coworker who can be that child's teacher/role model.  I know my co-teacher and I have different personalities and so we have children in our class that I just can't seem to build a relationship with for whatever reason as well as her finding difficulties with certain children's personalities.  By being open about it and discussing it, we make sure EVERY child has that one teacher in the class that loves, cherishes, respects, and celebrates them!  I once had a child that was expelled from a day care for various reasons.  I told my director, I don't want to know why.  Fresh start for this kiddo in my class.  I found out what his interest were, his strengths, and made a commitment to him that I would not let him down.  We had our moments of frustration, sure.  We overcame them and he did amazing with me!  I went back and read his report a few months in and I couldn't believe the behaviors his former teacher described.  It was not the same child.  I'm glad I refused to see his "labels" and was able to be the teacher/supporter he needed!

    Judi Chung
    Vancouver WA

  • 7.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-18-2020 02:17 PM
    WOW, Josha, you hit the nail on the head.  Children are people.  They are independent.  They are competent.  They are beautiful.    They are curious.  They want to blossom. They deserve to be listened to and allowed to show what they know, not expected to sit by where things are poured into them.  They deserve deep experiences.  They deserve to play.  They deserve to explore.  They deserve love and  respect and to be treated as human beings.  Thank you for your words.

    Joyce Hepler
    Community Action Project of Tulsa County
    Broken Arrow OK

  • 8.  RE: Stereotypes of the African American Female in Early Childhood

    Posted 09-24-2020 08:03 PM
    I also have noticed this also, I experienced it as a child and now as an adult I try and help others understand that this treatment is not ok. I don't want to stop their Independence or strong personalities. It's also a reason I started my own program.

    Temesha (Ms. Tessie) Ragan
    Co-Family Child Care IF Facilitator
    Perfect Start Learning
    Family Child Care Provider
    Edwards, CA