supportive educational practices

Re-Framing the Narrative

Guest post by Michael Hannon:

It can be easy to overlook specific student populations when the overall student body seems to be doing well. When important metrics have met yearly progress goals, college-going rates are high, and the local National Honor Society chapter has an awesome incoming cohort, it warrants appropriate acknowledgement and celebration. That celebration cannot happen in lieu of school leaders taking steps to more deeply understand the students who may NOT be meeting yearly progress goals, who may NOT be confident in their post-secondary career or educational plans, or who may NOT be eligible for National Honor Society. It’s even more disconcerting if or when those students generally align to a certain racial or ethnic profile.

Many African-American and Latino male students confront educational challenges that school leaders can take an active role in addressing, mitigating, and hopefully eliminating in their school communities. Some of those challenges include overrepresentation in special education, underrepresentation in student leadership/extracurricular activities, overrepresentation in disciplinary referrals, and underrepresentation in honors and/or advanced placement courses. One important question for principals and other school leaders is: “What are we doing about these trends?”

Supporting African-American and Latino male students has been especially rewarding in my career as an educator. The opportunity to engage with them as their counselor is filled with moments of extreme satisfaction, and, at times, significant challenge. Making connections while visiting classes, conferencing with parents, and facilitating student-teacher meetings to clarify misunderstandings have all been par for the course as a high school counselor. This work, OUR work, is not for the faint of heart. School leaders, especially those in principal, assistant principal, and supervisor roles, assume the mantle of leadership to facilitate the educational success of ALL students, including those who are most vulnerable.

One of the best pieces of advice a principal mentor shared with me as a school counselor was to treat every students as if he or she were my own. That is, if a student is acting inappropriately, I should address him or her with the same concern (and intensity) I would if he or she was my own child. If a student isn’t taking advantage of opportunities, I should support him or her in identifying and experiencing those opportunities the same way I would if he or she was my own child.

The Narratives of Success session at Ignite’14 in Dallas will help school leaders gain insight into what over 400 African-American and Latino male students report are the most supportive educational practices and attitudes by school leaders that help them be successful in high school. Their reflections are thoughtful, timely, and noteworthy. I’m excited—and I hope you are, too.

Michael Hannon (@mdhannon) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership at Brooklyn College. He will be presenting Narratives of Success: School Leadership Implications from the NYC Black & Latino Male Achievement at Ignite ’14 on Saturday, February 8.