Teachers must know how to apply information from human development and cognitive science within their own professional practice if they are expected to empower children to learn. Teacher education programs are so focused on content knowledge as the necessary base of knowledge for providing quality education that they often fail to provide adequate preparation on child and adolescent development.
Several experts argue that teachers are not prepared to handle the social, cultural issues children bring to the classroom. The problem stems from failure to apply the research and knowledge base about child and adolescent development. This condition is the missing element in most teacher preparation programs.
This problem manifests in a variety of ways. It is reported that 30% of new teachers leave field in the first year. A direct result is the teacher’s inability to recognize and offset disruptive home life. Adolescents are often able to discern when teachers do not behave in ways that communicate real equity. Sensing the teacher’s attitude may consequently diminish the students’ confidence and motivation to learn.
The changing demographics in school communities and the persistent disparities in educational achievement and attainment call for integrating new knowledge bases in teacher preparation programs. Teachers must be empowered as problem solvers to understand developmental tasks and incorporate these understandings into grade-appropriate content in their courses. Culture and context must be emphasized as teachers are exposed to the achievement process. They must also be trained to facilitate adaptive strategies for the classroom. Teachers need a working knowledge of the principles of child and adolescent development in order to master the techniques that enable students to learn to high standards.
Family and neighborhood stressors are more prevalent for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. While healthy, supportive relationships with teachers and peers can promote emotional competence and academic engagement; these children often enter into an environment that is ill-equipped to address their baggage.
The hyper-masculine bravado shown by young boys on their way to school is a type of coping behavior that enables them to arrive at school safely. When it persists during school time, it is deemed maladaptive and elicits a negative reaction (even fear) from the teacher. This bravado behavior may also reflect the boys’ discomfort with the classroom or school climate and, as a result, helps them deal with their own frustration in a way that teachers may find uncomfortable. Teachers, in turn, may overestimate what that the bravado behavior means, creating a dissonance between what each infers about the other’s views. Consequently, these boys psychologically move further and further away from the possibility of learning.
Even more saddening are the root-causes leading to coping mechanisms. The Children Defense Fund (CDF) has coined the term “Cradle to Prison Pipeline”. Race and poverty form the foundation of the pipeline. But its multiple component include struggling families, depressed communities, underperforming school, broken child welfare and juvenile justice systems, disparities in access to healthcare and mental health treatment and a political ethos that prioritizes incarceration over prevention and child development. For the past two years, CDF has been researching the entry and exit points, they have identified four key “feeder systems” to the pipeline – healthcare, early childhood education, the foster care system and schools.
Many Low-income pregnant