The Pedagogy Of Confidence
The Pedagogy Of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance In Urban Schools
By Yvette Jackson
Teachers College Press, Columbia University, NY and London. March 2011: 192 pp.
It’s become shorthand for the achievement gap between white, affluent students and minority, lower-income students: “the soft prejudice of low expectations.”
Dr. Yvette Jackson has made combating the relentless low expectations of urban, minority students her life’s work. In this brave and urgently needed book, Dr. Jackson challenges common assumptions about these students, and urges teachers to reclaim and rekindle their passion for teaching.
She is dismayed that “This governmental practice of control through classification of students set off development of a chain of marginalizing labels that fostered misperceptions about students, in turn perpetuating a cycle of prejudicing belief and low expectations.”
Jackson wants teachers and administrators in urban schools to look at their students’ strengths, rather than focus on their weaknesses and remediation. She writes: “Time after time I have witnessed teachers being stimulated by the identification of their students’ strengths and the potential these strengths testify to, and, like students labeled as gifted, they are motivated to remember that this belief in potential is why they went into teaching.”
It’s not about starry-eyed idealism or naiveté. Rather, at its most basic, Jackson’s Pedagogy of Confidence refuses to concede that schools—and districts—can simply write off entire groups of students because of their skin color or economic background. When teachers and principals unapologetically require all students to meet high expectations (and, of course, provide the support, engaging teaching and compelling assignments to make that possible), students don’t disappoint them.
Jackson takes many features used for gifted education and transposes them for students historically viewed as deficient. These principles, which underlie the Pedagogy of Confidence, include not only eliciting high intellectual performance, identifying student strengths and providing enrichment, but also focus on building relationships, locating learning in the lives of students and helping students find their voice.
Of course Jackson recognizes that there is no magic solution. She writes, “We cannot change the out-of-school conditions, but we can consider the way we judge, penalize and design practices and structures to respond to the behaviors and achievement of these students. We ardently need to believe in their intellectual capacity as well as have confidence in our own ability to inspire that capacity.”
Never mind the disillusionment of “No Child Left Behind” mandates and rhetoric. What Dr. Jackson proposes here is truly a remedy to ensure that students, no matter where they come from, and no matter where they go to school, have the ability to attain their innate intellectual potential. #