Empowering Education

Empowering Education: The Transformative Influence of Positive Teacher-Student Connections

Positive racial teacher-student classroom relationships impact student social and academic outcomes. Educators often focus on improving parent engagement, but student engagement is just as important.  When students feel a strong classroom connection with their teacher, they are more likely to reciprocate those feelings resulting in higher trust levels, increased learning engagement, less disciplinary challenges, and higher academic achievement levels.

The foundation for positive classroom relationships begins with teacher-student classroom interactions. Positive interactions help to develop trust and rapport. Students then become willing participants in the educational communication process. However, teachers must recognize the students’ individual strengths and cultural differences or else the educational process becomes hindered.

Positive relationships enhance learning and academic performance in schools. The students who accelerate in a teacher’s class have personalized learning experiences which increase their engagement and participation. Just think about the teacher’s “pet”. This student will continue to vie for the teachers praise and in return the student will continue to excel. The attention provided by the teacher helps to boost the motivation and confidence of the student.

Positive relationships play a vital role in student emotional and social development. Students who feel supported and cared for by their teachers develop a sense of self-worth and confidence in themselves. Teachers often demonstrate empathy towards students which helps them to identify the emotions of others and understand the reasons for others’ emotions. This demonstration helps students to develop emotional intelligence. Students who operate with empathy and emotional intelligence improve social interactions with other students through teamwork activities such as cooperative learning.

Positive racial relationships helps students to overcome classroom relationships challenges and provide an opportunity to appropriately respond to disparities. Black students often face challenges related to classroom discipline. Many researchers have reported that Black students are disciplined more in comparison to White students. When teachers promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships, they are afforded the opportunity to build better relationships in both the virtual, remote, and in person setting.

Researchers have recommended several professional development opportunities that improve teacher-student relationships. For example, here are some recommended strategies:

  • Spend 1-On-1 Time with a Student
  • Look for Something to Comment On
  • Develop an Interest in Their Interests
  • Share Your Stories
  • Have a Sense of Humor
  • Attend Student Events
  • Really get to know your students. 
  • Create ways for students to bring pieces of their lives into the classroom.
  • Honor their language.
  • Tell them you love them. 
  • Invite families and community members to become partners in educating students. 
  • Use community resources as curriculum. 
  • Keep parents involved through multiple channels. 
  • Expose students to role models of color
  • Invite guest speakers and mentors of color into the classroom. 
  • Make sure your classroom or school library has a variety of texts that include positive, diverse characters. 
  • Support efforts to improve teacher diversity
  • Disrupt the single narrative of students of color
  • Empower students to tell their own stories
  • Pay attention to your own storytelling, your own language
  • Challenge others

Colleges offer racial equity courses as part of their teacher preparation program. Saint Michael’s College offers a Racial Equity & Educational Justice Graduate Certificate Program and Cornell University offers over 50 individual related courses to name a few.  

In retrospect, Black students have not fully benefited from the positive classroom relationships courses or strategies offered by other individuals and other institutes of higher learning.

In a project conducted by Dr. Campbell – Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships – Black students had dramatic increases in academic achievement and decreases in student discipline for the several teachers who participated in the initiative to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.

Dr. Derrick Campbell

Smart Bio


Tips for Teachers

What should teachers call Black students?


Recent events of calling Black students names has caused teachers to be suspended, reprimanded, and publicly humiliated by the news media. For many teachers the question has to be: How can I effectively communicate with Black students and not place my job in jeopardy.

I understand, and as a former math teacher it can get a little heated at times and we can say things that we will regret later. Let me provide you with several tips.

  1. Keep you cool at all times. The one way that Black students attempt to rise to be leader is to get the teacher to get upset in front of the other students. Since you are the teacher, you have to maintain classroom order and can not allow students to use this type of vehicle to gain “fame” at your expense.
  2. Never use sarcasm. May students will use sarcasm to anger a teacher. You should never respond with sarcasm because you are modeling for the other students the appropriate behavior for interacting with people who use sarcasm.
  3. Call them Mr. or Ms. Black students are accustomed to sharing knowledge with their parents on an equal level. When in the classroom, you are sharing knowledge. As a former teacher, I would take attendance and call them by first name. When I began instruction, and was required to ask them a question, or respond to them, I always called them Mr. or Ms. and whatever was their last name. This made the students feel respected and always kept a classroom atmosphere of professionalism.


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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.


Tips for Teachers

How can teachers avoid fights about Book Bags?


In a recent article, a local newspaper reported that a teacher student fight occurred at the La Marque High School. The teacher student fight occurred after a teacher confiscated a students book bag and the student demanded the return of the book bag. It was common practice at the high school for student to carry their book bags to class.

The students father responded to the teacher student fight. The father of the 15-year-old girl charged in the classroom attack of a La Marque High School teacher, said the video showing the beating doesn’t tell the whole story. “There’s no excuse for what she did,” Myron Lenor said Wednesday. “(But) the teacher had been provoking her all week.”

The student was subsequently arrested and charged with a third degree felony. The teacher is considered a public servant. According to Texas Penal Code §12.32 assaulting a public servant results in the following:

The challenge for the La Marque School District and the teacher is that the teacher could have fueled the teacher student fight by possessing the students book bag. Since the students book bag is the students personal property they could plead that the incident would not have taken place if the teacher did not unlawfully retrieve the students book bag.

This is consistent with the Clean Hands Doctrine. The Clean Hands Doctrine is an equitable defense in which the defendant argues that the plaintiff is not entitled to obtain an equitable remedy because the plaintiff is acting unethically or has acted in bad faith with respect to the subject of the complaint—that is, with “unclean hands”. The defendant has the burden of proof to show the plaintiff is not acting in good faith. The doctrine is often stated as “those seeking equity must do equity” or “equity must come with clean hands”. A defendant’s unclean hands can also be claimed and proven by the plaintiff to claim other equitable remedies and to prevent that defendant from asserting equitable affirmative defenses. In other words, ‘unclean hands’ can be used offensively by the plaintiff as well as defensively by the defendant.

These are the facts that will surface in a court of law:

  • The teacher violated school protocol by singling out the student when she confiscated the student’s book bag
  • The teacher did not have probable cause to confiscate the student’s book bag
  • The teacher refused to return the student’s personal property

The La Marque could have avoided the teacher student fight by adhering to one of the following steps:

  • When students come to class with a book bag tell them that they are not allowed in the class if this is consistent with the rules of the school. If they refuse to leave, get your cell phone out and call the front office. Request that an administrator come to your class to remove a student.
  • If this is not a rule of the school, you can have all of the students place their book bags in a central location while they are in your class.
  • If the student allow you to keep the book bag safe for them during class and then demands their book bag, return the book bag. Then require that the student leave the class. If the student does not leave, then call the front office. Request that an administrator come to your class to remove a student.

Teachers can avoid many complications that result in teacher student fights by remaining consistent with the enforcement of disciplinary and school rules.

Related Articles

La Marque High students accused of attacking teacher, campus officer

Teen girls charged in separate attacks at high school

Horrifying video shows 16-year-old high school student ‘punching his substitute teacher before putting him in a head lock because he didn’t let him go to the bathroom’

Northside High teacher resigns after fight with student

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.


Talking About Racism

How to talk to students about racism?


The first tip for teachers is to understand the parent perspective. Whether the parent is from an affluent or impoverished background both parents are going to want a teacher that provides the best education possible. Black parents know that attaining a higher quality of life can be rewarding and a struggle at times. Most parents want their children to be treated equally. You will find that parents who complain about school or classroom discipline do not complain about the consequence itself but whether the teacher delves out consequences that are fair and consistent. Parents want their children to have a fair shake at attaining higher quality of life.

The second tip for teachers is to understand the student perspective. Some Black student believe that rules in the schools strip of their identity as a Black person. They believe this because many of the behaviors that are acceptable at home are not acceptable in school. For example, in many Black families, the adult and children share the same level of sharing knowledge. However, in the classroom the teacher is the knowledge broker. Some children look at society and determine that the likelihood of them having success is very small because of racism. Many of them believe that teachers are the cause of the racism due to the unequal delving of disciplinary consequences in the school to name a few.

Teachers need to consider two main factors that influence the world of our children. The first factor is what they see on TV. The second factor is the influence of some video games. The images on TV paint a picture that is detrimental to the psyche of Black children. These images teach Black children that their eventual end is death by a gun from either another Black child or police officer. So the Black children develop defensive mechanisms. They play those defensive mechanisms out via video games which normally results in either in killing or destruction of property.

The third tip for teachers is to understand the school perspective. The perspective of the school is that we are commissioned to educate children both socially and academically. The academic commission includes a set of academic requirements that children must meet in order to successfully complete to transition to higher grade levels. The social commission requires that school officials establish a set of rules for managing a culture where education can take place. Because of those rules, teachers are required to establish rules that effectively enable them to manage their classroom.

The fourth tip for teachers is to understand their individual perspective. Managing your classroom will require that you understand your perspective when it comes to racism. You can accomplish this by evaluating your verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Do you expect for children to look you in your eye when you are talking to them? Do you expect for children to be completely still and quiet while you are teaching. Is it ok for a child to begin to speak when they think that before you have finished talking? To compete a full evaluation, you will need to determine your verbal and nonverbal expectations. Now you are ready to have that discussion about race with your students.

The fifth tip for teachers is to use the opportunity to talk to Black children about race as a teaching moment. Let’s take the recent event in like the Michael Brown shooting Ferguson Missouri. As those children return to class they are going to have questions about race. Some parents maybe so frustrated with the shooting that they may tell their children that all White people are racist. So the child comes to class and ask makes the following statement: My dad and mom said that White teachers hate Black kids. Everyone in classroom heard the statement and is waiting for your response. Some teachers are going to elect to ignore the statement. Some teachers are going to respond aggressively and refer the child for discipline. This is an opportunity to establish higher quality relationships with your children and turn it into a teaching moment. I would ask probing questions such as what makes your feel that way or how did you come up with that conclusion. In your probing questions do not interject your opinion or become angry with students who jump in and respond. The students are watching and evaluating your nonverbal behavior and if they see you turning red they will believe that they made you angry.

Lead the discussion to the importance of following the classroom rules and that you are there to make sure that they are implemented them fairly. Make sure that students understand that your first warning is the “The Look”. Many Black parents use “The Look” as a way warning their children before elevating to the next step. They next step is to let the students know what you verbal cue is. For example, if children are consistently talking during the lesson, ask them do they have something to share with the class. This becomes their second warning and let hem know that it is a warning. When you have a disciplinary process in place that is fair and consistent children will not equate you with an authority figure as some police officers who have shot a child and then became the subject alleged racism.


Related Articles

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African-American Media on the Death of Michael Brown in Ferguson

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.



Teacher Student Fights

How can teachers minimize classroom fights?

In a recent article, a Texas teacher has been arrested for her involvement in a classroom fight. It looks like the teacher is the perpetrator of the classroom battle which continues to fuel much controversy in our schools. Teachers must ensure that their responses to objectionable students does not result in criminal charges for the teacher which are the result of a classroom fight between the teacher and student.

According to the article, Texas Teacher Arrested After Video Show Her Slapping Student: Police, a Texas teacher was arrested for slapping a student during an instructional period. Mary Hastings who is a teacher at Ozen High School in Beaumont Texas has been arrested for slapping a student five times. After slapping the student, she called the student an “idiot ass”, according to the article. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reported that the teacher was arrested on one charge of assault and released on bail. Sources have reported that the teacher responded in this manner to ensure that another student’s progress towards graduation was not stifled.

Could the teacher induced classroom fight be a result of the laws governing teachers in Texas?

In Texas, the teacher is considered a public servant. According to Texas Penal Code §12.32 assaulting a public servant results in the following:

This type of legislation can provide teachers with power that is beyond their authority. This circumstance could have been avoided if there was a balance between the expectations for teachers and students.

The teacher was arrested for assault. A simple assault in Texas includes:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, or
  • Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.

A person convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas faces the following possible penalties:

  • Class A misdemeanor – up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4000, or both
  • Class B misdemeanor – up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $2000, or both, and
  • Class C misdemeanor – a fine up to $500.

(Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 12.21, 12.22, 12.23).

A person convicted of a third degree felony can be sentenced to two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 12.34). The teacher will probably receive a penalty consistent with a Class C misdemeanor. We know that if the tables were turned, the consequences for the student would have been much harsher.

Teachers must understand that classroom disruptions are a product of the conflict between the student and the teacher which can cause classroom fights. The number one reason for classroom disruptions is talking. Not every behavior of a Black student should be classified as a classroom disruption.

Black students have classroom talking behaviors that result from interest in the instructional process. Black students are inclined to talk back when motivated by what a teacher says. Black students may become so impressed with the speaker, such as a teacher, that the students want to hear what the teacher says again due to an interest not in what was said but how it was said. Furthermore, Black students want to create the appropriate mood and setting before beginning to work on a task by asking the teacher to repeat the directions.

Many teachers do not expect Black students to interrupt the class by talking to their neighbors and speak without raising their hands. Educators assume quiet students are successful and receive rewards for making teaching an easier task. Black students will continue to carry their own culture into the classroom, and they will continue to misunderstand their middle-class teacher as profoundly as she or he misunderstands them.

Teachers respond to students talking in the classroom without permission by ordering, reprimanding, involving students in work, and naming the student. Some teachers may exhibit unprofessional behavior when students talk in the classroom without permission. When a teacher yells, uses harsh words, shames, degrades, or embarrasses a student, such behavior influences all students. Teachers can avoid classroom fights by becoming culturally aware of the verbal and non-verbal habits of their students.

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Atlantic City teacher loses job after breaking up fight


Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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Tips for Teachers

How should teachers respond to verbally abusive students?

Buffalo Public Schools are faced with the dilemma of verbally abusive students. Teachers are at their wits end on how to respond to students who use poor communication skills during anger outbursts. Schools can use several techniques to minimize the impact of verbally abusive students.

Black students understand that racism in schools has a long history that does not benefit them or the previous generation. The previous generation plays a major role in how Black students view the educational system. Imagine coming home every day and looking at how your parent is struggling financially due to the lack of education and economic opportunities. This daily remainder can make a Black student resentful of their teacher and the educational system.

Teachers must understand the reasons that Black students may become verbally abusive. Black students use several verbal techniques to discover a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in order to evaluate a teacher’s racial attitudes and locate teachers’ breaking points to help the students empower themselves in the situation between them and the teacher.

Abrahams and Gay (1972) reported:

If a [Black student] expects to rise to the position of a leader, he must know how to keep his cool. If he cannot respond to a [teachers challenge] without becoming frustrated and unnerved, he is not likely to have the respect of others or remain a leader for long. (p. 205).

Black students have different debating techniques which can lead to a student becoming verbally abusive.  Blacks not only debate the idea; they also debate the person while Whites debate the idea rather than the person debating the idea. “Blacks often probe beyond a given statement to find out where a person is “coming from,” in order to clarify the meaning and value of a particular behavior or attitude. Black students will move a verbal interaction from a global perspective to a personal perspective. This becomes offensive to the teacher and results in continued fueling of the debate which leads the student becoming verbally abusive.

Teachers must not allow debate regarding behaviors to become personal. Instead teacher can prompt all conversations by using praise instead of resorting to an authoritarian position. Praise is an effective reinforcement that provides encouragement to students and is reinforcement for behavior performance improvement (Hughes, 1973; O’Leary & O’Leary, 1977; Rosenshine, 1976). Praise is an effective reinforcement that helps to build student self-esteem (Brophy, 1981) which will eliminate a necessity for a student to become verbally abusive.

Teachers must also minimize the Black students attempt to become and maintain leadership amongst their peers by becoming verbally abusive towards their teacher. Teachers must minimize the impact by low key responses. Most teachers respond to verbally abusive students by becoming abusive themselves. This response sends students two messages. The first message is that they have discovered your pressure point.  They now know how to push your buttons. The have also showed them that anger needs to be responded with anger. It is a terrible example to set for a young person. Finally, you have set an example for other students who are not verbally abusive to follow. In essence, responding to verbally abusive students with anger sets the tone for the culture of the entire school.

Schools and teachers should employ three specific strategies for verbally abusive students. The first is to teach verbally abusive students to control their anger. The second is to place them in a leadership role. Approximately 12% percent of the student population particulates in some sort of leadership role. The other 78% must find alternative strategies to become school leaders which include becoming verbally abusive towards their teachers. The final strategy is to provide students with professional development using the left-handed activity developed by Argyris and Shon.

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All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.


Tips for Teachers

What are the advantages of grading on a curve?

The simple method of grading on a curve can help many schools overcome the challenges associated with the perception of detrimental grading policies. Grading polices are designed to create a sense of equity that all students can achieve. However, grading policies that exclude grading on the curve present controversial challenges for school boards, parents, school administrators, and students.

The grades that students achieve is in direct correlation to the instructional techniques of their teacher. For example, if a teacher has a sixty percent failure rate, it also means that the teacher is a failure consistent with the failure rate. The reality is that many teachers grading output remains unchallenged and becomes the school administrators’ challenge to bring equity in to the classroom. 

Equity does not mean that all students are treated equal. Equity in this sense means that no matter where a student starts or the behaviors that the students exhibit, each student has the opportunity to reach the same level as other students, therefore making grading on a curve paramount. 

Grading on a curve has to become consistent with the normal distribution curve. The normal distribution is useful because of the central limit theorem. In its most general form, under some conditions (which include finite variance), it states that averages of random variables independently drawn from independent distributions converge in distribution to the normal, that is, become normally distributed when the number of random variables is sufficiently large.

The normal distribution is represented by the bell curve. The bell curve refers to the shape that is created when a line is plotted using the data points for an item that meets the criteria of normal distribution. The center contains the greatest number of a value and therefore would be the highest point on the arc of the line. This point is referred to the mean.

The important things to note about a normal distribution is the curve is concentrated in the center and decreases on either side. The bell curve signifies that the data is symmetrical and thus we can create reasonable expectations as to the possibility that an outcome will lie within a range to the left or right of the center, once we can measure the amount of deviation contained in the data .

According to the normal distribution curve, when grading on a scale of 100% it is expected that 2.14% of the students will fail the test. This means that 93% of the students should pass the teachers least with at least a D. Specifically, 13.59 % of the students should pass with a D or B. Also, 68.26% students should pass with a C and at least 2.14 percent of the students should pass with and A.

Teachers who are interested in grading on a curve must begin preparation in the lesson planning process. The lesson planning process must begin with using the backward design method. The backward design, also called backward planning or backward mapping, is a process that educators use to design learning experiences and instructional techniques to achieve specific learning goals.

It is best to begin with the learning objectives for the unit. Next develop an assessment for each learning objective. Once you have determined how many tests that you are going to provide for the unit, the rest is easy. Each lesson plan, classwork assignment, and homework assignment need to be designed so that each student learns what they need to know to get an A on the assessment. When students are provided the assessment there should be no surprise. If the teacher follows this method, they will so find that their students will exceed the standards set by the need for grading on a curve.

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Grading on a curve promotes toxic competition


All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.



Tips for Teachers

What classroom management techniques will help students of color?

Effective classroom management is necessary to ensure that students meet curricular requirements which will enable them to excel on state standardized assessments. Even though these assessments are the guiding standards that revel the effectiveness of education, without such techniques these efforts will become futile to say the least. Teachers can effectively use classroom techniques that directly enhance the education of students of color.  

Students of color exhibit several behaviors that teachers can benefit from when implementing classroom management techniques. Classroom management is the process by which teachers and schools create and maintain appropriate behavior of students in classroom settings. However, when teachers and administrators develop strategies, they take little responsibility in how their behavior impacts the behaviors of students of color. School administrators, teachers, and other personnel must stop operating on the assumption that all the reasons for the failures rest with students of color and take some of the responsibilities.

Administrators and teachers receive specialized training in order to become certified. During that specialized training it is their responsibility to become more in tune with the different behaviors of students of color. This is important because many believe that teachers discriminate against students by stereotyping according to ethnicity.

Many of the cultural differences between teachers and students are directly related to differences in instructional, verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Instructional procedures include cultural values, perceptions, and orientations that differ from those of Black students. Students who are not interested in school may meet teacher demands for compliance with resistance. Blacks acquire cultural values, attitudes, and learning styles that conflict with values, attitudes, and learning styles needed for success in public schools.

One of the first classroom management techniques that teachers must consider is from an instructional perspective. If the material is not interesting to the students, then the students are more likely to act out in the class and create an environment that is not conducive to learning. Many school social codes are unfamiliar and opposed to culturally diverse student home codes. Blacks have difficulty with school instructional concepts and ideas that are absent in their community, culture, or economic environment that ignore or misrepresent their present condition. As a classroom management technique, teachers must correlate familiarities to the curriculum and the students home environment. For example, as a former math teacher, when I taught the concept of area, I always correlated it to their room. I went as far as to require that the students take measurements of their room and calculate the area of the room. 

Another instructional process is cooperative learning. Cooperative learning structures provide a cultural match for Hispanic students. Hispanics value people and relationships over task accomplishment. Most Hispanics enjoy working together in groups which includes community-oriented projects and working together on homework. Many Hispanic students are more cooperative, and group oriented when compared to Anglo students, and therefore Hispanic students may allow other students to copy their classwork or test in order to show helpfulness, brotherhood, and generosity.

Blacks prefer to work in groups too.  Black students do well when the teacher incorporates a socialization learning model that works to benefit the group. Black peer-based cooperation in learning translates into cheating for teachers. Teachers may interpret Blacks’ natural instinct to seek peer assistance as cheating, copying, or frivolous socializing. Black students work and function better in cooperative, informal, and loosely structured environments where teachers and students work together to achieve a common goal.

The best classroom management technique involves developing positive racial relationships between teachers and students. Positive relationships at schools and in the classroom are in many ways the prerequisites for effective learning and behavior. Students and teachers who are warm, compassionate, and friendly toward one another in the classroom have the potential to improve instruction, learning, and classroom management.

Related Articles

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All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.



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