As American classrooms continue to enroll increasingly higher numbers of Black students, culturally relevant teaching practices have become absolutely essential for their academic success. Teachers employing culturally relevant practices understand the critical and important nature of the relationship between the student and the teacher and the role of culture within the classroom (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Matsumura, Slater, & Crosson, 2008; Thompson, 2002, 2004; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). This study investigated the relationships of White female teachers and their Black male students in middle school, Grades 6 through 8. Participants included White teachers from two middle schools in one rural school district.
Methods on qualitative inquiry were used to examine the relationships between White female teachers and Black male middle school students. Data collection included classroom observations, teacher interviews, and member-check interviews. The data were analyzed through the conceptual framework of Howard's (2006) Achievement Triangle, along with culturally relevant teaching and practices (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Thompson, 2002, 2004; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). The Achievement Triangle developed by Gary Howard (2006) integrates rigor, responsiveness, and relationship with the internal beliefs of teachers. Contained within the triangle are the teacher's practices of knowing myself, knowing my students, and knowing my practice (Howard, 2006). These practices refer to the knowledge base of the teacher with respect to students' culture and the instructional strategies that are effective for Black students (Howard, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Thompson, 2002, 2004). The points of the triangle are described as doorways to relationship, rigor, and responsiveness. Teachers enter through these doorways by reflecting on and understanding their own culture. This reflection allows teachers to develop authentic relationships with Black male students (Howard, 2006 Ladson-Billings, 1994; Thompson, 2002 & 2004).
The research of Delpit (1995, 2006), Howard (2006), Ladson-Billings (1994), Murrell (2002), and Thompson (2002, 2004) has established the characteristics necessary for White teachers to be effective with Black students. The results of this study indicate that White female teachers can be effective with Black male students, and produce positive academic and social results. Teachers consistently used personal connections and relationships, and high expectations and motivation to provide a positive classroom environment for students. Teachers struggled to implement cultural connections within classroom instruction, and participants did not describe themselves as racial beings. Overall, this study reinforces the findings of Delpit (1995, 2006), Howard (2006), Ladson-Billings (1994), Murrell (2002), and Thompson (2002, 2004) and highlights in particular the significance of relationship and motivation for academic and social success of Black male middle school students. The results of this study add to the body of literature regarding White female teachers who are effective in teaching Black male middle school students. Furthermore, information regarding positive relationships and motivation for Black male students has been identified.