March 17th 2015
The Influence of School on Students’ Perceptions and School Experience Serving as the developmental intermediary for students, schools convey the values that influence children’s identities, their perceptions towards education, and their experiences in school. For the past few decades, researchers have focused on the schools’ influence on students’ academic achievement rather than on their sociological development. Despite the increasing recognition of the significant role that school plays on children’s social and cognitive growth, the impact of school education on students has not yet been fully examined. Moreover, the diversity of races in the United States generates a unique school culture. Compared to a mono-racial class, multicultural classroom creates a more complex environment for people to understand how schools influence students’ perceptions of themselves, of education, and of the world. However, recent studies have shed some light on the direction further research should take in order to explore this problem. School plays a crucial role in enlightening students to understand their own identities, personally and culturally. Due to the diversity of cultures in the US, school has the responsibility to help the students to understand both their inherent culture and the dominant culture in America. Therefore, one important aspect to explore the school’s impact on students’ cognition of their identities relates to school’s influence on the students’ understanding on their heritage culture and on the dominant culture, and their cognitive process of discovering their own identities. Since teachers are the direct resource for students to learn about their identities, teachers’ influence can be viewed as equivalent to the school’s influence. Thus, it is necessary to examine how teachers’ perceptions on students’ identities influence students, because teachers can adopt corresponding teaching methods to help students only if they perceive the right information about their students’ identities. According to Gloria Ladson-Billings, teachers, who acquire an accurate recognition on students’ cultural identity, have a better understanding on students’ background and behaviors, and they are also more likely to help their students to understand and appreciate both their own cultural identity and the dominant culture (“The Problem with Teaching Education” 106-109). However, in the study of Native American youth, researchers critique that some schools have forced Indian students to give up their inherent culture and adapt new behaviors in order to fit into the society (McCarty et al. 662). In the video about bilingual education we watched during lecture, we also observed that the school’s “English-Only” policy seriously hinders the Spanish student’s regular study. Although schools try to help students to prepare better to fit in the dominant group, they ignore the importance of persevering students’ own inherent cultural identities. These examples show that school can also restrain students from maintaining their own natural identities. Moreover, generated as a result of cultural difference of the diverse student group, teachers’ misunderstanding on students’ identity may mislead them to recognize their individuality inaccurately, causing confusion to their own identity. Falsely interpreting students’ particular behavior as cultural tradition may mislead teachers to have a false understanding on students’ identity, thus rendering negative outcomes (“The Problem with Teaching Education” 106-109). In the article Miseducating Teachers About the Poor, the authors critique that Ruby Payne’s inaccurate and passive interpretation of the poor misleads the teacher to have a biased perception of lower class students, resulting in ineffective teaching (Bomer et al. 2504-2505). In this case, if a teacher uses Payne’s methods to deal with teaching issues, which involve lower class students, the outcome may be disappointing. Similarly, both Stacy J. Lee and Mehan also indicate that the stereotype of involuntary minority, defined by John Ogbu, incorrectly informs teachers by picturing a problematically oppressive and resistant image of the group (153-154). Likewise, the critique regarding the notion about model minority stereotype illustrates similar problem. In her article, Lee indicates that the images of model minority not only creates overwhelming pressure for students who were included in this category, but also hinders these children from directly confronting their academic problem (427-428).As a result, it is important for school to have an accurate and clear vision of students’ cultural and personal identities, since it not only helps educators to apply particular teaching techniques, and also allows students to explore their true nature. According to Hendrickson, students’ perceptions and social behaviors are generally thought to occur as “a reaction to social reproduction manifested in schools” (38). In order to examine students’ perceptions of education and their school life, students’ experience at school becomes the key to understand the issue. Additionally, since teachers serve as the direct liaison between school and students, they are the crux of this matter. One aspect that may influence students’ school experience is teaching expectation, which can also be referred to teacher’s attitude towards students’ performance at school. Students’ academic performance, and their opinion towards schooling, have been viewed as the cause that affects teacher’s expectation; however, it is the teacher’s attitude the one that alters students’ school experience. Recent study in culturally relevant pedagogy shows that teacher’s optimistic attitude to students’ study ability helps students to build up confidence in study and gives them a positive perception towards education (“Culturally Relevant Teaching” 162-163). Moreover, the study also indicates that, when a teacher displays positive expectations towards students’ academic performance, students gain positive motivation (“Culturally Relevant Teaching” 160). If students feel confident in studying and enjoy the teaching process at school, they are more likely to have a pleasant school experience. My first investigation on student’s education background also demonstrated this point. My interviewee was a junior math student with 4.0 major GPA in college, but he was considered a typical bad student when he attended elementary school. However, his middle school teacher identified his interest in math and had faith that he would make great progress by studying math. As a result of his math teacher’s confidence in him, he showed interest in studying for the first time, and became more driven and hard-working; soon, he became one of the top students in his class. This student’s experience illustrates how a teacher’s positive attitude can alter students’ perceptions towards education. On the other hand, low expectations from teachers result in negative outcomes. Researchers, such as Randy Bomer and Laura May, indicate that as a result of low teacher expectations, poor students are inclined to be in lower track or lower ability groups hinders students’ academic progress and generates negative perceptions of schooling (2498). This phenomenon illustrates that if a teacher believes that students will not be able to succeed or if a teacher does not expect any academic success from these students, students will be influenced by the teacher, and may become passive towards education due to the lack of confidence. Another angle to investigate the impact of school on students’ perceptions and their school experience is to explore the relationship between teacher and students. A trustworthy teacher-students rapport brings positive promotion to both students’ interests in education and their school experience, while an unfriendly or discordant relationship between teacher and students results in negative consequence on students’ school experience. Pedagogical research has discovered that if teachers “value students’ skills and abilities and channel them in academically important way”, students will become more involved in class (“Culturally Relevant Teaching” 160). It also shows that it is important for teachers to link schooling with their students’ cultural background, since incorporating students’ inherent culture into teaching process motivates students to communicate actively with teachers and their peers in classroom (“Culturally Relevant Teaching” 159-160). One student in my reading response group told us that she was treated as a linguistic deficient student, when she first came to the U.S. However, her teacher esteemed her cultural background, and asked her to share her experience about her home country. Since then, she felt more confident at class and became more interested in engaging class activities. Her experience demonstrates that how teachers’ trust and respect can bring a pleasing school experience for students. On the contrary, an intense relationship between teachers and students leads to negative outcomes. Katie A. Hendrickson points out that if students feel that their teacher does not respect or cares about them, they become less willing to participate in the class (46). Consequently, this phenomenon generates a continuing negative chain reaction that teacher will pay more attention on students who are active at class and ignore those who are less interested in study, causing students in the latter group to be more likely to have an unsatisfied school experience (Hendrickson 46). The detriments of a hostile teacher-student relation denote the importance of building up a stable and trustworthy relation between teachers and students. In conclusion, a harmonious teacher-student rapport produces positive effects on students’ perceptions of education and their school experience, but an inconsonant relationship brings opposite consequences. In order to conduct a comprehensive analysis of school’s influence on students, we should examine how school’s teaching on cultural differences, teachers’ expectation for students, and teacher-student relationship affect students’ understanding on their identity, their perceptions of education and their school life. Although the complexity of cultural diversity in the classroom makes it difficult to investigate to what extent the school affects students’ cognitive and social development, the past researches have indicated the direction for us to decipher the puzzle. Children are the future of the country, thus it is the country’s responsibility to create a desirable school environment for children to gain useful knowledge and to chase their dreams. As a result, it is essential to understanding the significant effects that school generates on students, because it can provide crucial assistance to schools and teachers to select eclectic teaching strategies to help students to pave the way for their future success.
Bomer, Randy. et al. “Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims about Poverty.” Teachers College Record, Vol. 110. No.12. 2008: 2497–2531. Print. Hendrickson, Katie A. “Student Resistance to Schooling: Disconnections With Education in Rural Appalachia.” The High School Journal, Volume 95, Number 4, 2012:37-49. Project Muse. Web. Ladson-Billings, Gloria. “But That's Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” Theory into Practice. Vol. 34. No. 3. Culturally Relevant Teaching. 1995: 159-165. JSTOR. Web. Ladson-Billings, Gloria. “It’s Not the Culture of Poverty, It’s the Poverty of Culture: The Problem with Teacher Education.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Vol. 37. No. 2. 104–109. Print. Lee, Stacy J. “Behind the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of High- and Low-Achieving Asian American.” Anthropology & Education Quarterl. Vol.25. No.4.1994: 413-429. JSTOR. Web. Mehan, H. et al. “Peer Group Influences Supporting Untracking.” Constructing School Success: The Consequences of Untracking Low-Achieving Students. 134- 156. Print. McCarty, Teresa L., Mary Eunice Romero-Little, and Ofelia Zepeda. Native American Youth Discourses on Language Shift and Retention: Ideological Cross- currents and Their Implications for Language Planning, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 9:5. 2006: 659-677.