Theses Doctoral

“I am a Much Bigger Version of You”: Exploring the Relationships Between Black Boys and Black Male Teachers in Early Childhood Education

Madu, Nicole Kimberly

Black boys in American schools are often subjected to crisis narratives that negatively impact teacher-student relationships, limiting teachers from recognizing the intellectual capability of Black boys. A review of American schools paints a portrait of Black males crowded in special education and nearly absent in gifted education. There seems to be a gap in the available research about Black males in education, especially when trying to identify and review the literature surrounding educational opportunities, positive learning environments, and teacher/student relationships for the youngest learners in American schools. Given previous research findings of positive relationships between Black male teachers and Black male students in Grade 3 and higher, this study looked at these relationships within early childhood classrooms, as research suggests that relationships between teachers and students play a meaningful role in young children’s social and emotional development.

Utilizing interviews, observations, and through the collection of student-created artifacts, in situated ways this study found that Black male teachers perceived their relationships with Black boys in early childhood classrooms as:

• being grounded in providing explicit role models for Black boys;
• empowering young Black boys to see their individual potential and future success in life as Black men;
• focusing on showcasing affection that is often not expressed towards Black boys in early childhood due to implicit biases, through explicit verbal praise, loving gestures, and body language; and
• an understanding that early childhood classrooms should serve as a space for children to learn through their mistakes, as this is a key component in the development of positive feelings towards schooling and learning.

The implications for practice point to the importance of recruiting more teachers who view their teacher identities as being intricately connected to role modeling and the empowerment of Black boys. Additionally, because love is foundational to justice, Black boys need teachers who love them—accepting, caring, displaying respect, defending their right to be children, and regarding the education of Black boys as their responsibility. Finally, young Black boys thrive in classrooms where there is the freedom to make mistakes.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Souto-Manning, Mariana V.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 29, 2020