For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Transformative Teaching

New York Times’ best selling book, For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin provides insight into transformative teaching and engaging with students in a culturally responsive way. Emdin outlines the importance of truly understanding your students and infusing their interests and backgrounds into the classroom. Future teachers are typically exposed to eurocentric methodologies in their learning, Emdin attempts to teach educators past the lens of white society. By speaking on his experiences in urban schools, the author attempts to set a focus on fixing a system that was not made equally for every student, one reader at a time. 


  1. Acknowledging Culture 

As educators we will teach students from many different backgrounds. What we do with that opportunity is up to us. I acknowledge that I will forever be learning and understanding other people: especially my own students. Emdin emphasizes the importance of listening to your students and to connect with them on a basis past academics. When students express cultural values or practices unbeknownst to you, it is crucial to be open to learning and to appreciate the things that matter most to your students. This also means being aware of your own internal biases and being willing to challenge your thinking. As a future educator, I am excited to learn all the perspectives of life my students have and to celebrate my students for who they are. 

  1. Connecting with Students 

Emdin discusses student-teacher relationships thoroughly through his book. It is absolutely critical to create personal connections with students, to see them for who they are. This means stepping past grades and worksheets to engage with students in ways that matter emotionally to them. Maybe a student is passionate about their basketball team? A good way to build a relationship with that student is to attend one of their games. It is important to show up for our students past teaching. Personally, I know I will care for each and every one of my students, and I find it important to show them ways that they are important, they are seen, and they matter. This builds a good classroom community amongst teachers and students. 

  1. Balancing Classroom Dynamics 

One thing Emdin discusses is the application of classroom roles and teacher student interactions. His ideas had me reflect on my own experiences going into education. Too many times I have been told I need to be an authority figure, to ‘control’ my students to make them behave. Those thoughts have always left a sour taste in my mouth. Emdin takes a better perspective, seeing the class as a unified whole rather than a teacher talking down to their students. Giving students roles and responsibilities to do around the classroom and presenting learning as something you’re doing with your students rather than bestowing onto them unpromptedly builds a stronger classroom family that students feel more comfortable in.  

  1. Reality Pedagogy 

Emdin approaches educating with the practice of reality pedagogy. This pedagogy acknowledges students as people with current life experiences and cultural backgrounds that ultimately affect their education and behavior. This also means incorporating students’ life experiences into the classroom to create deeper connections and opportunities to learn. Connecting academics back to personal understanding ultimately makes a more meaningful learning experience. 

  1. Context Informed Teaching

Overall, Emdin evaluates working as a teacher in a social justice oriented context. What this means for me is that I need to be aware of the historical contexts that have made unequal learning environments and how historically marginalized groups were not given the same education opportunities as privileged groups. Furthermore, Emdin talks about how education empowers us. By effectively teaching my students, I am helping them gain their own voice. I find it extremely important to not only prepare my students academically, but for the world beyond that as well, as Emdin outlines. 

Infusing White Folk Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too into the classroom

  1. Student Introduction Assignment 

One thing Emdin expresses repeatedly in this book is the importance of connecting with students. One way I think could help me learn about my students as well as build a classroom community is by having students complete a brief presentation about themselves in fun, creative ways. They can list their interests, identities, extracurricular activities, and families. This could be an effective way to open up a class for the year. 

  1. Role Assignment 

Oftentimes, the feeling of belonging in spaces can be taken for granted.  By assigning classroom responsibilities and roles to my students, they may feel a sense of belonging and purpose within a group of people they may have otherwise felt lost in. Acknowledging every students’ worth in this way can help build students’ confidence that they belong in my classroom. 

  1. Peer Learning 

Emdin outlines the effectiveness of co-teaching by students within this book. This makes students an active participant in their own and their peer’s learning. Additionally, students may be more receptive to learning from their peers, who are learning with them, than someone they feel is waiting for the correct answer. Learning as a group effort is more engaging and gives students more autonomy. 


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  1. Great blog post! I really enjoy student introductions. I think having students introduce themselves to the class makes the classroom more inviting. What items would you include in the rubric for the student introductions? For example, would you make them include a fun fact about themselves? etc.

  2. Loved reading your post. I especially enjoyed reading about the dynamics you hope to create in your classroom. I was wondering how you will work to not slip into the traditional ‘control’ mindset?

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