Why Teachers With “Savior Complexes” Are Getting It All Wrong

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Precious White

Laura Moser can be viewed as foolish to some. She may be referred to as this  due to her uncommon subject matter,which is  educators rethinking  “How do I go about trying to educate urban students?” Positively, she refers to Mr. Edmin’s book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education” to support her position. She places confidence in her solution that  teachers should alter the way a lesson is taught to engage urban students.

Dissatisfying Personal Experiences

I’ve had my own personal experiences involving “White folks who teach in the hood.” Unfortunately, these “white folks” suffered from being inexperienced, panic-stricken,and overwhelmed educators.  My teachers thoughts may have included, “My cushy job into this urban school and kids gave me such a hard time, and they were challenging, and they were trouble and it’s so awful.”These after thoughts are typically caused by “a white,”savior complex”- a well-meaning idealist who views teaching as their personal mission to save the world.”

    As gloomy as this may sound, your presence with not automatically transform someone’s life. Just as well as you speaking to someone in the morning won’t change someone’s mindset. Your life as an educator will be a battle, from unspeakable disrespect to persistent taunting, students show no mercy regardless of your situation.

Then, I met Mr. Carline.

At the beginning of this school year, our 11th grade class was bestowed a well seasoned, talented, creative, devoted, and understanding teacher – Mr. Carline. Carline has done an excellent job with educating classes by incorporating popular trends or fads into the lesson. Student’s attention were grasped, the lesson was taught with little to no rebuttal, and exponential test score growth.

 “How can I positively impact African American students of color education?”

As I reflect on the Young Scholar’s Society guiding questions of texts from a student’s point of view – my advice to teachers is to get creative and stay patient. Creativity and patience are virtues equally in this situation.  A majority of urban kids have come from many different backgrounds just as much as their “white savior” teachers. Urban students also endure a variant of hardships ; therefore,  rejection of the teacher is to be expected in the beginning. Mr.Carline suggests to future teachers to  “first hand experience before teaching a full a class.” Work at a small group tutoring service. For an even closer educational experience, shadow a teacher similar to yourself in the same content area.

“How do we create and  inspire students to learn?”

Firstly, to sustain positive cultures is to encourage  and partake in urban culture. This promotes the positive culture by presenting it as a class discussion to obtain the student’s position and interpersonal feelings. Another approach is to choose a controversial topic concerning popular urban idols and have the students write a paper stating their position. Thus, engaging the students in a positive popular culture while still possessing an educational aspect of critical thinking, reflection, and composition.

Secondly, motivating and inspiring students to learn is a mountainous task. Obviously, not one for the faint heart, better suited for the witty and elite few. In regards to the question  in whatever way possible “RELATE”. It can not be stressed enough that the educators need to have a connection with their students.

One way to do this may be to incorporate music because of its ability to break down color barriers. In the article, Ms. Mosers emphatically suggests using an abundance of this type of teaching suggested by Emdin, the author of the book. “For Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S we had young people in schools writing raps about science content and these are kids who are kids  failing science class, then when they have to write science raps are studying until three or four in the morning.” Another example, although far-reaching, includes bringing in a rap artist to school to impart knowledge to the students.“A graduate student I work with had Kendrick Lamar come into a school in New Jersey to compare his last album, to Pimp a Butterfly, to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and he was essentially the teacher for the day.”

Many educators should follow Emdin and  experiment with some of the unorthodox methods of enlightening students of color. Finally, a reminder of how we can get it “right”  is to take “An entirely different approach: actually trying to understand the kids you’re teaching, engaging them on their own terms.”


Precious White is a member of the 2017 LSU Upward Bound graduating cohort, whose voice as a student advocate rings louder than ever.