Understanding the lived experiences of Black girls in a North Carolina elementary school : the importance of student voice

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rickeya Renee Jones (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Craig Peck

Abstract: Black girls’ unique needs are often ignored in the educational system and left out of the literature, causing their voices to be unheard (Harrison, 2017). Their negative experiences in school can lead to frequent absences, gaps in education, and missed opportunities to pursue higher education. This increases the likelihood of Black girls dropping out of school, leading to potential unemployment and poverty down the road. Ultimately, the over-criminalization and harsh punishment Black girls encounter in schools place them at high risk of being incorporated into the school-to-prison pipeline (Chakara, 2017). The need for more research on Black girls and how to support them is more urgent than ever. My study aimed to understand the lived experiences of Black girls in an elementary school, highlight their voices and perceptions, and offer recommendations to help school leaders better address their needs. My research question was: How do fifth-grade Black girls perceive their schooling experiences? To answer this question, I conducted a qualitative study that involved interactive focus groups with nine fifth graders at Lakeside Elementary (a pseudonym). During these interactive focus groups, I spoke directly with the girls about topics such as their general experiences with caring, gender, race, and identity. To encourage participation, I created different games and activities for some of the focus group sessions based on what I learned from the previous session. In conducting my study, I found that the Black female participants felt that teachers sometimes cared about them less than they cared about their classmates of other races and ethnicities and that their teachers cared less about them than boys. I also found that the participants perceived teachers talked negatively to them and about them. In addition, I discovered that the participants could recognize how others show care for them, and they knew how to show care for others. Further, my findings revealed that most of the Black girls in the study believed that others saw them differently than they saw themselves and that all the girls could share at least one positive and negative experience they had at Lakeside Elementary. Finally, the participants provided suggestions to teachers and peers on how they could support them better and to other Black girls on how to be successful in school. Ultimately, the Black girls from my study highlighted the importance of the intersectionality of gender and race in their lives. One implication is that we need more studies like this one related to creating caring spaces where elementary school Black girls can be nurtured to be successful in their educational environment. In addition, a recommendation to schools and districts is to refine their classroom management practices eliminating racial and gender biases. Schools and districts also must take it one step further and operate from an ethic of care for Black girls. I recommend that schools and districts implement “other-mothering” approaches such as conducting home visits, feeding students, and providing authentic love and concern (Lane, 2018). Teachers, school leaders, school nurses, school counselors, and school social workers can help support this work. If we are to address the needs of Black girls in elementary schools, we must understand their lived experiences and commit to learning the most effective ways to support them based on the experiences they share. Keywords: Elementary, Black girls, schooling, caring

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2024
Elementary, Black girls, Schooling, Caring
Girls, Black $z North Carolina $x Attitudes
School children $z North Carolina $x Attitudes
Discrimination in education $z North Carolina
Teacher-student relationships $z North Carolina

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