Empathy from White Teachers to Black Students

The nation’s classrooms are diversifying, but American teachers remain overwhelmingly White and female.

College of Education alumnus Chezare Warren posed an unique question for his dissertation work at UIC:  how do high-achieving White female teachers employ empathy in interactions with Black male students in urban school districts?

Warren, PhD Policy Studies in Urban Education:  Social Foundations of Education ’13, found empathy supported these teachers’ ability to be flexible in the types of interactions they had with Black students.  The more empathy teachers exhibited, the more likely they were to be risk-takers and to be flexible in the personal and professional accommodations they made for their students.

“Empathy supports teacher ability to establish a trusting relationship with students and a safe classroom environment,” Warren said. “It helps teachers to be proactive in responding to the academic and social needs of Black male students.”

Warren, who completed his PhD while working full-time as a teacher, says he relished the value the UIC College of Education placed on students working as practitioners and applying their skill sets both in the workplace and the classroom.

“There was an intellectual atmosphere that really supported my growth but also my attention to really critical issues,” Warren said. “It is easy to become lofty and disconnected in the academy, but I feel like UIC is a place that flies under the radar as far as students and faculty really being engaged in solving real-world problems.”

After graduation, Warren spent on year working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directed a large-scale qualitative study examining the factors influencing Black and Latino male high-achieving  students.  Today, he is preparing for his first year as an assistant professor of education research at Michigan State University.  His initial research is focusing on his teaching work at Urban Prep High School in Chicago, examining the life paths of the boys he taught who are currently in their senior year of college or have graduated, seeking to determine the factors that kept them in College and how the high school’s work can serve as a model that leads to college graduation.