In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks about a car salesman in New Jersey who typically sold twice as many cars (20 per month) than the other salesman in his dealership. Here are a few quotes from the text, without comments because the links I am trying to make about how we can apply this to teaching are so obvious:
Bob Golomb has, Gladwell says, three simple rules that guide his every action. “Take care of the customer. Take care of the customer. Take care of the customer.”
[Golomb also says]: “You always put on your best face, even if you are having a bad day. You leave that behind. Even if things are horrendous at home, you give the customer your best.”
Gladwell also says that Bob Golomb tries never to judge anyone on the basis of his or her appearance. He assumes that everyone who walks in the door has the exact same chance of buying a car. [Golomb says]: “You cannot prejudge people in this business. Prejudging is the kiss of death. You have to give everyone your best shot.”
In that vein, Gladwell cites a remarkable social experiment conducted in the 1990s by a law professor in Chicago names Ian Ayres. In a nutshell, Ayers found that black men, while bargaining for a car, always ended up with a price that was $800 more than the price white men were offered, even when the white and black men were obviously of the same social standing.
Do we do that in our classroom, not necessarily with race but with any social labels that jump out when we meet a person? Do students of color, or of any social group, experience a kind of instant alienation when they walk into our classrooms because we (totally unconsciously of course, or we would never be allowed to be teachers) favor certain other students, skewing the classroom in terms of equality from the very first moments of class? What would that do to our chances of making any method work in our classroom? Is this a topic worth looking at, as we polish and adjust our internal heart mirrors in preparation for next year?