The Urban Educator: Kids don’t really learn from people they don’t like

Last year my school had a transition. We had lost our principal who led the school for almost a decade. She was funny, stern, and led the school with purpose. When we found out she would leave to found her own high school, it threw the entire school into chaos. The best thing that ever happened was the acting leader our head of school appointed. While we struggled to regain our footing for most of the year, the staff soon regained vision and purpose, we also resumed the structure that so many parents found they liked about our school.

This year we are working to bring a new behavioral model to our campus. This model will focus on building relationship with our students and their families. I remember last year attending one of the organization called TEDs talk on education. This magical woman was there who gave a moving speech that has made me believe even more in the new vision of our principal. Her quote, “kids don’t really learn from people they don’t like,” still sticks with me as how educators can change the way we reach our students. Her lecture focused on the need for teachers to build relationship and foster understanding before we get to delivering lessons. The educator was Rita Pierson. She died earlier this summer but her lecture still sticks with me.

Watch it below.

-The Urban Educator is a series written by Joseph Lynn Kitchen about his experience working in urban communities to deliver a better education to young people of color.

Joseph Lynn Kitchen Jr. is an ordained Baptist minister from Prince George’s County, MD where he serves as a community leader on issues of education reform, public transportation and youth empowerment. Joseph is President of the Young Democrats of Maryland and works as an administrator at a school in southeast Washington, DC. Learn more about Joseph’s work at


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