When Asked, Teachers Said… : Contemplating a New Teacher Professional

When Asked, Teachers Said… : Contemplating a New Teacher Professional

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5649-8.ch001
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Abstract

The authors perceive that institutionalized racial hierarchies are the greatest barrier to educational equity in the United States. While P-12 teachers may express the desire to make their classrooms spaces of joy, creativity, and intellectual brilliance, it is primarily through intentional skills development that teachers succeed. The authors assert the need for greater investments by school districts and teacher education programs in professional development for in-service P-12 teachers that further empower them and, in turn, their students, to contribute to the dismantling of racism in the U.S. Teacher educators, administrators and policy makers need to position themselves as cultivators and supporters of P-12 teachers in ways that encourage and sustain their antiracist advocacy and equity work in their teaching.
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Teaching is a profession that requires lifelong training --response from an alumni survey

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Introduction

Public school teachers are the first line of defense to change the classroom experiences of children and youth, all of whom are negatively impacted by educational inequities. We perceive that institutionalized racial hierarchies are the greatest barrier to educational equity in the United States. While talented teachers may express the desire to make their individual classrooms spaces of joy, creativity, and intellectual brilliance, it is primarily through intentional and collaborative skills development that teachers succeed. Guided by the results from a national survey of teachers, a local survey, our experiences from more than 20 years of providing teacher professional development, and the theoretical frameworks offered by scholars of race, teacher professional development, and adult development, we assert the need for greater investments by school districts and teacher education programs in professional development for in-service teachers that further empower them and, in turn, their students to contribute to the dismantling of racism in the U.S.

The data are well-known that document how the structural inequities of employment, housing, health, and wealth accumulation negatively and disproportionately impact the educational attainment and achievement of Children and Youth of Color (Kendi, 2016; Race the Power of an Illusion, n.d.). We know that the efforts of teachers as “street level bureaucrats” to act as “equity warriors” too often fail, because Teachers of Color experience racial battle fatigue (Acuff, 2018), and many white teachers, even those who self-report as equity minded, resist or are unaware of strategies to make structural change (Rochmes, Penner & Loeb, 2017). To rely on classroom teachers to bear the full burden of transforming educational inequities is unconscionable. To offer sustained support through ongoing and antiracist teacher professional development, as offered by this book, we stand a chance of breaking the overwhelming “whiteness” of U.S. schooling in order to capture and elevate the intellectual brilliance of all students in U.S. schools and communities.

In the following five chapters of the book, we offer a sequence of explorations that can lead to antiracist teacher professional development experiences: engaging in deep racial identity work; methods for unpacking assumptions; examining teaching-learning relational dynamics; nurturing teacher leadership and collegial relations; and policy proposals based on a “manifesto” for how to broaden the practice of antiracist teacher professional development across U.S. school districts. Each section includes examples of how P-12 teachers in a graduate teacher professional development program engaged with these explorations and the outcomes, tensions and dilemmas that emerged. Although our work identifies multiple areas of inequity/oppression in schools, such as gender, language, class, and abilities, in this book we are focused on race/ethnicity as the most challenging area of educational inequity.

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