Navigating the Journey to Culturally Responsive Teaching: Lessons from the Success and Struggles of One First-Year, Black Female Teacher of Black Students in an Urban School

January, 2016

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education 60 (2016) 24-33.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores the experiences of one first-year, Black female English language arts teacher and her Advanced Placement Language and Composition students.

The participant was a first-year, Black female teacher as she taught Advanced Placement English language and composition, a course composed mainly of Black students from an urban city in the southeastern United States.
The first author observed and participated in the teacher's class. She also had informal conversations with the participant.

The findings reveal that the participant faced challenges when finding balance in her classroom management style, encountered cultural dissonance, developed teacher-student relationships, and struggled with how White, middle-class values may have shaped her classroom interactions with her students.

The participant grew up in a two-parent home and attended predominantly White schools in a rural part of the state; whereas, the majority of her students in this class were raised in single-parent homes and had almost exclusively attended schools with mostly Black students in an urban environment.
Despite an existing sociocultural dissonance, the participant understood the need for culturally informed relationships and helped her students develop trust in her by listening to stories about their personal lives.
The participant also tried to implement and practice culturally responsive strategies. For example, she began reconciling her preferred learning style and the learning style of her students. She also developed a community of learners, acknowledged students’ cultural backgrounds, utilized cooperative learning groups, provided supplemental materials that highlight the contributions of ethnically diverse people, and built a strong teacher-student relationship.

However, she learned that she could not be both friend and teacher and that she would have to act with authority in order for her students to treat her with authority.
The participant also began to build relationships with her students by sharing her own academic and personal experiences, which supported her efforts to build community with her students and their families.

This study has implications for teacher preparation and the implementation of authentic and effective culturally responsive teaching.
The authors suggest that there is a need for programs that challenge teacher candidates to develop self-awareness and explore biases through extensive prerequisite courses and clinical experiences in culturally, linguistically, economically, and ethnically diverse school settings prior to teaching. They argue that pre-service teachers must undergo cognitive development and personal experiences that interrupt and dismantle destructive biases before learning and applying culturally responsive teaching. The authors suggest that these prerequisite courses and experiences in teacher education should address issues related to race, equity, social justice, and critical theories.
The authors also recommend that novice teachers in urban districts may need to be actively encouraged or educated about the advantages of living in the communities in which they teach.

Updated: Jul. 08, 2018