Exploring the Boundary-Heightening Experiences of Black Male Teachers: Lessons for Teacher Education Programs

Jan. 01, 2019

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 70 issue: 1, page(s): 51-64
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors used the qualitative method of phenomenology to explore Black male teachers’ experiences with the organizational dynamic of boundary heightening, seeking to gather rich data on the experiences of study participants to devise theories about how they navigated the schools in which they were employed as a minority demographic.
The phenomenological method allowed for a nuanced examination of the relationships between Black male teachers and their students, administrators, and colleagues, informing an understanding of how the interaction of both race and gender affected Black male teachers’ experiences in the organization.

The study explored the experiences of 27 Black male teachers in 14 Boston Public Schools (BPS).
The study was guided by the research question: What are Black male teachers’ experiences with the organizational dynamic of boundary heightening?
The study explored the influences on Black male teachers’ decisions to enter the teaching profession, how organizational dynamics shaped their school-based experiences and how those influences informed their decision to stay in or leave the classroom and/or the profession.

The authors found that participants exhibited three responses to their boundary-heightening experiences:
(a) perceiving that their colleagues viewed them as either incompetent or overqualified;
(b) realizing the importance of lowering the boundaries between themselves and colleagues, but only superficially attempting to engage with colleagues; and
(c) proactively responding to colleagues who they believed erected boundaries and created hostile workplace environments.
The authors noted that boundary heightening created negative experiences for the participants in navigating the organization, as evident in their perceptions that colleagues viewed them as incompetent or overqualified; their superficial attempts to engage with colleagues; and their confrontations with colleagues whom they believed erected boundaries and created hostile workplace environments.

The authors conclude that given these realities—it is important for teacher education programs to redesign aspects of preparation for these educators to support their transitions into the workplace.
They strongly suggest that teacher education programs must incorporate within their curricula opportunities for all teachers to reflect on power relations in schools, particularly related to race and gender.
Courses in which teacher educators support novice teachers to reflect on their social location, especially their privilege, provide crucial opportunities to learn how microaggressions and unconscious biases can create negative, sometimes hostile, work environments for those in the organization.
They also argue that the experiences of in-service male TOCs should inform how teacher preparation programs redesign facets of the training that all preservice teachers receive. Part of this redesign should include attending to the unique experiences that male TOCs, and by extension all TOCs, may face in becoming teachers of record.
This attention may include aspects of initiatives where male preservice TOCs meet with in-service teachers who are men of color to receive support for navigating the socioemotional challenges associated with being male TOCs. Simultaneously, teacher preparation programs should, through coursework, support novices in examining the influence of their race and/ or gender privilege on interactions with future colleagues. 

Updated: May. 23, 2019