6 Suggestions for Teachers of Color and Socially Just Educators in White, Affluent Schools

By Community Manager posted 02-15-2022 09:19 AM



Teachers are increasingly moving from low-income to more affluent schools, from majority-minority to low-minority schools, and from urban to suburban schools (Ingersoll & Merrill, 2010). For various reasons, more minority teachers are working in predominately White, suburban schools. Black and Brown teachers often face unique challenges when working in more affluent and predominantly White schools. 

Teachers who value social justice and equity can find themselves among the minority when working in predominantly White and affluent schools. Also, many majority teachers believe strongly in restorative practices and wish to advocate for social justice and equality. However, these teachers may observe and experience situations, policies, or procedures that disenfranchise children and youth from historically marginalized groups. 

What, then, can minority and socially just teachers do in their pursuit of social justice? Based on our recent interviews with minority teachers working in affluent, low-minority schools, we offer these six tips: 

  1. Find people who share the same values.

We encourage you to find other like-minded educators who also believe in the importance of promoting social justice and equity. Finding other allies creates opportunities for encouragement and camaraderie among colleagues. 

Understand that:

  • Not everyone embraces the need for equity.
  • Other socially just educators will support your efforts.
  • Some colleagues may be hesitant in the push for equity.
  1. Form a counterspace.

Carter (2007) described counterspaces as safe physical spaces where same-race individuals gather to share and express their concerns, frustrations, and experiences of racism and discrimination. Teachers reported that being given the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone who understands their point of view helped to decrease their level of stress (Young, 2018). 

Be aware that:

  • It is important to have a safe-space to discuss stressful situations.
  • Counterspaces allow educators an opportunity to decompress.
  • Educators benefit from having a safe space to share their feelings (Decuir-Gunby & Gunby, 2016).
  1. Focus on your students.

In stressful workspaces, it is easy to lose sight of why we became educators in the first place. Staying focused on students and their equity needs is an important part of our job. 


  • It is not about you; it is about them (your students).
  • Avoid teachers who negatively speak about students and their families.
  • Combat negative speech by speaking positively about your students, school, and families.
  • Be involved with activities that reconnect you to your passion for teaching.
  1. Foresee your obstacles (mostly people).

For minority and social-justice educators operating in predominantly White and affluent schools, the most formidable obstacle is often people who are in positions of authority. Identifying these people will help you to effectively prepare to advocate for social justice and equity. 

In order navigate these obstacles:  

  • Identify your obstacles early. 
  • Do your research and stay current.
  • Present your ideas with the perspective of how they will benefit students.
  1. Attend meetings, show up to the table, and be present. 

One of the most beneficial things we can do to support equity in our schools is to show up, be present, and lend our voices to the conversation. We have a duty to examine common school practices through an equity lens. When discovering inequitable practices, work with like-minded colleagues to develop plans and procedures that foster more equitable practices. 

When at the table:

  • Be prepared and do your research ahead of time.
  • Lend your voice, but do so respectfully.
  • Root your position in facts and be objective. 
  • Share how the topic impacts the lives of marginalized students. 
  1. Fortify your own social–emotional health and well-being. 

Before you take care of anyone else, you must take care of yourself! To be an advocate, you must balance your own personal health needs with those of the demands of your calling. 

Be sure to:

  • Remember that attitude is everything.
  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor.
  • Check in with good friends and family.
  • Do at least one small thing each day that makes you happy.
  • Take a real personal day once in awhile.

In their efforts to advance social change in the schools, we recommend teachers carefully consider these six tips. We believe that they can help teachers make positive changes so that schools are a place where all students and employees are respected and valued. 

By Natalie Young and Greg Conderman

Dr. Young is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special and Early Education at Northern Illinois University. She enjoys researching and sharing best practices on engaging young culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Dr. Conderman is a Professor in the Special and Early Education Department at Northern Illinois University. His research interests include co-teaching and effective instructional methods.


Carter, D. J. (2007). Why the Black kids sit together on the stairs: The role of identity-affirming counter-spaces in a predominantly White high school. The Journal of Negro Education, 76(4), 542–554.

DeCuir-Gunby, J. T., & Gunby Jr, N. W. (2016). Racial microaggressions in the workplace: A critical race analysis of the experiences of African American educators. Urban Education, 51(4), 390–414.

Ingersoll, R., & Merrill, L. (2010).  Who’s teaching our children?  Educational Leadership, 67(8), 14–20.