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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.