De-Centering Whiteness

haddixmarcelle15web

 

http://soe.syr.edu/about/member.aspx?fac=4

A week back I had the privilege to listen to Dr. Marcelle Haddix speak. Haddix is a professor from Syracuse, whose academic interests include the experiences of literacy instruction and teacher education programs for students of color. It was a very eye-opening experience in terms of things that I had never considered, and new ways of thinking about topics that I have been avoiding. There were so many things to think about, that I am not able to elaborate on them all.

Dr. Haddix talked about “translating cultural knowledge into pedagogy.” It made perfect sense to me. It’s not enough to know about other cultures. It’s not even enough to teach lessons about culture to our students. We need a pedagogy where the cultural inclusivity is built in, and not obviously emphasized.

My very next thought was, “How can I, as a white female, in a fairly affluent area, connect cultural knowledge into my classroom?” I’m not sure that I feel very qualified at this point to address certain aspects. I understand that culture isn’t only based upon religion or heritage. However, my upbringing is still different from many of the white students in my class. 

The first follow up question is “how can I first build my own knowledge so that I can genuinely integrate culture into my classroom?” Hopefully, after I have grown personally, I will be more comfortable addressing the issue of culture in my classroom, and also within my school community.

Another important take away for me:

As teachers “we cater to Whiteness, monolingualism, and middle class values UNLESS we actively work against them” – Dr.Haddix 

“And it is not just about diversity in race. We need diversity of perspectives.” It was upsetting to hear about the numbers of students of color who did not succeed within their program of study, especially those who dropped out of teacher education programs.

In my twitter chats a fellow educator noted that they “don’t mind taking the road less traveled” and being one of the few culturally different teachers. My response was “How do we attract and KEEP those who are less comfortable with the road less traveled? How do we support those educators?

Students want to see themselves reflected in their teachers. They will actively seek it out. How can we support them? 

Unfortunately my class has not been very diverse these past 3 years. But in the future, when it may become more diverse, How do I, as a white female, go about supporting my students? How do I bridge the cultural disconnect? How can I reflect those students and their beliefs with my white upbringing?

Break it down: Teacher shortages are situational-urban, intercity, and struggling areas. NOT a shortage in affluent white schools. I think this is a sentiment that we all knew deep down inside, but had rarely noticed or said out loud to ourselves.

Snowballing off of that staggering thought:

NYC started an initiative in 2015 to put +1,000 male teachers of color in schools by 2018. The project is called “NYC Men Teach.” The website says that there is a “retention strategy.” Yet, there is no elaboration around what said strategy is. I would be interested to see what the success rate is for teacher retention for these 1,000 male teachers of color. I have to wonder about the situation that made this initiative necessary in the first place…how do they plan to adequately support teachers in their work environment, and support the massively diverse population of NYC students?

check it out: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/ymi/teach/nyc-men-teach.page

What are your thoughts?

 

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One thought on “De-Centering Whiteness

  1. The Third November 24, 2016 / 8:52 pm

    kccogswell,

    Thank you for your willingness to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. I admire your audacity and flexibility to be an educator for all children. I wish we had more teachers like you who are willing to put themselves out there and are willing to “change” for the sake of the children. I think that Whiteness is anything that is normed to fit the majority; in a way it goes beyond the race talk. In a district where the majority is White, I do come across situations where I think to myself, “It is because I am Asian?” or “Am I making others feel uncomfortable because I’m not as submissive or compliant as those of other Asian colleagues?”. I do sense that my Asian-ness is definitely more pronounced/visible in this district than where I was before, but those are not the only questions I ask myself. There are so many other ways in which instruction, curriculum, and other aspects of leadership that are normed to fit the majority and I see that as “Whiteness”.

    Liked by 1 person

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