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Why Are All the Teachers White?

In a discussion on the National Council of Teachers of English forum, Deborah Morrison asked, “Why Are All the Teachers White?” I share her comments here with her permission.


So what's a white girl, (or guy) to do?

I am a native of Tucson, Arizona, was educated in the public school system and university system here, and teach at the Community College here.  I am white.  I am surrounded by a wonderful ethnic and racial diversity of students everyday.  In fact, being white makes me the minority in most situations every day.

I am lucky.  I can choose the texts I teach.  I am aware that many other teachers cannot.

So what can you do to make a culturally diverse classroom community regardless of your personal ethnicity and required curriculum?

  1. Incorporate texts written by authors from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and vary the texts based on the composition of your individual classrooms.  You can do this in spite of the materials you are required to teach, and in spite of copyright issues.  Look for quotations, short stories, song lyrics, and poems you can use under academic fair use copyright law.  Read aloud.  Offer your students opportunities to search out similar materials.  Build cultural perspective through intertextuality.
  2. Show videos (Youtube is a great source,) of people of color discussing literacy and reading aloud.
  3. Invite speakers from your community and former students to speak to your class.
  4. Discuss literature and oral story telling as cultural universals.  Be up front about any cultural conflicts that exist in your community and in American Society.  Use teachable moments.
  5. Educate yourself.  If you are unaware of how the culture of power effects our schools or unfamiliar with issues that your minority students are facing, seek more information.  If you need help finding high quality texts by authors from different cultures, ask for it.  At my college the librarians are valuable resources.  
  6. Finally, but most importantly, show respect for other cultures, subcultures, and ethnicities and the amazing richness of all traditions in your speech, body language, and behavior in your classroom everyday.

Comments anyone? More suggestions? Reactions? Views?