- The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore White, female teachers’ attitudes and perspectives towards their African American students, the Black/White Achievement Gap, and their teaching practice in regards to their students’ achievement, through the use of focus group discussions. The target group for this study was White, female teachers with three or more years teaching experience in the selected school. The northwest, urban school chosen for this study is 100% Title I with a minority student population of 91.7%. African American students make up 67.8% of the students while 26 white females represent 72% of the teaching staff.
Findings suggest that the eight teachers in this study have built a bond of solidarity around their Whiteness and their positions as White teachers in a predominantly Black school. Their likenesses, shared experiences, stories, students, and the school have become the glue that binds them together and is what allows them to reinforce and support each other on a daily basis. As participants shared their stories, perspectives, and feelings, manifestations of their individual and collective racial identity status emerged. Teachers liberally used disclaimers, avoidance techniques, colorblindness, and stereotypes, and spontaneously shared their outsider feelings, as outcomes of their thinking around race throughout the focus group discussions. Findings revealed teachers’ attitudes towards students included both caring and deficit thinking. Deficit thinking was found to influence their view of the Black/White achievement gap and the roots of its cause, as well as their classroom management, instruction, and interactions with parents.
A critical race theory perspective was incorporated to create an understanding of participants as a collective entity made up of individuals who are a product of American society and the educational system. I focused on mitigating factors that serve to reinforce teachers’ participation in racist discourses. Culturally responsive teaching theory was used to examine, not only how participants view their students and teaching as individuals, but also to consider how the pedagogic theory could supply a framework for further development of teachers’ cultural understanding and practice.