African-American Teachers and the Roles They Play
ANTOINETTE MITCHELLZ Urban Institute
Using roles they played as they worked effectively with African- American students. Thethe oral histories of eight recently retired school teachers, this chapter identifies the multiple se roles included teacher as mediator, activist and active supporter of student growth and development. In playing these roles, teachers addressed the social, economic and political circumstances of their students. Through these roles, the teachers increased student motivation and promoted student resiliency. The teachers, thus, present models for effective teacher-student interaction that could be used to help prepare all teachers to work more effectively with African-American and other minority youth.
The educational achievement and attainment of African-American students has long lagged behind those of their White peers, as is demonstrated by national test scores, grades, and designation in special education ( National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 1997). In addition, AfricanAmerican students' rates of college attendance are below the national norm, and high school dropout rates have been and continue to be disproportionately high ( NCES, 1996a; NCES, 1997). Over the years, numerous theories have sought to explain these disparities. These theories range from macro- to micropolitical and include deficits in the students, their families and communities ( Hernstein & Murray, 1994; Jensen, 1969); low expectations and discontinuities in the relationships between teachers and students, and between students and schools (see Erickson, 1984; Giroux, 1983; Ogbu, 1987; Rist, 1970; Smitherman, 1977); weaknesses in the organization and governance of schools ( Hess, 1993; Oakes, 1985; Tyack, 1990); and inequalities in the structure of society ( Bourdieu & Passeron,