Teaching to Care: What Teachers Think They Need to Create Equitable Classrooms

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Grace Livingston


Throughout the history of the United States, Black people living in the United States have been denied access to education. Eventually, the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka that was decided in 1954 ruled that racial segregation in American schools was unconstitutional. Despite the end of separate but equal creating space for integrated schools, this decision was not entirely positive, especially for Black teachers and Black school administrators. While schools were mandated to integrate after the Brown decision, there was no protection given to Black education professionals. Following the Supreme Court decision, 38,000 Black teachers and other school administrators were left without jobs, and the number of Black teachers and school administrators only continued to decline for years after the landmark Supreme Court decision. Due to this, as well as other factors, teachers in the United States are overwhelmingly white and female, specifically 79% are white women. This is entirely unrepresentative of students in the United States schools, where 47% of public school students in the United States are white. Having a teaching force that is not representative of the student body is harmful for a number of reasons. Students of color have been cited saying that they feel as though white teachers pass unfair judgements upon them, or that they are not given the same levels of respect that is given to white students by white teachers. Although these stories can be discouraging, this does not necessarily mean that white teachers should not exist, it simply means that white teachers must be aware of spaces in which they are lacking, especially when it comes to harming students who hold marginalized identities. It is important for white teachers to be aware of the ways that they are doing harm to students in order to prevent this harm from occurring in the future.

An important aspect of this is teacher education. If teacher education programs, whether they be graduate or undergraduate level, are not aware of the harm that could be caused to students of marginalized identities, then they cannot prevent or mitigate this harm in the teachers that they are sending out into classrooms. If teacher education programs do not establish how to engage with students with marginalized identities teachers may never seek this knowledge out, resulting in harmful ignorance.

With this research I am to investigate teachers' understanding of their behavior in the classroom and their engagement with topics of race and racism. I aim to understand where teacher education programs and schools are lacking, and what teachers think can be done to make this better.

This document is currently not available here.