How Can (White) Teachers Do Right By Their Black Students? Grappling With Whiteness in the Math Classroom
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This research is a collection of three studies that aim to better understand what it might mean for a White teacher to do right by her Black students in a mathematics classroom. By using a practitioner research design, I examine my own teaching in an all Black seventh grade low track mathematics class in an urban school. In the first study I illustrate how obligations to particular perspectives from stakeholders in the role of mathematics teacher can lead to conflicting aims, particularly when analyzing how a racialized lens influences the emergence and management of dilemmas. The second study involves a comparison of the intended and enacted curriculum in whole class discussions to examine students’ opportunities to learn mathematical language and concepts. In this study I look at how I grappled with the ways in which Whiteness is assumed as a norm in the presentation of the tasks and suggestions for discussions in a reform-oriented curriculum and in my own commitment to creating access while foregoing precision. The third and final study is a case study with two students to illustrate how a teacher can mediate the relationship between students’ perceptions of their mathematical ability and their participation in discussions. This research serves as one example of how a teacher can interrupt the assumed reciprocal pathways from students’ perceptions about their abilities and their engagement in whole class mathematics discussions. From these three studies, I summarize several themes around what it might look like for White teachers to do right by Black students. By using the phrase do right by to re-conceptualize a traditional notion of equity, I conclude that White teachers can uphold a commitment to serving the best interests of their Black students by developing a racialized lens as they grapple with Whiteness, implement a balanced approach that draws on both reform-oriented and traditional approaches for teaching mathematics, and recognize that context matters when making decisions in a mathematics classroom.