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Negotiating a Teaching Identity: An African American Teacher's Struggle to Teach in Test-Driven Contexts


by Jane Agee — 2004

This case study examines the experiences of a young African American English teacher over 3 years as she tried to teach multicultural literature. The study began in her senior year of college when she was enrolled in a progressive undergraduate preservice program in English education and continued through her first 2 years as a high school English teacher. In the university program, she expressed a desire to teach multicultural literature, to use constructivist approaches to teaching that built on students' personal experiences, and to broaden students' understanding of racial and cultural differences. Yet in her preservice teaching as well as in her first 2 years as a teacher, she found her goals difficult to implement. Her envisioned identity as a teacher who would help students to understand and celebrate racial diversity began to unravel as she struggled with the demands of school policies, mandated assessments, and racial bias. Teacher identity, as described here, is a discursive space where an imagined role is negotiated among possible roles. In this case, a young African American teacher found her imagined teacher identity thwarted by state mandates, mainstream constructions of a teacher role, and ideologies of curriculum and assessment. Her story speaks to the gap between progressive teacher education programs and the demands of mandated, high-stakes tests on schools and teachers. One result of mandated tests is their tendency to silence diverse points of view, a factor that may further contribute to the lack of teachers of color in American schools.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 4, 2004, p. 747-774
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11534, Date Accessed: 10/19/2017 7:41:26 PM

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About the Author
  • Jane Agee
    The University at Albany, SUNY
    E-mail Author
    JANE AGEE is an associate professor whose research interests include the teaching and reading of literature; English teachers’ conceptions of teaching and learning; and the ways in which social contexts shape literacy. Recent publications include ‘‘What is Effective Literature Instruction? A Study of Experienced High School English Teachers’’ in the Journal of Literacy Research, 3, and ‘‘‘Winks upon Winks’: Multiple Lenses on Settings in Qualitative Educational Research,’’ in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(5).
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