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Structuring Disruption Within University-Based Teacher Education Programs1: Possibilities and Challenges of Race-Based Caucuses

by Manka Varghese, Julia R. Daniels & Caryn C. Park - 2019

Background: Teacher education candidates are in different places in terms of developing their identities and relationships to equity and social justice. Various approaches have been taken within university-based teacher education programs to engage with candidates, wherever they are in this development. One such approach has been engaging or drawing on teachers’ own lenses, especially through challenging and understanding their racialized selves.

Purpose: This conceptual article examines how race-based caucuses (RBCs) in one teacher education program attempted to shift candidates’ understandings of their racialized selves as related to their teacher identities.

Context: RBCs were instituted in one elementary teacher education program to help White teacher candidates and candidates of Color construct critical teacher identities. Candidates were asked to participate in caucuses according to the ways they had been racialized within schools. Facilitators who demonstrated a willingness to sit with the work of engaging race and racialization led the caucuses.

Observances: For the candidates of Color, the “overwhelming presence of Whiteness” in the teacher education program and in the schools required the RBCs to focus on reframing deficit narratives of teachers of Color to an asset-based view of their value and contribution to the teaching profession. The RBC provided space for White teacher candidates to explore the consequences of Whiteness for their future identities as teachers and for the kinds of communities that they could and wanted to cultivate with students. Messiness and challenges abounded in both RBCs.

Discussion and Reflections: Emotions—and especially emotion labor—were central to RBCs. For teacher candidates of Color, facing one’s own oppression was painful but also presented opportunities for them to articulate emotions and experiences in relatively safe spaces. In a different way, the RBCs resulted in significant emotional upheaval for White teacher candidates that shifted into deeper self-reflection and sense of awareness and allyship (for some)—although in a few cases, RBCs led to even deeper resistance.

Conclusions: Race-based caucusing is a messy and challenging practice that can provide opportunities to reflect constructively on emotions and produce emotional upheaval for teacher candidates. Teacher educators and programs must approach RBCs with an orientation toward hyperreflexivity.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 6, 2019, p. 1-34
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22738, Date Accessed: 9/24/2021 1:30:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Manka Varghese
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    MANKA VARGHESE is an associate professor at the University of Washington's College of Education in Language, Literacy and Culture. Her teaching and research have focused on understanding and re-envisioning the teaching and learning trajectories of teachers of language-minoritized youth—mainly through the lens of teacher identity—and language-minoritized youth transitioning to postsecondary lives. Recent publications include: Varghese, M., & Snyder, R. (2018). Critically examining the agency and professional identity development of novice dual language teachers through figured worlds. International Multilingual Research Journal, 12(3), special issue, “Teacher Agency and ‘Pedagogies of Hope’ for Bilingual Learners (in a Brave New World)”; and Varghese, M. (2017). Drawing on cultural models and figured worlds to study language teacher education and identity. In S. Mercer & A. Kostoulas (Eds.), Teacher Psychology in SLA. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
  • Julia Daniels
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    JULIA R. DANIELS is a doctoral candidate in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program in the College of Education at the University of Washington. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of critical Whiteness studies, teacher education, teacher subjectivity, and harm reduction pedagogies. Recent publications include: Daniels, J. R. (in press). “There’s no way this isn’t racist”: White women teachers and the raciolinguistic ideologies of teaching code switching. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology; and Daniels, J. R., & Hebard, H. (2018). Complicity, responsibility, and authorization: A praxis of critical questioning for White literacy educators. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 17(1), 16–27.
  • Caryn Park
    Antioch University Seattle
    E-mail Author
    CARYN PARK is faculty in the School of Education at Antioch University Seattle. Her research interests include early childhood and elementary preservice and in-service teachers' professional learning and development, particularly with regard to antibias/social justice teaching. Recent publications include: Park, C., LeeKeenan, D., & Given, H. (2015). A family, a fire, and a framework: Emotions in an anti-bias school community. In S. Madrid, D. Fernie, & R. Kantor (Eds.), Reframing the emotional worlds of the early childhood classroom (pp. 19–35). New York, NY: Routledge; and Park, C. (2011). Young children making sense of racial and ethnic differences: A sociocultural approach. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 387–420.
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