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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