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Sharing Our Unheard Voices: Perceptions of the Lived Experience of Teachers of Color

Darline Berrios, Johnson & Wales University

Abstract

In public education, approximately 80% of teachers in the United States are White, yet close to half of the student population are students of color (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Gaps in teacher diversity compared with students of color are found in every state across the country (Center for American Progress, 2011). In 2004, the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teacher Workforce issued a call to action, indicating that over 20 million Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and African-American students deserve to see educators who reflect them (National Education Association, 2004). Studies highlight this as a demographic and democratic concern (Archinstein & Ogawa, 2011; Parker, 2003); and increasing the number of teachers of color is just one piece of the puzzle in meeting the needs of our changing student population. ^ The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of teachers of color by triangulating three depth data sources. The guiding research question was: How do African-American, Latino, and Asian individuals perceive their lived experience of being a teacher of color? Moustakas (1994) states that phenomenological research seeks “meaning from appearances” and a “unified vision of the essences of a phenomenon” (p. 58). Data were collected by interviewing (N=3) Latina teachers, (N=3) African-American teachers, (N=2) Asian teachers, and (N=2) teachers that identified as Trinidadian. Additionally, (N=1) an elite informant was interviewed to provide foundational information. Teachers were also asked to complete a written or audio-recorded reflective narrative in the final phase of the research. Data were analyzed using van Manen's phenomenological analysis strategy (Polit & Beck, 2008). ^ Six prominent themes emerged: 1) humanistic commitments to education, 2) powerful beliefs, connections, and high expectations, 3) conscious awareness of race, culture, and/or socio-economic issues, 4) success expressed through social connections, teaching-like experiences, and financial support, 5) challenges related to race, age, gender, or sexual orientation, and 6) advice on recruitment and retention. Findings may add value to educational leaders and policy makers who are concerned with the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. This study may also add diverse voices to educational research.^

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Berrios, Darline, "Sharing Our Unheard Voices: Perceptions of the Lived Experience of Teachers of Color" (2016). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI10109292.
http://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/dissertations/AAI10109292