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Document Type

Prologue

Abstract

The central focus of my work over the past 30 years has been to struggle with two overarching and related questions. First, what are the qualities of personhood that the adults in our nation’s classrooms must embody to be worthy of teaching our richly diverse students? And second, how do we best prepare ourselves and our colleagues for this work? In this article I reflect on the first of these questions, and do so in light of the fact that any discussion of “teacher dispositions,” either in pre-service or in-service contexts, is best engaged from the perspective of the students who populate our nation’s public schools. These children and young adults reflect a multi-faceted and increasingly broad spectrum of racial, cultural, linguistic, economic, religious, and sexual identities. The adults in these spaces determine, in large measure, both the tone and the outcome of schooling. On the one hand, we have teachers who are highly effective in working in diversity-enhanced schools, and on the other, we have those who are utterly unprepared and even destructive in their teaching. Having benefited from the former, an urban African American low-income student, upon receiving an academic award and scholarship at her high school graduation, acknowledged the work of her principal and teachers by saying, “You made us think we were smarter than we thought we were.” And having suffered from the latter, a Jamaican immigrant student said in a town meeting I facilitated for a school district outside New York City, “Some of our teachers steal our hope.”

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