We Teach Who We Are


Constance L. McKoy, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Vicki R. Lind, University of Arkansas at Little Rock



For better or worse, teachersŐ cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and orientations

significantly impact what they learn in their teacher preparation programs and, as in-service teachers, how they react to students (Bradfield-Kreider, 2001; Feiman- Nemser & Remillard, 1996; Foster, 1995; Gay & Howard, 2000; Gollnick, 1996; Kelly, 2003; Marshall, 1999; Thorsen, 2002; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). When confronted with issues of cultural diversity, pre-service teachers often become uncomfortable and wary. They see cultural diversity as a problem to be solved, rather than an asset to be valued. In addition, they often harbor subconscious beliefs, attitudes, and misperceptions about students from cultural backgrounds that differ from their own that are based on prejudice and preconception (Spindler & Spindler, 1994). There is evidence to suggest that these attitudes and beliefs are responsible for some pre-service teachersŐ lack of commitment to teach in schools with culturally diverse populations and preference for teaching in monocultural educational settings (Dieker, Voltz, & Epanchin, 2002; Nierman, Zeichner, & Hobbel, 2002).


These behavioral and attitudinal tendencies can be found among music teachers as well. Many pre-service music teachers want to teach in educational settings that mirror their own experiences. Although they say they are comfortable with the idea of teaching in ethnically and racially diverse educational settings, they are ambivalent about the actual possibility of teaching in such environments. The disparity between the cultural backgrounds of students and the teachers who instruct them is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. In fact, U.S. Department of Education projections indicate that by the year 2021, students who currently represent the racial/ethnic minority in public schools will be in the majority (Hussar & Bailey, 2013). As a result of this demographic shift, music teacher education programs are now being called upon to prepare teacher candidates to work in culturally diverse settings. Standards set forth for the teaching profession, as outlined by both The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) require programmatic components be developed to address the issues of diversity (NASM, 2012; CAEP, 2013). NASM specifically states that prospective teachers should develop the ability to maintain positive relationships with individuals of various social and ethnic groups, and be empathetic with students and colleagues of differing backgrounds.


In this presentation we will examine and discuss strategies designed to help pre- service music teachers: (1) unpack their beliefs and attitudes about working with diverse populations, (2) challenge their assumptions and stereotypes, and (3) recognize the benefits and advantages of working in diverse classrooms.




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