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Authority in Cross-Racial Teaching and Learning (Re)considering the Transferability of Warm Demander Approaches



This article compares a White teacher's approach to authority with that of an African American warm demander. Ethnographic methods and discourse analysis illuminated how an African American teacher grounded her authority with African American students in shared culture, history, and frame of reference. A comparative analysis makes visible what White teachers need to do differently to establish cross-racial authority with African American students, such as prioritize interpersonal relationships, communicate in culturally congruent ways, link care with justice, develop a critical race consciousness, ally with students, and critique curriculum. The article offers a reconceptualization of the warm demander relevant for White teachers.
Urban Education
2014, Vol. 49(1) 39 –74
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0042085912464790
2464790Urban EducationFord and Sassi
© The Author(s) 2011
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Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, USA
North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA
Corresponding Author:
Amy Carpenter Ford, Central Michigan University, 230 Anspach, Mount Pleasant,
MI 48859, USA.
Authority in Cross-
Racial Teaching and
Learning (Re)considering
the Transferability
of Warm Demander
Amy Carpenter Ford
and Kelly Sassi
This article compares a White teacher’s approach to authority with that of
an African American warm demander. Ethnographic methods and discourse
analysis illuminated how an African American teacher grounded her author-
ity with African American students in shared culture, history, and frame of
reference. A comparative analysis makes visible what White teachers need
to do differently to establish cross-racial authority with African American
students, such as prioritize interpersonal relationships, communicate in cul-
turally congruent ways, link care with justice, develop a critical race con-
sciousness, ally with students, and critique curriculum. The article offers a
reconceptualization of the warm demander relevant for White teachers.
race, identity, African American students, urban education, White teachers,
language, identity, cultural responsiveness, social, urban, culture, subjects
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40 Urban Education 49(1)
This article illuminates the critical role race plays in building productive
teacher–student authority relationships in classrooms characterized by racial
difference. Studying White–Black teacher–student relationships as a particu-
lar configuration of racial difference is important for addressing the needs of
African American learners, who continue to be underserved and miseducated
by U. S. schools (Irvine, 1991; Milner, 2009). Black teachers are underrepre-
sented in the U. S. teaching force, constituting 7.4% of public school teachers
in 2008-2009 (U. S. Department of Education). As a result, some schools that
serve African American students are unable to capitalize on the significant
roles African American teachers play in facilitating the students’ achieve-
ment and positive identity development and (Tatum, 1997). Conversely,
White teachers are overrepresented in the public schools, comprising 82% of
the teaching force (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). This
“demographic divide” (Gay, 2010; Milner, 2009) reflects the historical pro-
cess of so-called integration, whereby Black teachers were pushed out of
public schools (Foster, 1997) and segregated African American school com-
munities were dismantled (Siddle Walker, 1996).
Recruitment strategies of
predominantly White teacher education programs (Irvine, 2003) and teacher
selection criteria that skew credentialing in favor of White candidates
(Epstein, 2005)
perpetuate the demographic divide so that White women
dominate the teaching force (Gay & Howard, 2000). Although the racial dis-
tribution of teachers and students varies, the fact that many White teachers
teach African American students
warrants closer attention to teaching and
learning across White–Black racial difference.
The roots of the problem in U. S. classrooms for which racial difference is
a factor lie in the remnants of segregation, whereby Black and Latino stu-
dents tend to be concentrated in particular schools and school districts (Kozol,
2005; Orfield & Eaton, 1996). Having grown up and attended schools in
segregated majority White communities, most White teachers have had little
contact with African Americans prior to assuming teaching positions (Gay &
Howard, 2000; Frankenberg, 2006; Sleeter, 2001); as a result, they inhabit
different worlds than their students (Gay, 2010). In this situation, racial dif-
ference has the potential to manifest itself in classrooms as cultural mis-
understandings around behavior, language, and learning styles. These
misunderstandings are articulated in terms of a cultural mismatch or lack of
cultural synchronization between students and teachers, and they contribute
to negative outcomes for African American students (Irvine, 1991; Ladson-
Billings, 1994).
Because of racial difference and its corollary, cultural mismatch, garnering
authority to promote African American student learning can be challenging
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Ford and Sassi 41
for White teachers when they hold different conceptions of authority than their
students (Delpit, 1995; Obidah & Teel, 2001). These differing conceptions
raise questions about the role race plays in building productive authority rela-
tionships in classrooms for which racial difference is a factor.
Literature on effective teaching of African American students suggests
that teachers earn their authority through assertive discipline, caring relation-
ships, and congruent interactional styles (Cooper, 2003; Delpit, 1995; Obidah
& Teel, 2001). The image of the teacher as “warm demander” (Kleinfeld,
1975), who “provides a tough-minded, no-nonsense, structured, and disci-
plined classroom environment” (Irvine & Fraser, 1998, p. 1), permeates the
literature (Bondy, Ross, Gallingane & Hambacher, 2007; Monroe, 2009;
Monroe & Obidah, 2004; Patterson, Mickelson, Hester, and Wyrick, 2011;
Ware, 2006). Yet the warm demanders’ approach to authority with their stu-
dents is grounded in their shared race, history, and culture (Irvine & Fraser,
1998; Ware, 2006). This approach warrants consideration of how and under
what circumstances culturally specific moves might also be productive for
White teachers of African American students.
Drawing from case studies of classroom interaction by both its authors,
this article describes how two teachers, one White and one African American,
built productive relationships and learning environments with their African
American students in their high school English classrooms. A comparative
analysis of these two teachers’ culturally specific strategies with warm
demander approaches to authority highlights the role race and racial differ-
ence can play in teacher–student authority relations. This study’s analysis
makes visible the critical difference race makes in cross-racial, White–Black
teaching and learning.
Theoretical Framework
The Difference Racial Difference Makes
Teachers’ conceptions of authority are influenced by race. Cooper’s (2002;
2003) research on effective White teachers suggested that although Black
teachers and some White teachers are comfortable in their authoritative roles
as warm demanders, in general, White teachers seem less willing to directly
assert authority. Echoing this distinction, Dickar (2008) described how, at a
predominantly Black high school, Black educators raised questions about
White teachers’ classroom practices, including modes of dress and disciplin-
ary strategies, which they felt diminished teacher authority. The White
teachers defended their practices as democratic and as promoting student
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42 Urban Education 49(1)
autonomy and agency. These debates warranted Dickar’s (2008) speculation
that, “Teacher authority may be very much informed by race, with White and
Black teachers preferring different strategies to establish that authority”
(p. 10). The distinction between how Black teachers and White teachers
conceive of and practice authority indicates that more research is needed to
tease apart these differences in order to learn how the culturally specific
practices of African American educators can be replicated effectively by
White teachers.
The gap between White teachers’ and Black students’ understandings of
authority is equally significant. White teachers tend to rely on authority con-
ferred by their institutional role as teacher (Obidah & Teel, 2001). This con-
ception of authority is incongruent with that of Black students, who view
authority as earned by personal efforts and traits. Black students expect
teachers to earn their respect and trust over time by establishing meaningful
relationships and incorporating features of Black communication in class-
room interaction (Delpit, 1995). To illustrate, Obidah and Teel (2001)
depicted the challenges Teel, a White teacher, faced in garnering authority
from African American students. Teel explained how she expected students
to automatically pay attention to her, show her respect, sit quietly, and follow
her directions without complaint. With guidance from Obidah, an African
American teacher educator, Teel learned that she could not presume her
authority, but had to earn her students’ respect and trust by raising her expec-
tations, being more authoritative and assertive, and following through with
consequences for misbehavior. Building respectful and trusting relationships
with Black students may be challenging for White teachers because they have
to overcome the experiences with, and perceptions about, White people that
the students may have (Howard, 2006). Such relationships, however, are
essential because they are often a precursor to learning (Irvine, 1991).
This is not to say that all members of racial groups will necessarily hold
the racialized conceptions of authority we have outlined. Doing so would
unjustly homogenize White teachers as well as Black teachers and students,
and it would obscure diversity within groups (Lowenstein, 2009; O’Connor,
Lewis, & Mueller, 2007). Yet to ignore how race influences classroom
authority relationships would render cultural incongruence inconsequential,
invalidate the particular challenges teachers and students face in classrooms
characterized by racial difference, and elide how the institutionalized demo-
graphic divide shapes schooling experiences. To bring the implications of
racial difference to light, we align our work with the tradition of research that
portrays race as shared culture (O’Connor, Lewis, & Mueller, 2007), that is,
as shared knowledge, customs, values, language, norms, and behaviors
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Ford and Sassi 43
(Irvine, 1991) that shape frames of reference and experiences (Irvine, 2002;
Ladson-Billings, 1994).
While this concept of race as culture undergirds our
analysis of “White” and “Black” teachers’ approaches to authority, we strive
to make visible the points at which the teachers’ strategies complicate such
racial classification, particularly as they relate to the warm demander’s
The Warm Demander’s Approach to Authority
Initially used to describe an effective teacher of Athabaskan Indian and
Eskimo students in Alaskan schools (Kleinfeld, 1975), the warm demander’s
approach to authority is considered to be culturally responsive classroom
management for racially diverse students in urban (Brown, 2004) and high-
poverty (Bondy & Ross, 2008) schools and, particularly, for African
American students (Bondy et al., 2007; Howard, 2001; Irvine & Fraser,
1998; Ware, 2006). The warm demander balances discipline and care to
provide a highly structured learning environment (Bondy & Ross, 2008).
Warm demanders demand or insist that students meet high expectations
without excuses, (Bondy & Ross, 2008; Ladson-Billings, 2004; Ware, 2006),
and they employ a direct discourse style, “mean-talk,” and other culturally
specific communicative practices, often repeating requests and delivering
warnings and consequences, to convey these expectations and discipline
their students (Bondy et al. 2007; Brown, 2004; Ware, 2006). The warmth of
the warm demander is often conveyed through an ethic of care and “other-
mothering,” a term with cultural roots in a West African tradition whereby
women care communally for children (Ware, 2002). A critical characteristic
of other-mothering, which distinguishes it from surrogate parenting, is an
expanded conception of care that extends beyond the individual child to
include care for the African American community (Irvine, 2002). These car-
ing relationships complement warm demanders’ insistence that their students
achieve high expectations. Balancing warmth with demand enables them to
establish culturally responsive authority relationships that promote teaching
and learning with their African American students.
While the authority of the warm demander is constructed through a con-
fluence of care, discipline, high expectations, and a congruent interactional
style, the warm demander’s broader stance is grounded in the shared culture
of African Americans. The warm demander in Irvine & Fraser’s (1998) char-
acterization “teaches her African-American students with a sense of passion
and mission based in the African-American cultural traditions and history she
shares with her students” (p. 1). Ware (2006) found that warm demanders’
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44 Urban Education 49(1)
strong racial identity and pride served as a foundation upon which their rela-
tionships with African American students were built, reflecting a “cultural
transmission of beliefs that exceeds generations” (p. 451). Such “racial uplift”
has been central for African American educators who pass down culturally
grounded knowledge, history, and values through generations (Irvine, 2002).
With their situated and culturally specific pedagogies, African American
teachers have fulfilled powerful roles in their community, serving as cultural
translators, mediators, mentors, advocates, and surrogate parents (Irvine,
2003) as well as counselors, benefactors, encouragers, and racial cheerlead-
ers who promote pride in the race (Siddle Walker & Thompkins, 2004). The
warm demander’s stance derives from these multiple roles that support the
success of African American students.
Studying the culturally specific practices of Black teachers can expand all
teachers’ repertoires, but it is especially critical for White teachers entering
urban, racially diverse, or predominantly African American contexts. White
teachers can be effective for African American students (Cooper, 2004;
Ladson-Billings, 1994; Parsons, 2005), and some have suggested that teach-
ers of any race could replicate the practices of effective Black teachers, pro-
vided they examine their assumptions about their African American students
and reflect on how those assumptions impact teaching and learning (Howard,
However, because some of those practices, including warm demander
approaches to authority, are grounded in shared African American culture
and values (Howard, 2001), it is important to examine the degree to which
they are conceivable and effective for teachers from other backgrounds.
Bondy and colleagues’ (2007) study of three elementary teachers indicated
that even though teachers’ cultures and styles may vary, Asian and White
teachers can be effective as warm demanders. Yet what remains to be exam-
ined is how a teacher’s race figures in building warm demander authority
relationships: What does a White teacher need to do differently to be a warm
demander? Exploring the transferability of the warm demander’s approach to
authority across different classroom contexts with close attention to the
nuances of race could illuminate its potential application in classrooms for
which White–Black racial difference is a factor.
While literature on effective African American teachers offers clear prescrip-
tions for, and descriptions of, their authoritative approach, less attention has
been paid to theorizing authority in a way that aligns with African American
educators’ culturally specific pedagogy. In its most basic sense, authority
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Ford and Sassi 45
may be defined as legitimate power (Pace & Hemmings, 2006), and at the
heart of teachers’ and students’ differing conceptions of authority is the
question of what constitutes legitimacy in the classroom. Pace (2003) claims
that “classroom authority expresses the legitimacy of teachers’ directives and
their connection to the school’s responsibility to educate students for indi-
vidual and social good” (p. 1560). This definition links authority to the role
of the teacher, which is understood by White teachers as granted by the
institution (Delpit, 1995; Obidah & Teel, 2001) and by African American
teachers and students as conferred by the community (Irvine, 2003).
Race may also serve as a source of authority, functioning as symbolic
capital that enhances a person’s status in a particular context (O’Connor,
Lewis, & Mueller, 2007). African American warm demanders’ race can oper-
ate as capital as they draw on the cultural practices, history, values, and tradi-
tions they share with their students. Even though over time it is the individual
teacher’s style that will enable him to create a productive learning environ-
ment, teachers who share the same race as their students may have, at the
outset, advantages over teachers teaching across racial difference (Milner &
Tenore, 2010).
For African American women who act authoritatively, there
may be little distinction between power and authority so that their power
comes “naturally” to them, that is, “Power that is socially constructed is
socially legitimated” (Noblit, 1993, p. 37). This authoritative approach is
marked by an ethical use of power or a moral authority that stems from a
teacher’s willingness to create a productive learning environment (Noblit,
Operating as symbolic capital, White privilege—the unearned but
accrued advantage from being a member of the dominant racial group (Lewis,
2004)—can translate into classroom authority through the embodiment of the
teacher. Without earning authority, a White teacher may, by default, rely on
their White privilege accrued from beyond the classroom. Because even with
the best intentions, White teachers are prone to replicating White power and
privilege (Hyland, 2005; Milner, 2006; Tyson, 2003), a conception of author-
ity as socially constructed (Pace & Hemmings, 2006) is critical for class-
rooms characterized by White–Black racial difference.
When earning authority, a teacher’s legitimacy rests on students’ consent.
This conception of authority is socially negotiated and legitimated over time
through moment-to-moment interactions that simultaneously reflect and con-
struct a teacher’s authority. Because what constitutes legitimacy varies
according to context, authority is shaped by multiple, interacting influences,
including different perspectives on educational purposes, values, and norms,
as well as policy and bureaucratic mandates (Pace & Hemmings, 2006).
Studies of authority have considered standardized tests, racial demographics,
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46 Urban Education 49(1)
and school culture as features that influence classroom authority (Pace &
Hemmings, 2006; Pace, 2003, 2006; Wills, 2006). We describe these features
of the two teachers’ classrooms we studied in order to contextualize how the
teachers and students in our case studies built authority relationships through
classroom interaction.
The Case Studies
The case studies presented here are drawn from two distinct, empirical stud-
ies of classroom interaction that examined issues of race, culture, and author-
ity. As White women researchers, exploring these issues made it vital for us
to see through our “cultural eyes” (Irvine, 2003), that is, to interrogate how
our perspectives, questions, methods, and interpretation were shaped by our
values, beliefs, and experiences, as well as how they were informed by our
race, gender, and other identities. This was an ongoing endeavor that began
at the inception of our studies. Both of us brought to the research process
experiences as secondary English teachers: Ford in a racially, ethnically, and
linguistically diverse urban high school and Sassi in a school with a large
population of Alaska Native students, who were not adequately represented
in the curriculum. Our experiences informed both the way we located prob-
lems in cultural misunderstanding and mismatch and the way we sought
solutions in teacher–student relationships and interactions around language
and literature. Our parallel lines of inquiry, combined with the teachers’
qualities within the different school contexts, make the comparison of our
two case studies methodologically warranted. Our intent with this compari-
son is to describe the differences between the two teachers’ approaches by
situating them in their respective racial contexts to illuminate the particular
challenges associated with cross-racial teaching and learning.
Teacher Selection: Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross
Irvine (2003) beseeched researchers, most of whom are White, to look
through their “third eye” to see African American teaching and learning
through the cultural eyes of African American teachers. Studying the peda-
gogy of African American teachers is critical because their voices have been
silenced and marginalized, leading to portrayals of African American stu-
dents and teachers as deficient (Foster, 1997; Irvine, 2003; Ladson-Billings,
1994; Siddle Walker, 1996). The case of Ms. Turner, an African American,
female English teacher, comes from a study in a racially diverse, medium-
sized suburban high school, “Rainfield High.” Ms. Turner was a graduate
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Ford and Sassi 47
student in the same program as the researcher, and she volunteered for the
study, which centered on the teaching of Native American/American Indian
Literature by non-Native teachers. While initial research questions inquired
about pedagogical approaches to bridge the “understanding gap” between
such literature and non-Native teachers and students, after Ms. Turner began
teaching the unit, she revealed to the class that she had some Native
American ancestry, although she continued to identify herself as African
Grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) unearthed race and
authority as critical issues in Ms. Turner’s classroom, and codes emerged
through the analytical process that pointed to the dimensions of her culturally
grounded authority. Eager to participate in the study, Ms. Turner played a
central role in a collaborative research process in which decisions about
representation and “meaning [were] negotiated through a reciprocal process
of discussion and mutual respect” (Irvine, 2003). Her perspective as an
African American teacher was validated through a mentoring relationship that
became a critical facet of the research methodology (Sassi & Thomas, 2013).
The selected White teacher, Ms. Cross, was discovered through “chain
sampling,” which entails identifying information-rich cases through referrals
by knowledgeable people (Patton, 2002). An African American superinten-
dent of a predominantly Black, suburban district, referred Ms. Cross, a White,
female English teacher at “Metro High” for the study because she had a repu-
tation for establishing positive relationships with African American students,
what he called the “It Factor,” a mysteriously tacit ability to make connec-
tions across racial difference. Focus group interviews with 22 of Ms. Cross’s
students, all of whom identified as Black or African American, pointed to the
existence of the It Factor—all described Ms. Cross in various ways as a good
teacher. Six students called Ms. Cross their favorite teacher, and two said she
was the best they had ever had.
These focus groups with students confirmed
that Ms. Cross represented an information-rich case for studying ways in
which White teachers can build productive relationships with African
American students. Ms. Cross was nominated by an African American super-
intendent and affirmed by African American students.
Ethnographic Methods: The School
Contexts of Rainfield High and Metro High
Ethnographic methods of observations and interviews revealed the multiple,
distinct contextual features that influenced Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross’s
authority relationships with students at Rainfield and Metro High. Each
researcher served as a daily participant-observer for four months in her
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48 Urban Education 49(1)
respective classroom and recorded her observations in detailed field notes
following the model of Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw (1995). Our sustained
presence in the classrooms allowed us to establish rapport with participants
and understand classroom interactions in terms of how they were significant
for the teachers and students. Interviews were used to gain greater under-
standing of the interactional context (Weiss, 1994). Ms. Turner was inter-
viewed face-to-face 14 times and engaged in extensive e-mail correspondence
and daily informal conversations with the researcher. Ten formal interviews
were conducted with Ms. Cross in addition to informal conversations.
Although students at both sites were also interviewed, the present work high-
lights the perspectives of the teachers. These empirical methods of observa-
tion and interview illuminated the significance of the racial context, curriculum,
federal and state policies, school culture, and the teachers’ beliefs about the
purpose of education for teacher–student authority relations.
During the time of the study, Ms. Turner frequently discussed the racial
tension at Rainfield High as the school district struggled to address its racial
achievement gap (Sassi & Thomas, 2008). In this context, Ms. Turner’s deci-
sion to teach a Native American text, Wynema by Callahan and Ruoff (1891),
in her untracked ninth grade English class represented a courageous move.
As the first text by a Native American woman, Wynema embodied the roots
of U. S. racial strife portrayed against the backdrop of Native American
genocide. As a lifelong learner with a social justice orientation, Turner, who
had not previously taught Native American literature, saw an opportunity
both to extend her own learning of American Indian history and culture and
to diversify the curriculum at her school. She took on the challenge of facili-
tating racially loaded discussions in a racially heterogeneous school district
amidst a school culture that was characterized by racial tension. In
Ms. Turner’s classroom of 21 students, one third identified as Black and two
thirds as White, with one of the White students also self-identifying as part
While Rainfield grappled with a racial achievement gap within the school,
the 98% Black Metro High struggled to raise achievement in relation to other
schools. Teachers, administrators, and students felt the pressure imposed by
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the state Department of Education to raise
test scores. Metro High had not made Annual Yearly Progress for the third
year in a row and was in the initial phase of intervention. If test scores were
not substantially improved, the school faced repercussions. Ms. Cross was
well aware of these sanctions: “I don’t want to lose my job because the school
closes. I don’t want the state to take over the district like they did in [Inner
City]. I don’t want my kids to lose their school. That’s what no one thinks
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Ford and Sassi 49
about: Where do the kids go if they close the school?” Metro was a school of
choice, and half of its students lived in the surrounding suburb, while the
other half commuted 40 minutes from the Inner City because Metro High had
a reputation for providing a high quality, structured learning environment for
African American students. Ms. Cross was also concerned about how the
public and media perceived the school’s test scores, and she did not want
Metro to be labeled “failing.” The test consisted of a college entrance exam
and other multiple choice tests, and if students completed and passed all com-
ponents of the test, they were eligible for a state-sponsored scholarship,
increasing their opportunities for future educational attainment. Ms. Cross’s
concern for students’ achievement on the test reflected her care and devotion
to her job, the district, the school, and especially the students of Metro High.
Ms. Cross felt immense pressure to raise students’ test scores, and she
firmly believed that with solid instruction, her students’ scores would
improve. These beliefs were displayed in her 11th grade general English
curriculum, which included extensive test preparation, and in her classroom
discourse as she challenged her students to defy stereotypes that Black kids
perform poorly on standardized tests. Yet Ms. Cross was ambivalent about
the value of the test as curriculum,
and she perceived that her authority to
make decisions about what to teach was limited due to the pressure to per-
form on the test.
Discourse Analysis: Language-Rich Classroom Interaction
Our ethnographic observations confirmed that Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross’s
classrooms were language-rich classrooms for studying interaction. In order
to make visible the process by which authority was socially constructed in
classroom interaction, we used discourse analysis, which highlights issues of
equity and access in literacy instruction (Rex et al., 2010). Our ethnographi-
cally grounded approach to discourse analysis (Gee & Green, 1998) took into
account not only the reflective power of language, but also its constitutive
power. This approach to discourse analysis is rooted in the linguistic turn in
the social sciences, which highlights how language is used to socially con-
struct, or “discourse into being,” everyday life, relationships, power rela-
tions, knowledge, social institutions, and realities (Bloome et al., 2008).
Employing this approach in our analyses enabled us to illuminate how
authority was discoursed into being through teachers’ and students’ class-
room talk.
To collect data for discourse analysis, we video recorded and transcribed
classroom interaction, although the scope and intensity of our
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50 Urban Education 49(1)
projects differed. Sassi collected 75 hours of video data, transcribing selected
episodes of classroom discourse that illuminated how authority relationships
evolved over time. Ford collected and transcribed 12 hours of video data that
focused on the Native American literature unit. Through our respective eth-
nographically grounded analyses of classroom discourse, teachers’ patterns
of language use were made visible as we studied what participants said and
how they said it. The four episodes of classroom interaction featured herein
were selected because they are representative of patterns that illustrate how
the teachers used language to build relationships with African American stu-
dents in distinct ways. Using classroom discourse as a point of comparison
makes visible the difference racial difference can make in classrooms with
African American students, especially when issues of race are raised.
Informed by a critical approach to discourse analysis that aims to illumi-
nate “the non-obvious ways in which language is involved in social relations
of power and domination” (Fairclough, 2001, p. 229), we employed position-
ing theory (Harre & Slocum, 2003) as an analytic tool for studying classroom
authority. Positioning theory enabled us to examine how participants located
themselves and each other in terms of power relations and identities. In our
analysis, we noted teachers’ use of pronouns, dialect and register, and tonal
contouring to show how participants established solidarity with each other or
met with conflict as they negotiated authority, and aligned or distanced them-
selves and each other in relation to racial group membership and within a
racial hierarchy. We triangulated our discourse analyses with participants’
perspectives gleaned through interviews and observational field notes so that
what teachers said could be understood in the context of their broader stance
toward teaching African American students.
Between Black and White: A
Comparative Analysis of Two
Teachers’ Approaches to Authority
In the case of Ms. Turner, we offer a portrayal of an African American warm
demander with attention to how her authority is constructed through shared
language, experience, and history. In the case of Ms. Cross, we illuminate the
challenges she faced as a White teacher in garnering authority from African
American students and how she grappled with, and overcame, some of those
challenges. Comparing the cases of Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross makes visible
the role race plays in building authority relationships with African American
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Ford and Sassi 51
We spotlight the voices of the two teachers to contextualize and explain
the featured episodes of interaction, as well as their beliefs about the purpose
of education, race, and approaches to authority. Because the purpose of this
analysis is to describe what White teachers might need to do differently to
effectively employ the warm demander’s stance, we devote particular atten-
tion to the beliefs and values that undergird Ms. Cross’s approach to authority
in the African American context of Metro High.
Ms. Turner: An African American Warm Demander
Shared language. Ms. Turner employed a variety of tactics to work suc-
cessfully with all of her students—White, African American, and Hispanic.
Her direct, no-nonsense discourse style fit the model of the warm demander.
She acknowledged that she mean-talked students, and like other warm
demanders who show a humanitarian concern for their students’ well-being,
felt the need to apologize for her authoritarian tone (Ware, 2006).
Ms. Turner usually spoke standard English in her predominantly White class-
room, she strategically employed African American English (AAE; Green,
2002) as needed to connect with African American students. This pattern is
illustrated in the following episode of classroom interaction in which
Ms. Turner employed AAE to redirect an African American female’s atten-
tion to class activities:
Ms. Turner: Girl, put those away.
Keanna: I am.
Ms. Turner: OK, don’t go “I am.” Just do it {chuckles}. Don’t have to
be no fight.
{Keanna put her things away.}
Addressing the student as “girl,” the use of double negatives, and subject/
verb disagreement mark this exchange as that of a racialized dialect, AAE.
The imperatives “put,” “don’t,” and “do” indicate the direct discourse that
characterizes the warm demander. Ms. Turner’s invocation of their shared
identity as females (“girl”) prompted intimacy while her chuckle combined
with the statement, “Don’t have to be no fight” conveyed the warmth of the
warm demander and minimized the potential for real confrontation. As a
result, Keanna acquiesced to Ms. Turner’s demand, authorizing her teacher
to shape her behavior.
As displayed in this interaction, Ms. Turner demonstrated her command of
AAE. Using this culturally congruent communication represented one way
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Ms. Turner garnered authority grounded in cultural legitimacy, establishing
her as a warm demander.
Shared history, experience, and frame of reference. In addition to shared lan-
guage, Ms. Turner referenced shared race with her African American stu-
dents to legitimize her authority. In the following interaction, Ms. Turner
modeled a critical race consciousness, an understanding of “the historical and
current impact that racism has in perpetuating social inequality” as well as
“the asymmetrical power relationships that exist between Blacks and Whites
in America” (Carter, 2008, p. 14). Ms. Turner grounded this critical race
consciousness in the frame of reference she shared with Lyric, an African
American male. While researching the topic of Wounded Knee in the school
library, Lyric indicated that he was having trouble finding sources. Ms. Turner
encouraged Lyric to think critically about why he could not find information
on Wounded Knee in history books.
Ms. Turner: OK. Lyric, are you finding what you need? You’re not?
There’s nothing about the Indian Wars in that book? Really? Have
you checked the index?
Lyric: Yes.
Ms. Turner: That’s really interesting. [. . .] One of the things that you can
say about that in your research is this: think about the reasons why
it’s not in the book about Indian Wars. This is an event so terrible.
Was this Wounded Knee? Why is it on on-line, but not in history
books published [. . .] You know, go get the Indian Wars book back
because this may be interesting. Sometimes research isn’t just about
what you find. It’s about what they don’t put in books. You know, as
a young African American man, that’s something that you probably
can relate to, and I can relate to, right? So they don’t write down
everything that happens in the books. [. . .] Oh, this is fascinating.
Warm demanders maintain high expectations for students’ learning (Irvine,
2003), and Ms. Turner effectively insisted that Lyric think with her about
what is included and excluded from history books. Her insistence was medi-
ated by her warmth as a warm demander conveyed through her positioning
of Lyric as a coinvestigator: Twice she said “Let’s,” emphasizing the first
person plural, and she characterized their work together as “fascinating.” As
a warm demander, she modeled for Lyric a way of critically thinking about
the authority of printed texts.
To model this critical thinking, Ms. Turner engaged in a critique of cur-
riculum. Her authority was constructed as she aligned herself with Lyric “as
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a young African American man” by suggesting that they both can “relate” to
things being left out of history books. The unspoken assumption here was
that Lyric understands, as Ms. Turner does, that much of African American
history has been suppressed in history books. Significantly, she distances
herself from authors of the books in the school library, saying it is “they” who
don’t write everything that happens in the books. By using this pronoun,
Ms. Turner expressly rejected the kind of legitimacy she might claim by align-
ing herself with the institution of schooling, constructing instead her legiti-
macy as an African American who shares the experience of marginalization
with her student Lyric and other oppressed peoples, like Native Americans. It
is in such alignment around shared racial history, experience, and frame of
reference that the legitimacy of the warm demander is constituted.
This discursively constructed authority positioned Ms. Turner as a mentor
or guide for her African American students as they encountered racial oppres-
sion in their study of Native American literature and history. In doing so, she
modeled a critical race consciousness that connected Native American geno-
cide with racism toward African Americans and enacted a kind of moral
authority. Her comment, “This was an event so terrible,” implied a moral
judgment on those who would commit such atrocities as well as on authors
who would leave out such terrible events from their history books. As she
enacted this moral authority grounded in a shared frame of reference, she
transmitted culturally grounded values, simultaneously constituting herself
as a warm demander and Lyric as a student with the power to critique racist
Beliefs about the purpose of education. Ms. Turner’s interaction with Lyric
represents the enactment of her beliefs about the purpose of teaching and
learning: cultivating students’ critical race consciousness. Ms. Turner
believed that it was important to foster students’ understanding of racialized
power relations, both in terms of historical events and how they are repre-
sented in texts: “I want kids to begin to question why our history is taught the
way that it is . . . I really want to scaffold [their learning] with historical texts,
primary source material [. . .] because kids really need to think about their
conception of the way the country was born.” Ms. Turner’s attention to power
dynamics that determine who gets to tell the histories and how they are told
applied to the interrogation of White privilege for White students and the
multiple histories of oppressed peoples—she drew connections for her stu-
dents between African American slavery, Native American genocide, and the
Jewish Holocaust (Sassi & Thomas, 2008). Her goals of fostering students’
critical race consciousness served as the foundation of Ms. Turner’s legitimacy
as a warm demander who draws on shared language, history, and experience
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to constitute a shared frame for the advancement of the African American
community and all people of color. The case of Ms. Turner offers a portrayal
of a warm demander that serves as a catalyst for considering how African
American teachers’ culturally specific approaches might be applicable for
White teachers of African American students.
Ms. Cross: A White Teacher With the “It Factor”
Limitations of being mean and other-mothering. Comparing the case of
Ms. Cross to Ms. Turner illuminates the subtle but critical importance of
cross-racial communication in building authority relationships with African
American students. Echoing aforementioned literature (Cooper, 2002; 2003;
Delpit, 1995; Dickar, 2008), Ms. Cross explained how establishing authority
with students at the predominantly Black Metro High presented a challenge
for all teachers, but how the strategies she employed to garner authority as a
White teacher needed to differ in significant ways from those of her Black
colleagues, who recommended she approach authority in the classroom by
“going hard” on students, a phrase associated with how effective Black teach-
ers of Black children approach their authority (Cooper, 2002). Ms. Cross
Yeah, when I first started teaching here—it’s not just me, it’s any
classes that I see here—it’s very difficult to get through to these stu-
dents, to get them to sit down and pay attention to you, [to convey to
them] that you mean business. They [Black colleagues] tell you when
you first get here, “You have to be grouchy. You can’t be their friend.”
[. . .] And it took me not very long to realize that as a White teacher,
“going hard on them,” like they like to say, and being mean to them is
to totally turn them away. Completely turn them away [. . .] Like,
“Here’s this White person who’s gonna boss me around. My mama
don’t boss me around like you, let alone a White person do it.” So you
know, that’s difficult, and there had to be a way to get by that.
Ms. Cross explained how she found “going hard” on her Black students
and “being mean to them” problematic. Yet these are precisely the qualities
admired in effective African American teachers, such as Ms. Turner, for
whom “being hard” reflects the high expectations African American teachers
hold for their students (Siddle Walker, 1996) and “being mean” signifies car-
ing (Foster, 1991). Employing such a demanding approach was ineffective
for her as a White teacher because of her race. She noted that students very
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explicitly distinguished her from their mamas, distancing her from the role of
surrogate parent and precluding her from employing a style that involved
“going hard” and “being mean” to convey high expectations and care for
students, a style which stems from a tradition of African American parenting
(Delpit, 1995; Ware, 2006). So how did Ms. Cross “get by that” and build
productive authority relationships with African American students?
Culturally congruent communication. As an alternative to the direct discourse
style or “mean talk” employed by warm demanders, Ms. Cross frequently
employed indirection, a form of Signifying, to convey her expectations for
students’ behavior (Ford, 2013). Signifying is understood as a discourse
genre particular to the African American community that relies on indirec-
tion and wit to make a commentary on someone’s behavior (Smitherman,
1977). Like Ms. Turner, Ms. Cross used a culturally specific, African Ameri-
can discourse practice, but without the grammatical features of AAE. What
made her discourse distinguishable as Signifying was the prosody and dra-
matic intonation frequently associated with Black speech (Green, 2002).
These qualities of her discourse are highlighted by accents that mark empha-
sis and arrows that indicate tonal variations in the following illustrative tran-
script of classroom interaction.
Ms. Cross: OK. So whát-cán-you-do to increáse your réading speed?
{Cindy is looking in a pocket mirror and patting her hair back from
her face.}
Ms. Cross {aside to Cindy}: You look beau:utiful, dár↑lin↓
{Cindy smiles as she looks down and slides her mirror into her bag.}
Ms. Cross {to the class}: Tera?
Tera: Look for the main ideas
In this interaction, the warmth of the warm demander was conveyed
through the compliment, “You look beautiful” and the term of endearment,
“darlin’.” However, embedded in Ms. Cross’s compliment was an insistence
that Cindy meet her behavioral expectations by putting the mirror away and
paying attention. It was also Ms. Cross’s tone that conveyed this demand to
Cindy. Ms. Cross exaggerated the long “u” sound in “beautiful,” and the tone
of “darlin’” was infused with dramatic variation. Distinguished from sar-
casm by the aural qualities of Black speech, this form of Signifying was an
example of a “left-handed compliment” (Mitchell-Kernan, 1972), which is
used to convey a negative commentary within a complimentary remark.
Ms. Cross’s use of indirection in the form of a left-handed compliment allowed
Cindy to respond to the warm, flattering message, while heeding the commentary
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56 Urban Education 49(1)
on her unacceptable behavior. Because when Signifying, a speaker’s inten-
tion is subject to interpretation, this left-handed compliment afforded both
Ms. Cross and Cindy the option of avoiding a real confrontation. Ms. Cross
warmly demanded that Cindy put away the mirror and direct her attention to
the class activity, and as she complied, Cindy authorized her teacher to shape
her behavior, constituting Ms. Cross’s legitimacy.
Raising race across racial difference. Whereas Ms. Turner could rely on a
shared racial frame of reference to address issues of race with her African
American students, Ms. Cross recognized that as a White teacher, she had to
find another way. She explained how it was vital for her to construct posi-
tive, trusting relationships with her African American students across their
racial difference before they would authorize her to “teach the tests” and
discuss race:
I’m able to say things [about racism] that are true that people don’t like
to hear in the classroom and [. . .] get them to agree and see it. There’s
no way I’d be able to teach the tests and subjects people don’t like to
talk about. There have been times, I’m like, “You know, I hate to say
this, but I can say this because you guys know me: this is what people
see.” It’s a touchy subject. They accept it from me and they learn,
whereas from another teacher who might not have built that relation-
ship, they’ll just view him as “whatever” and they’ll just see him as
being White and prejudiced, that he doesn’t like Black kids anyway.
Addressing issues of race in the classroom required Ms. Cross to over-
come the obstacle presented by racial difference. She had to both allow stu-
dents to get to know her and convince them that she liked them as Black kids.
In turn, students authorized her to talk about race: Her warmth warranted her
demand that students listen to what she had to say about race, despite her
White identity.
Beliefs about the purpose of education. One issue of race Ms. Cross raised
involved the racial politics surrounding the standardized test. Both Ms. Cross
and students were struggling to raise their test scores under the pressure of
NCLB and the state’s system of rewards and sanctions. Ms. Cross felt that if
race were a factor in some students not fully applying themselves to the test,
then openly discussing it might motivate them to meet her high expectations:
“I’m trying in as many ways as I can to motivate the kids to do well, to try to
get them to think of it as just not any other test. [. . .] Maybe these ten students
have a big issue on race and don’t like feeling that people think obviously
they can’t do it.” Ms. Cross’s purpose in raising the issue of race in this
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instance was to motivate students to defy society’s expectations that they
would not perform well.
To explore the possibility that the test was racially biased, Ms. Cross
designed a daylong lesson with a homework assignment to draft a letter to a
government official in which the students explained their view on the test.
After leading the students through a series of writing and talking activities to
ascertain their views, Ms. Cross facilitated a conversation about the ways the
test may be biased. The class discussion culminated with call-and-response,
an African American rhetorical strategy often used to construct solidarity
whereby a speaker calls and a listener responds in an affirming or encourag-
ing way (Smitherman, 1977). Although at first students’ responses varied,
gradually more and more students responded in chorus:
Ms. Cross: Where does the test come from? Who writes the test?
Students: [Iowa.] [People in Iowa.]
Ms. Cross: Who is the test written for?
Student: The majority.
Ms. Cross: Who is the majority?
Students {in chorus}: White people.
Ms. Cross: Who does better on the test?
Students {in chorus}: White people.
Ms. Cross: One of the big questions is whether that’s intentional or not.
Ms. Cross: What do people expect you to do on the test?
Students {in chorus}: Fail
Ms. Cross: But what are you gonna do?
Students {in chorus}: [Pass]
Calvin: [Fail]
{Ms. Cross scolds Calvin in front of the class; Calvin sits with his head
down. The bell rings, dismissing class.}
Ms. Cross {to me}: I hate being mean to kids. {Sighs} I have to go
find Calvin.
By raising the possibility that the test may be biased against them,
Ms. Cross challenged students to defy society’s expectations that they
would “fail,” insisting instead that they meet her expectations, rise to their
potential, and “pass” the test, which was Ms. Cross’s primary goal in rais-
ing the issue of race in this lesson.
Allying with students against racism. By having this conversation with stu-
dents, Ms. Cross aligned herself with them against the forces imposing the
test and its associated preparation and pressure. She made visible the
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machinations of racial oppression by outing “White people” as having a stake
in orchestrating a test on which they could succeed more easily than Black
students. In doing so, she positioned herself as a White ally with students in
resisting societal racial oppression, legitimizing her authority in this moment
through a political alliance.
However, this alliance was short lived because once it was established that
“White people” created the racially biased test, the racial difference between
students and teacher came to the foreground. If the test were racially biased,
and Ms. Cross demanded that they do well on it, then she was perpetuating
the legitimacy of a racist test. Her allegiance was ambiguous, and she was no
longer trustworthy. The alliance further breaks down when Ms. Cross boiled
the issue down to intentionality saying that “one of the big questions is
whether that’s [the racial bias is] intentional or not.” This sentence offered
Ms. Cross inoculation, letting White people, including herself, off the hook if
they don’t intend to be racist. Intentional or not, racism in the education sys-
tem has a profound effect on students’ lives, and without a shared frame of
reference, Ms. Cross missed an opportunity to convey a moral stance con-
demning racism and the imposition of the racially biased test. This prevented
her from fully aligning herself with her students, and as a result, in this
moment, the legitimacy of her authority was complicated by racial
Racial safety in the context of difference. Despite her intentions, addressing
the issue of racial bias held the potential to undermine Ms. Cross’s instruc-
tional goals. If students perceived the test as racially biased and acknowl-
edged that they were not expected to do well because of their race, they could
internalize low expectations. By explaining what she meant by “being mean
to kids,” Ms. Cross demonstrated a humanitarian concern about the degree to
which students felt racially safe in her classroom. She described how this
discussion about race was “about a deeper, more serious issue” that made it
different from the usual way she “lay(s) into them” to convey her high expec-
tations for students’ achievement:
I felt like I was being mean because they left feeling dejected, I made
them feel bad [. . .] It was about a deeper more serious issue, too.
Usually when I lay into them it will be quick: mostly about their grades
and not performing. And now I went kind of deeper. I think at that
point, I may have touched some of them. But what made me feel like
I was being mean [. . .] was because I wasn’t able to lift them back up.
As I said, they left feeling dejected. It was a pretty somber atmosphere
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when it was all said and done, and they had to leave. That prompted
me to think I was being mean to them.
In delimiting what counts as “being mean” to students, Ms. Cross made
visible why the warm demander’s “mean talk” needs to be mitigated by care
for her students. To Ms. Cross, bringing up the issue of the test being racially
biased was not mean, nor was it mean to engage the students’ emotions
around issues of race, especially to motivate them to achieve academically.
What was mean was that she did not have the opportunity to “lift them back
up,” to verbalize their emotion, to ease the tension, to come to a resolution
about how to approach the problem of racial bias in the test. To Ms. Cross her
insistence did not feel warmly demanded, and as a result, the discussion about
race ended in discomfort and dejection rather than empowerment and
Ms. Cross acknowledged that discussing the racial politics of the test was
a hard discussion to have with students. She reflected, “Perhaps they were
uncomfortable. Perhaps they didn’t want to discuss it at that point.” What
went unspoken was how Ms. Cross’s Whiteness may have contributed to the
Repairing interpersonal relationships. One of Ms. Cross’s strategies to build-
ing relationships was repairing with students with whom she had a conflict.
After Calvin responded unexpectedly to her call, Ms. Cross sought him out,
saying, “I hate being mean to kids. I have to go find Calvin.” In doing so, she
demonstrated a preference for addressing conflict over avoiding confronta-
tion, a communication style attributed more to African American culture than
to White (Kochman, 1981; Obidah & Teel, 2001). Ms. Cross described her
approach to such interpersonal repair as she narrated her interaction with
I found him in the lunchroom and I called him outside. He saw me and
had that smile on his face that he always has constantly glued to his
face. Called him out in the hall on the side and I asked him—like when
I get on the kids I’ll let them, “Take a break,” and I go and grab that
child and ask him, like I do every child, I ask them, “Do you know why
I acted like that toward you like I did?” If they know, they’ll say yes
or no. So I can get a feel toward them—He said no. I explained to him
about the fact it was a serious topic and it was OK and I thought people
were grasping the point and here it comes: a joke. And you laughed,
and that just blew my whole point. I asked him, “Did you say that for
a reason? Were you joking around? Did you say it because you wanted
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60 Urban Education 49(1)
to change the subject? Or what?” He said, “I was just joking around.”
According to him, he was just joking around. OK. We came to an
Rather than view Calvin’s inappropriate response as an affront to her
authority, Ms. Cross sought to repair their relationship. Her narration of the
interaction with Calvin is characterized more by warmth than demand. What
was important to Ms. Cross was that Calvin understood why she reproached
him, that he had a chance to explain his behavior, and that he did not feel
unjustly reprimanded. Calvin’s account of this interaction correlated with
Ms. Cross’s: He said that he learned to take the test more seriously and that
he and Ms. Cross were “cool” because she came to talk with him about the
incident, effectively apologizing for her mean talk.
Repairing with Calvin was significant for the class’s learning environ-
ment: Their relationship served as a kind of barometer. The next day, Calvin
and Ms. Cross greeted each other, and the class felt warm and productive as
it usually did. A larger number of students than usual completed the home-
work assignment, suggesting that despite the racial tension, students were
engaged in the subject of race as it impacted their schooling. Students’ letters
to governmental officials conveyed various arguments that the test and its
effects were racially biased, yet these arguments remained unexplored in
classroom interaction, and the issue was not raised again in the researcher’s
daily, extended presence.
Seeing Eye to Eye
Illuminating the significance of these case studies requires situating the
analysis of Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross within warm demander approaches
that were conceptualized through studies of effective Black teachers of Black
students (Irvine, 2003). These studies are critical for informing White teach-
ers on how to effectively teach African American students, and until African
American teachers are more fully represented in the U. S. teaching force,
preparing effective White teachers is an important endeavor. Researching the
implications of race has, for too long, either been from solely a White per-
spective, suppressing the views of people of color, or, more recently, shifted
almost entirely onto the shoulders of people of color (Rex, 2007; Swisher,
1996). We believe that research on race should be a collaborative endeavor.
Contributing the case studies of Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross to the broader
body of literature on effective teachers of African American students (e. g.,
Bondy et al., 2007; Cooper, 2002, 2003; Howard, 2001; Irvine, 2002;
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Ladson-Billings, 1994) moves toward bridging perspectives between Black
and White educators, whose perspectives in many ways have remained seg-
regated (Delpit, 1995; Dickar, 2008; Noblit, 1993). We believe that when
engaged in intergroup conversation, we have the potential to see eye to eye
and enhance the quality of education for African Americans and all students
of color in urban schools and elsewhere.
Re-Viewing Warm Demander Approaches to Authority
By illuminating how the warm demander’s legitimacy is constructed between
a Black teacher and Black students, this case study analysis complicates the
presumed transferability of the warm demander approach to classrooms
characterized by White–Black racial difference. For the African American
warm demander, a source of legitimacy is the culture, history, experiences,
and traditions she shares with her students, and when conveying the values
of the African American community, this legitimacy assumes a moral
authority characterized by a culturally grounded, ethical use of power
(Noblit, 1993). White teachers are limited in their ability to capitalize on a
shared frame of reference, and they need to consider the difference their
racial difference makes in teaching and learning.
What do White teachers need to do to position themselves as warm demanders?
Like warm demanders, both Ms. Turner and Ms. Cross maintained high
expectations for their students’ academic achievement and behavior. Both
teachers were convinced their African American students were capable learn-
ers, a shared assumption that has served as the basis for effective teachers’
practice (Howard, 2001). They also created structured learning environments
characterized by effective disciplinary strategies, warmly demanding that
their students change their behavior, to which students acquiesced without
confrontation. Ms. Turner used a more strict, “no-nonsense,” direct discourse
style characterized by commands mitigated with terms of solidarity and
humor that conveyed warmth. In contrast, Ms. Cross engaged in Signifying
that allowed her insistence to be veiled by the warmth of a compliment,
reflecting her preference for indirection over mean talk, but belying the soft-
spoken, nonconfrontational, indirect speech often attributed to White
women’s communication styles (Brantlinger, Morton, & Washburn, 1999;
Thompson, 2004). This is not to say that Ms. Cross and Ms. Turner never
employed alternative discourse styles with positive results, or that either of
these styles would necessarily be effective in other classroom contexts. Yet
Ms. Cross’s effective indirection troubles prescriptions that teachers should
employ more direct ways of communicating with African American students
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62 Urban Education 49(1)
(Delpit, 1995) and as part of warm demander approaches to authority (Bondy
et al., 2007; Brown, 2004). For an African American parent, direct discourse
may sound “a little too much like slavery” coming from a White teacher
(Foster, 1997, p. xxix). Because of Ms. Cross’s indirect discourse style, she
could be likened to other White teachers who are less inclined to act authori-
tatively with African American students (Cooper, 2002). Yet her indirection
was interpreted by students as consequential, and her discipline style reflected
a “situated pedagogy” that was effective with her students (Irvine, 2003).
Ms. Cross respected the boundaries students drew around their teacher–
student relationship that precluded her from assuming the role of an “other-
mother.” Students’ clear demarcation of these boundaries points to the
complications of White teachers employing an African American parenting
style and serving as an other-mother for their African American students.
With cultural roots in a West African tradition, other-mothering is displayed
in how African American teachers described their familial relationships with
students in terms of “taking ownership” of and responsibility for their stu-
dents. For instance, one African American teacher employed a naming ritual:
“The kids call me Mama. You know, I take ownership of these kids. I tell
them on the first day to attach my last name to their last name” (Irvine, 2003,
p. 11). While this strategy may be effective for African American teachers, it
may not be not accessible to White teachers because of the legacy of slavery
that involved Whites assigning their last names to Black slaves: If a White
teacher were to tell a Black student to attach her last name, it could be con-
strued as an act of ownership and oppression. Compared to their African
American counterparts, White teachers are less likely to use familial terms to
characterize their relationships with students (Cooper, 2002), even though
some White teachers have assumed maternal roles with young children
(Cooper, 2003). White teachers may need to find a different way to validate
the emphasis placed on familial connections by the Black community (e. g.,
Milner & Tenore, 2010), taking into consideration their age (Ware, 2006) and
the grade level taught (Cooper, 2002).
Ms. Turner’s modeling of a critical race consciousness is an example of
care that transcends the individual to transmit the shared values of the Black
race, conveying a culturally grounded moral authority. While Ms. Cross’s
discussion of the racial bias surrounding the standardized test could have
fostered a shared frame of reference and moral stance, her purpose in raising
the issue was to motivate students, and her attention was drawn to individual
students’ emotional and psychological discomfort. This concern for students’
“racial safety” differs from reasons explained in literature as to why White
teachers may avoid conversations about race, for instance, that they perceive
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color blindness as equitable and fear retribution from administrators (Cooper,
2003). In contrast to these reasons, Ms. Cross’s concern for students’ racial
safety represented an ethical use of power (Noblit, 1993). But to reflect the
culturally grounded moral authority enacted by African American teachers,
White teachers need to envision racial justice as integral to care, as Eileen
Parsons (2005) suggests: “[J]ustice and caring must come together in the act
of teaching; if not, systemic inequities and inequalities are preserved and
perpetuated by the teacher’s actions” (p. 26). Such culturally relevant care
that acknowledges justice as a purpose of education holds the potential to
empower White teachers to “lift up the race” with public and political acts of
caring more consistent with their African American counterparts’ womanist
pedagogies (Green, 2004; Parsons, 2005; Patterson et al., 2011).
How Can White Teachers
Establish Cross-Racial Legitimacy?
Our case studies suggest that while positive relationships are important for
White teachers to engage African American students in teaching and learn-
ing and discussions of race, they may be insufficient for White teachers in
establishing the culturally grounded legitimacy of the warm demander. To
counteract the tendency to privilege Whiteness in the classroom, White
teachers can cultivate an alliance with their students to combat racism.
Ms. Cross’s efforts to use racism as a motivational factor and to critique the
racial politics surrounding the test illustrate the potential of this strategy.
Performing well on the test was presented as a way to challenge negative
perceptions of Black students and attain further education. Thus, the ground-
work for fostering a shared frame of reference and students’ critical race
consciousness was laid as they explored the racial bias of the test.
To realize the full potential of alliance-building, White teachers may need
to more fully ally themselves with their students and be prepared to critique
and challenge racist policies and practices that do not serve their African
American students (Ladson-Billings, 1994). One way to accomplish this
involves “sharing authority” as did White teacher Brian Schultz, who deferred
to students’ knowledge of racial politics when authorizing discussions of race
(Schultz & Oyler, 2006). Such sharing of authority might involve discur-
sively positioning students as coproducers of knowledge on the subject
of race or engaging in a more thorough critique of the curriculum. For
Ms. Cross, this would have required her to study arguments critiquing stan-
dardized testing (e. g., Meier & Woods, 2004) because she lacked the knowl-
edge and experience that would inform her critical race consciousness around
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64 Urban Education 49(1)
the racial bias of such tests. Admittedly, critiquing the curriculum represented
a difficult endeavor for Ms. Cross because policies like NCLB can conflict
with the well-being of African American students, yet are accompanied by
rewards and sanctions that have serious consequences for students’ present
and future access to education. This dilemma made critiquing the test more
challenging for Ms. Cross in the context of Metro High, which was under the
threat of sanctions, so forming an alliance around the issue of the test’s bias
may have been more complicated to achieve.
Constructing cross-racial legitimacy requires White teachers to develop
their own critical race consciousness. Such legitimacy is grounded in a shared
frame of reference that serves as the basis for shared goals and values that
configure a cross-racial alliance between White teachers, Black students, and
their communities. Just as African American teachers draw from their experi-
ences with racism, so also White teachers have to acknowledge theirs.
Teachers who have served as White allies demonstrated awareness of how
their Whiteness positioned them in relation to their students (Hyland, 2005;
Parsons, 2005; Schultz & Oyler, 2006) and within a history of White domi-
nance (Howard, 2006). The alliance needs to be authenticated by the teacher’s
genuine commitment to combating racism and a shared frame of reference.
Like cross-racial alliances, culturally congruent communication practices
need to be authentic to be effective. As a facet of the It Factor, Ms. Cross’s use
of Signifying was deemed legitimate by her students (Ford, 2013). But in the
particular episode of interaction analyzed herein, Ms. Cross’s use of call-and-
response backfired when Calvin responded inappropriately to Ms. Cross’s
call, resulting in a conflict that required interpersonal repair. This suggests that
while replicating culturally-based communicative practices can be done,
knowing when and how it is appropriate to do so is another manner. Perhaps
in this moment the subject of race was too complex for call-and-response.
Ms. Cross’s inclination to confront the issue rather than avoid conflict enabled
her and Calvin to come to a mutually agreeable way to construct and resolve
the problem of interpersonal conflict (Rex, 2007), but not the issue of
whether standardized tests are biased. Ms. Cross and Calvins interpersonal
relationship was restored, but at the expense of developing a shared frame of
reference that would promote students’ critical raced consciousness.
Our case study analyses make visible some subtle distinctions between
how a White teacher and an African American teacher constructed authority
and practiced situated pedagogy in her respective context. Ms. Cross focused
on test preparation in an 11th grade general English class in a district facing
sanctions from NCLB, and Ms. Turner emphasized critical thinking in an
untracked 9th grade English class in a district striving to address racism in
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Ford and Sassi 65
schools. The teachers’ curricular choices represented distinct responses to
Black–White achievement gaps that were consistent with the culture and
racial composition of their schools. While the grade level and academic track
may have influenced their curricular decisions, observations and interviews
suggest that the teachers’ beliefs about the purposes of schooling had a pro-
found impact on their choices. Ms. Cross focused on test preparation believ-
ing it to offer access to educational opportunities, and Ms. Turner emphasized
critical thinking and taught a racially controversial novel in order to foster
students’ critical race consciousness. Although classroom interaction is spe-
cific to its context, the results point to implications for how warm demanders
are conceived, their authority, and the applicability of their approach across
racial contexts.
This comparative analysis of how an African American teacher and a White
teacher built authority relationships with African American students enables
a reconceptualization of the warm demander. For authoritative Black teach-
ers like Ms. Turner, the role of the warm demander seems to come naturally
because it reflects traditions of African American parenting, caring, and
racial uplift. To be authentic, a warm demander needs to be able to draw
upon the shared experience, history, traditions, and frame of reference of
African Americans in order to transmit shared values across generations. For
White teachers, serving as a warm demander is less of a fixed identity, more
a fluid position that they can occupy, sometimes tentatively and temporarily.
Whereas African American teachers can embody the warm demander role,
White teachers can try it on and even wear it for a while. White teachers can
be effective with Black students: They can have a knack for building rela-
tionships, an “It Factor,” and they can practice Culturally Responsive
Classroom Management (Bondy et al, 2007; Milner & Tenore, 2010) and
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1994). However, if, as
Ware (2006) suggests, racial heritage is a significant factor in teachers’
development into warm demanders, then perhaps White teachers cannot
fully “be” warm demanders because even if they engage in what are under-
stood as Black cultural practices, including culturally congruent communica-
tion, they lack the shared history, experiences, and traditions of African
Positioning theory makes possible the conceptualization of the warm
demander as a fluid, dynamic position that conveys alignment with cultural
groups within hierarchies of power. White teachers can discursively position
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66 Urban Education 49(1)
themselves as warm demanders, constructing a sense of solidarity across
racial difference to cultivate a cross-cultural legitimacy and earn their author-
ity over time. This sense of solidarity can be accomplished by using cultur-
ally congruent discourse practices, seeing through the cultural eyes of African
American teachers and students, and assuming a political stance that chal-
lenges racism. By examining case studies of classroom interaction such as
those illustrated herein, teacher educators can guide teachers in considering
how they can use language effectively to build productive authority relation-
ships with students.
While White teachers can appropriate some of the facets of the warm
demander’s pedagogies, doing so without a deep understanding of African
American parenting and communication styles can threaten students’ racial
safety, create cultural misunderstandings, and reproduce White privilege as
grounds for classroom authority. Introducing White teachers to the culturally
specific practices of African American teachers will help them develop their
third eyes, capable of seeing from an African American frame of reference
(Irvine, 2003). While knowledge of culturally specific strategies is useful, to
capitalize on these approaches, including that of the warm demander, White
teachers need to adapt their instruction as a situated pedagogy that responds
to the needs of their particular African American students as well as the
broader Black community (Irvine, 2002). Tailoring the appropriate method
to the context makes the warm demander approach transferable across
More research is needed to examine the warm demander’s applicability to
other contexts. Our analysis has focused primarily on teachers’ interactions
with African American students. Future studies might examine other cross-
racial interactions, such as between Black teachers and White students or
White teachers with students from diverse backgrounds, or they could illumi-
nate the approaches of White teachers with White students as culturally spe-
cific, making visible the role race plays in racially homogenous classrooms.
Considering multiracial and intersecting identities to constitute the warm
demander’s stance could also yield valuable insight.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publica-
tion of this article.
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Ford and Sassi 67
1. Oral histories (Patterson, Mickelson, Hester, & Wyrick, 2011), life histories
(Foster, 1997), and historical accounts (Siddle Walker, 1996) that illuminate
the perspectives of African American teachers, parents, students, and communi-
ties convey the critical role segregated Black schools played in the education of
Black children by supporting students’ educational attainment, identity develop-
ment, and political awareness. As schools were desegregated, Black teachers
experienced job loss as White teachers assumed the vast majority of teaching
positions in desegregated schools (Ladson-Billings, 2004). The demographic
divide is, thus, an ironic product of school desegregation.
2. Irvine (2003) calls for more effective recruitment strategies to bring teachers of
color into the pipeline, while Epstein (2005) highlights how emphasis on stan-
dardized certification tests serves as a barrier for prospective teachers of color.
She estimates that half of them do not pass the California Basic Skills Test and
are, therefore, precluded from entering the profession.
3. The distribution of teachers and students by race varies across classrooms, schools,
districts, and regions, making it difficult to ascertain the specific number of White
teachers who teach African American students. However, Frankenberg’s (2006)
study of 1,000 teachers points to clear patterns of segregation in the public school
system, offering insight into the dispersion of White teachers and Black students by
comparing numbers of White teachers to Black and Latino students. Frankenberg’s
data suggests that even though Black and Latino teachers tend to be overrepre-
sented in schools attended by Black and Latino students, a significant percentage
of the faculty at such schools is White. Specifically, in schools where Black and
Latino students constituted 90% of the population, on average, 40% of the faculty
was White, and in schools where Black and Latino students constituted at least
half the population, 73% of the faculty was White. This suggests that even though
the Black and Latino students have some access to the Black and Latino teachers
that make up the teaching force, many White teachers are still teaching students of
color and need to develop the capacity for teaching across racial difference.
4. This understanding of race as shared culture is conveyed through our alternating
use of the terms “African American” to represent people descended from African
ancestry and “Black” and “White” to convey the historical significance of U. S.
race relations.
5. The African American teachers in Howard’s (2001) study indicated that “non–
African American teachers could replicate the practices that they used. They
maintained that it would require a willingness to conduct critical self-examina-
tions about assumptions, beliefs, and stereotypes they may have about African
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68 Urban Education 49(1)
American students and, more important, how these assumptions negatively or
positively affect the teaching and learning process for such students” (p. 199).
6. Milner and Tenore’s (2010) study of classroom management in diverse class-
rooms featured two men: one White and one African American. The African
American male teacher stated that being Black gave him an advantage with
Black students “initially, because they can relate to me because of my ethnicity
. . . Initially. But the effectiveness comes from my style, how I teach and how
I manage, and any person of any race can do that [succeed] if trained properly.
Any gender can do that” (p. 590).
7. This type of moral authority, particular to the authoritative African American
woman, implies that while race may serve as a source of legitimacy for warm
demanders, gender may also figure into their authority. Warm demanders por-
trayed in literature are typically women, but it is possible for teachers of any
race and gender to earn their authority by cultivating respectful and trusting rela-
tionships and employing culturally congruent communicative practices (Delpit,
1995; Irvine, 1991; Howard, 2006).
8. Ms. Turner is researching her Native American/American Indian ancestry, but
she is not an enrolled tribal member.
9. Only two students qualified their positive valuations of Ms. Cross. Carl said he
wished he had more African American male teachers who could serve as a role
model for him, while Candy said she wished Ms. Cross would share “more per-
sonal stuff” with the students.
10. There were two English tracks for 11th graders at Metro High: General and
11. Although Ms. Cross was committed to preparing students for the test, she was
ambivalent about its value as curriculum. On one hand, she appreciated the
test driving the curriculum because it seemed aligned with many of the state
standards. On the other hand, it did not assess listening, speaking, and critical
thinking skills, which she also saw as important. She speculated that her Eng-
lish curriculum would look very different if not for the test, which emphasized
speed-reading and skimming short passages in order to answer multiple choice
12. The school district was under so much pressure to improve tests scores that
the Superintendent contracted a private test preparation company to provide
test preparation for all 11th graders. An instructor from the company visited
11th grade English (and math) classes one day per week for one hour a day and
taught from the company’s handbook. Ms. Cross’s emphasis on test preparation
reflected the priorities of the district and school culture.
13. In an episode of interaction with a White student, Carl, Ms. Turner attempted to
repair her interpersonal relationship with him because she had mean-talked him
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Ford and Sassi 69
the day before and was concerned that he wouldn’t recognize “being mean” as
caring (Foster, 1991). She admitted, “I was pretty mean to you yesterday when
you first came in, wasn’t I? [. . .] Did you dwell on how mean I was to you, or
didn’t you think about it?” Carl responded, “You always do it, so we’re used
to it.” Although the focus of our analyses is interaction with African American
students, Ms. Turner’s reparation with Carl indicates that her mean talk, or direct
discourse style, was understood as part of her overall stance to which students
were accustomed. As Bondy & Ross (2008) explain, “When students know that
you believe in them, they will interpret even harsh-sounding comments as state-
ments of care from someone with their best interests at heart” (p. 2). This sub-
stantiates our portrayal of Ms. Turner as a warm demander.
14. That Ms. Turner found direct discourse effective with both Black and White stu-
dents calls into question the style’s cultural specificity, even though her concern
for the White student she mean-talked implies her understanding of differences
in Black and White parenting styles.
15. Observations indicated that Ms. Cross’s emphasis on test preparation was not
limited to her 11th grade general English class: it extended to her 10th grade
Honors class, whom she began preparing for the 11th grade test during the last
three months of the school-year. Ms. Turner never conducted test preparation
during the semester she was observed. Teachers’ responses to interview ques-
tions about their decisions did not indicate the specific ways grade level or
academic track might have influenced their curricular choices, but they did illu-
minate their underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and their responses
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Author Biographies
Amy Carpenter Ford is a tenure-track faculty member at Central Michigan
University. A former urban high school teacher, she now prepares elementary
Language Arts and secondary English teachers. Her research interests lie at the nexus
of cultural diversity, classroom discourse, language and literacy, teaching and teacher
preparation, and social justice.
Kelly Sassi is an Assistant Professor of English and Education at North Dakota State
University in Fargo, where she teaches English methods and composition courses.
She is also co-director of the Red River Valley Writing Project, a site of the National
Writing Project. Her research agenda focuses on social justice, including race in the
classroom, fair practices in writing assessment, feminist research methodologies,
pedagogical approaches to Native American literatures, multicultural field experi-
ences, and writing on demand.
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... Teachers convey such a caring attitude by taking the following three actions. First, warm demanders should build relationships deliberately (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy, Ross, Hambacher & Acosta, 2012;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher, Acosta, Bondy & Ross, 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Sandilos, Rimm-Kaufman & Cohen, 2016). This can be achieved, for example, by giving "getting to know you" questionnaires and using the gathered information (Bondy & Ross, 2008). ...
... Everyday interactions, such as a smile, a hand on the shoulder, remembering something a student has mentioned, are more important for developing relationships with the students (Bondy & Ross, 2008). Furthermore, warm demanders teachers can connect with the students' families (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Sandilos, et al., 2016). Secondly, warm demanders teachers should learn about their students' cultures (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Hambacher et al., 2016). ...
... Furthermore, teachers should be curious about culture and 349 difference, so that they can imagine how school experiences might feel different to different groups (Bondy & Ross, 2008). Last but not least, warm demanders teachers should communicate an expectation of success (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Boucher Jr. & Helfenbein, 2015;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Kleinfeld, 1975;Sandilos, et al., 2016;Ware, 2006). The effective management of the classroom happens only with discipline (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Boucher Jr. & Helfenbein, 2015;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Kleinfeld, 1975;Sandilos, et al., 2016;Ware, 2006). ...
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There is shared commitment across European countries to ensure young people acquire social, civic and intercultural competences, by promoting across the disciplines democratic values and fundamental rights, social inclusion and non-discrimination, as well as active citizenship. However, this raises many challenges, not least in an uncertain world characterized by economic crisis, increased inequality, environmental concern, high migration flows, and the rise of populist ‘post-truth’ politics. All these challenges raise questions of fairness and social justice and prompt reflection on notions related to identity, the development of capabilities, citizenship, belonging, otherness, recognition of diversity, inter-generational solidarity and active democratic participation at the personal, global and policy level. In this context, papers from across the disciplines concerned with democratic values, constructs of identity, human dignity and capacities, participation and/or citizenship education in relation to issues of social justice in formal, in-formal or non-formal contexts are included in this volume.
... Johnson, Nyamekye, Chazan, & Rosenthal, 2013;Milner, 2006). Black teachers' pedagogical effectiveness with Black students is also attributed to stern, no-nonsense approaches to discipline and classroom management that mirror the disciplinary styles frequently encountered by Black children in their familial contexts, and that stem from culturally specific modes of care for Black children (Delpit, 1995;Ford & Sassi, 2014;Foster, 1994;Howard, 2001;Irvine, 2002;Milner, 2012; C. Monroe & Obidah, 2004; C. R. Monroe, 2009). These modes of care are characterized in a number of scholarly works as a family-like concern for Black students' success that ultimately positions Black educators as surrogate parental figures-or other mothers (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2002;Case, 1997;Dixson, 2003;Dixson & Dingus, 2008;Foster, 1993;Irvine, 2002) and other fathers (Bridges, 2011;Lynn, 2006b)-for Black youth. ...
... These modes of care are characterized in a number of scholarly works as a family-like concern for Black students' success that ultimately positions Black educators as surrogate parental figures-or other mothers (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2002;Case, 1997;Dixson, 2003;Dixson & Dingus, 2008;Foster, 1993;Irvine, 2002) and other fathers (Bridges, 2011;Lynn, 2006b)-for Black youth. While some works have emphasized the possibilities for non-Black teachers to engage in culturally responsive pedagogical interactions with Black students (Ford & Sassi, 2014;Ladson-Billings, 2009;Milner, 2011), Black teachers have remained by and large at the center of this literature, thus affirming the special pedagogical resonance of their culturally mediated ties to Black youth. Along with describing their pedagogical expertise in educating Black students, the scholarship on Black teachers has also cast these educators as agents of Black racial uplift. ...
... While not averse to having fun with students, she would still enact swift consequences when students did not abide by her rules or meet her stated expectations. Mitch's description of his lead teacher's classroom management style echoed scholarly accounts of the culturally rooted discipline styles of Black teachers (Ford & Sassi, 2014;Milner, 2012;Monroe, 2009) as well as descriptions of the traditional discipline styles of Black parents (Adkison-Bradley, Terpstra, & Dormitorio, 2014;Bradley, 1998). It was not surprising, therefore, that Mitch himself likened this old-school Black approach to the traditional Black parenting style that he had witnessed as a child: I think it's Black, I think it's southern. ...
... Teachers convey such a caring attitude by taking the following three actions. First, warm demanders should build relationships deliberately (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy, Ross, Hambacher & Acosta, 2012;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher, Acosta, Bondy & Ross, 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Sandilos, Rimm-Kaufman & Cohen, 2016). This can be achieved, for example, by giving "getting to know you" questionnaires and using the gathered information (Bondy & Ross, 2008). ...
... Everyday interactions, such as a smile, a hand on the shoulder, remembering something a student has mentioned, are more important for developing relationships with the students (Bondy & Ross, 2008). Furthermore, warm demanders teachers can connect with the students' families (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Sandilos, et al., 2016). Secondly, warm demanders teachers should learn about their students' cultures (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Hambacher et al., 2016). ...
... Furthermore, teachers should be curious about culture and difference, so that they can imagine how school experiences might feel different to different groups (Bondy & Ross, 2008). Last but not least, warm demanders teachers should communicate an expectation of success (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Boucher Jr. & Helfenbein, 2015;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Kleinfeld, 1975;Sandilos, et al., 2016;Ware, 2006). The effective management of the classroom happens only with discipline (Bondy & Ross, 2008;Bondy et al., 2012;Boucher Jr. & Helfenbein, 2015;Ford & Sassi, 2012;Hambacher et al., 2016;Irvine & Fraser, 1998;Kleinfeld, 1975;Sandilos, et al., 2016;Ware, 2006). ...
Conference Paper
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In this paper, our focus is on Warm Demander Pedagogy. Warm Demanders are teachers who implement a stance in their classrooms due to which they totally support warmly their students, while demanding high academic results from them. The basic characteristics of Warm Demander Pedagogy are: First, teachers' warm care for their students and second, they insist on their demands for high academic work. Our research explored preservice teachers of Aristotle's University of Thessaloniki perspectives on Warm Demander Pedagogy. Our research strategy was Case Study and our main research tool was a structured questionnaire. Our findings show that our participants do care about their student's wellbeing, but they hesitate to demand and be assertive.
... White teachers' lack of success in cross-cultural contexts is, in fact, a dominant narrative in educational research. For example, because many White teachers grew up and went to school in racially segregated, majority White communities, many had little contact with individuals with cultural and communication practices different from their own (Ford & Sassi, 2014;Gay & Howard, 2000). ...
... Some empirical accounts related to the implementation of such asset-based pedagogies have addressed aspects of teachers' persona work head on by looking specifically at teachers' communication and relational practices with Black and Brown children. In investigations of how teachers might successfully nurture caring relationships with children of color, for example, some researchers have advocated that teachers adopt specific communicative behaviors and relational stances in their persona work (Bondy, Ross, Hambacher, & Acosta, 2013;Bondy, Ross, Gallingane, & Hambacher, 2007;Brown, 2003;Cholewa, Amatea, West-Olatunji, & Wright, 2012;Ford & Sassi, 2014;Monroe & Obidah, 2004;Ross, Bondy, & Hambacher, 2008;Ware, 2006). When describing what they and others called a "warm demander" approach, for instance, Bondy and colleagues (2007) suggested teachers adopt a direct discourse style, employ colloquial and familiar expressions, and use humor and terms of endearment to hold children's attention and build relationships with them. ...
Because teaching is inherently interpersonal and relational work, teachers use expressive behaviors such as voice, body language, and facial expression as they interact in the classroom. Yet the effects of the expressive dimensions of teachers’ practice on their relationships with children and their instruction are not well-understood in education. This dissertation investigates and conceptualizes this expressive domain in teaching, which it refers to as “creating and using a persona,” or “persona work.” This study draws on classroom observations, teacher interviews, and student focus groups and surveys to explore patterns in teachers’ persona work and unearth its purposes. Specifically, it employs multiple case study analysis to describe the expressive practice of six White, female, experienced and “expert” teachers. It also shows how the 220 students across these teachers’ diverse middle school English language arts and social studies classrooms responded to their persona work. Taken together, findings from this dissertation show that the teachers’ persona work was central to their instruction and relationships with children, and that it had the power to create as well as limit opportunities for children. The teachers in this study used their expressive behaviors to control and shape interactional conditions in the classroom. Their persona work helped teachers engage children and maintain their attention, lent clarity to teachers’ explanations, communicated teachers’ expectations, and otherwise augmented teachers’ instructional and relational goals. However, teachers’ persona work was not always successful, and did not always benefit every child. In particular, especially among children of color, teachers’ persona work could also be inequitable and could communicate a lack of care or intellectual regard. As this study shows, although teachers’ persona work might help some children learn and engage, it can also limit other children’s opportunities in classrooms, especially among students from historically marginalized backgrounds. This study has important ramifications for teaching and teacher education, especially in relation to cross-cultural teaching contexts. Without growing teachers’ abilities to create and use personas in the classroom in ways that are just, equitable, and responsive to all children, the field continues to relegate to chance teachers’ mastery over this ubiquitous, influential, but until now underdeveloped domain of teaching practice. This, in turn, will continue to put young people—and especially children of color—dangerously at risk.
... With all their actions and their behavior in the classroom, they convince their students that they believe in them (Zachos & Akouarore, 2020). Warm demanders balance high demands with the feeling of "warmth" they offer to students, this creating close relationships with them, inevitably promoting learning (Ford & Sassi, 2014) and providing a structured and disciplined classroom environment (Irvine & Fraser, 1998). ...
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The aim of this paper is to examine the primary school teachers' most preferred Classroom Management style. Teachers' style is a characteristic, which is determined by their values, beliefs and pedagogical philosophy and characterizes their behavior in the classroom. We identified four such types: authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire and warm demander. The research we present here on this issue was based on two online methodological tools: First, a conventional text-based questionnaire of 36 questions, using the Likert scale, and second a comic-style vignette-based questionnaire consisted of 10 episodes. We used a non-probabilistic sample of fifty-two (52) easily accessible primary school teachers from various areas of Greece, who volunteered to participate in our research. It was found that the democratic and the warm demander styles was the preference of the most teachers while the other two styles occurred less often. The use of those methodological tools gave us the opportunity to compare them to identify the advantages and disadvantages of each one... The comparison considered factors such as interest, time, clarity, effort, innovation and pleasure. Participants' responses indicated that they found the comic-style vignette-based questionnaire more interesting, innovative, and pleasant compared to the conventional questionnaire. In addition, no significant differences were found concerning the clarity, time and effort required to complete the two questionnaires.
... The warm demander teaching style has been depicted as particularly culturally appropriately for African American students as implemented by African American teachers, but Ford and Sassi (2014) note that, despite some differences due to cultural mismatch, White teachers can also support African American students with similar pedagogical approaches. ...
Despite over 30 years of educational research to the contrary, some educators continue to hold to classroom management theories along the lines of “don’t smile until December,” which pits consistency and control in the classroom against the kindness and caring that should also characterize the learning environment. We address the source of this controversy as faulty reasoning that sees expressions of care as competing with instructional values such as rigorous lessons from teachers and high expectations for students. In fact, research suggests that from student perspectives, quality teaching and high expectations do not compete with caring but express it. We suggest 3 teaching strategies that illustrate how these seemingly disparate aspects of teaching are connected. Further, we consider how teachers can use cognitive empathy to carry out these strategies effectively. The article closes with examples of how these strategies can be practically implemented in classrooms.
... 51), while Monroe (2009) asked a school principal to nominate several teachers who produced excellent student learning outcomes and were familiar with students' cultural backgrounds. Ford & Sassi (2014) instead describe a process of "chain sampling" (p. 47), in which "identifying information-rich cases through referrals by knowledgeable people" ultimately led to a focus on a specific teacher recommended by a district superintendent. ...
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Teaching that supports ideas of social justice is often difficult to enact, particularly for teachers who may have few models for the process of developing such instruction. In this dissertation, I address the development and analysis of three semester-long partnerships between myself and three high school teachers interested in improving their social justice practice. The design of these partnerships, and of the work teachers and I did within them, was highly collaborative and drew primarily on teachers’ ideas and understandings rather than privileging my own. Teachers were asked to conceptualize and define social justice with respect to their own classroom context, to consider ways in which they might respond through their practice to the issues they identified, and to design and implement changes that addressed these issues. My own role was that of a dynamic resource, available to support teachers and to discuss, observe, comment, assess, and challenge as per their preferences. My use of the methodology of portraiture enabled me to tell the story of our work together in order to demonstrate the process through which these teachers worked to improve their social justice practice. Further, by drawing on interviews with a principal and district leader in addition to teacher data, I was able to contextualize teachers’ work within the functioning of the school and district in which they operate, with a focus on all participants’ understandings of work being done at their own and other levels, the context of their school and district and its impact on teachers’ work, and the relationship between teachers’ classroom practice and the policies that support or constrain it. My analysis demonstrates that these teachers have substantial knowledge of their students and classroom context that supported our work together, and teachers themselves suggested both that they found our partnerships to be impactful and that they had a desire for further feedback and discussion around their practice. I found that teachers had different ways of linking issues of social justice to their work, sometimes addressing connections between these issues and the curriculum, sometimes incorporating social justice ideas into their relationships with students, and sometimes focusing on these issues through the ways in which they supported students in interacting with one another. Further, teachers identified discussion in our work together as far more helpful for improving their practice than the simple provision of external resources and expressed a desire for further constructive conversation about their practice. My interviews with teachers and administrators suggested that future opportunities for learning might be complicated by disconnects both among teachers and between teachers and the administration in ways in which concepts like social justice, equity, equality, and fairness, as well as classroom issues like gender and politics, were taken up. I conclude with recommendations for researchers, school and district leaders, and other educational stakeholders around improving dialogue and focusing on what is good in others’ practice in order to better support social justice work in education.
This chapter serves to discuss common perspectives of respect in the classroom and highlight ways to re-conceptualize authority in student-teacher relationships so that respect can be grounded in both authority and caring. The authors believe that through the framework of critical race theory, teachers can learn how to express caring respect in ways that will be validating to their students. Furthermore, because of this reframing of authority, teachers will be able to accept non-authority-based respect. Finally, this chapter encourages teachers to experience and understand respect in the ways that validate their students as people and honor their own abilities as teachers. Rather than using ideas of respect to exhibit and reinforce institutional authority, teachers can instead promote caring respect in their classrooms by highlighting students' voices and reflecting on their own roles as both an educator and a person.
We examined whether teacher–child racial congruence and child race moderated the association between children's emotion situation knowledge and the dimensions of teacher–child relationship quality (i.e., closeness, conflict, and dependency). We also investigated these dimensions as mediators linking emotion situation knowledge and later school readiness. Participants were 303 White and African American preschoolers and their teachers who were also racially diverse. For White preschoolers, teacher–child closeness was more likely and teacher–child conflict and dependency were less likely when their teachers matched them in race. For African American children, teacher–child conflict and dependency were more likely when their teachers matched them in race. Emotion situation knowledge and teacher–child closeness were positively related to later school readiness. Findings are discussed in the context of recommendations for policies and practices encouraging culturally responsive, equitable, and positive social–emotional instructional approaches that motivate, support, and sustain positive teacher–child relationships in early childhood classrooms. Highlights • Findings from the current study highlight the interaction between teacher-child racial congruence and child race in predicting teacher-child relationship quality among preschoolers. • For White preschoolers, teacher-child closeness was more likely and teacher-child conflict and dependency were less likely when their teachers matched them in race. • For African American children, teacher-child conflict and dependency were more likely when their teachers matched them in race. • This work holds implications for policies and practices encouraging culturally responsive, equitable, and positive social-emotional instructional approaches to support and sustain positive teacher-child relationships in early childhood classrooms.
This authoritative introduction to African American English (AAE) is the first textbook to look at the grammar as a whole. Clearly organised, it describes patterns in the sentence structure, sound system, word formation and word use in AAE. The book uses linguistic description and data from conversation to explain that AAE is not a compilation of random deviations from mainstream English but that it is a rule-governed system. The textbook examines topics such as education, speech events in the secular and religious world, and the use of language in literature and the media to create black images. This much-needed book includes exercises to accompany each chapter and will be essential reading for students in linguistics, education, anthropology, African American studies and literature.
My work with African American teachers in CULTURES has led me to conclude that these teachers’ views of their roles are based on unique cultural and historical perspectives. African American teachers look introspectively at how their ethnic identity, classroom practices, and their beliefs are related to the achievement of their African American students. The African American teachers in CULTURES often talked about how their own cultural notions of teaching guided them in their practice. These cultural views were often different from what they had been taught in their teacher preparation programs. In fact, some of these teachers had to “unlearn” and modify what they have been taught in the academy in order to address the specific learning needs of their African American students.
There are few academic writings that provide insights about black teachers’ perceptions of their professional roles and practices as teachers. However, in recent years, an increasing number of researchers have focused on this segment of the education community, and the research on black teachers has become an emergent field of literature offering links between teachers’ perceptions of their roles as teachers and their cultural background.
A National Education Association survey1 found that approximately nine out of ten teachers in America are white, confirming numerous reports in recent years documenting the decreasing number of minority teachers in American public schools.2 Of the remaining 10 percent, black teachers represent less than 7 percent, and Asian and others less than 3. At the same time, students of color comprise 30 percent of the students nationally and 76 percent of the students in Americas 20 central cities.3 It is widely expected that this number will increase well into the next century.4 One clear implication of these statistics is that children of color are very likely to be taught by white teachers. This has particular relevance for black children for whom, traditionally, black teachers have figured prominently in their development beyond the classroom, often serving as role models, community leaders, activists, and substitute mothers.5 To what extent this important teacher-student relationship changes when the teacher is white is a question that in light of current and projected demographics cannot be ignored. How and when is it effective? How does it compare to that of black teacher-black students? The problem is exacerbated by the fact that discussion of race as a determinant in children’s personal and academic success is still an emotionally charged and often misunderstood issue that is an impediment to effective teache education and teaching across racial lines.6