Racial Dialogues: A Phenomenological Study of Difficult Dialogues from the Perspective of High School English Teachers


This qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of six secondary English teachers in the Southeastern United States as they facilitated racial dialogues relative to the instruction of literary texts bearing racially and culturally sensitive themes, language, and events. This study was important, as racialized discourse has been recognized as becoming more difficult in work settings and classrooms in past years. Research conducted in universities revealed that faculty lack training and racial selfawareness to feel comfortable addressing issues of race in the classroom. Further, the issue of difficult racial dialogues is not just a problem affecting university faculty and students; it exists in the public K-12 school settings as well. The findings of this study show secondary literature teachers who facilitate class discussions in which race is the topic face discomforts due to personal conflicts relative to their own level of racial awareness, as well as an awareness of their students’ race and/or culture. Teachers realized they must teach literature that engages and meets the needs of students of color; however, they have concerns over ensuing discussions of topics often considered taboo. Additionally, teachers often experience discomfort regarding forces outside their classrooms that influence the nature of classroom discussions, and are frequently unsure as how to address these due to ambiguous district and school rulings on controversial topics. Finally, teachers need the support of one another through collaboration, and the support of their administration when parental and student concerns are raised. This study met its goal to expand research of difficult racial dialogues into the secondary English classroom setting in order to gain a better understanding of what teachers of minor students experience in these environments relative to the instruction of racially and culturally sensitive literature. Research supports the need for further expansion of critical race and critical race pedagogy into public schools. These studies should be conducted from the perspective of elementary through secondary school teachers and students in both literature as well as social studies classrooms where difficult dialogues are likely to evolve from topics of instruction.

This publication has been peer reviewed.
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Jacqueline Burnett-Brown
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Racial Dialogues: A Phenomenological Study of Difficult Dialogues from the Perspective of High School English Teachers
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