Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Life Stories: Successful White Women Teachers of Ethnically and Racially Diverse Students

Dr. Linda Drajem.

Among the issues debated in the study of urban schools is the cultural confrontation between largely White middle class teachers and ethnically and racially diverse students. The stereotypes of urban teachers and urban students often convey the impression of teachers hopelessly out of touch with learners. My goal was to question that perception through the words of five successful urban schoolteachers. I collected, transcribed, and analyzed their oral interviews. These were White women teachers who consciously sought to meet the needs of ethnically and racially diverse urban students. My main concern was the desire to know how such teachers develop through the interactions of the personal and the professional within the social realities of urban schools today. Women teachers were my subjects, because most teachers are female and teaching has historically been a gendered role. I selected White teachers for this study since there is a current and projected disproportion of White teachers laboring in schools teaching students of color. The teachers I studied confront issues of race and ethnicity in ways that assist diverse students to affirm their own culture and also to learn strategies to transcend the multiple oppressions of mainstream society. My study’s emphasis is on privileging the often invisible work of women and teachers. What makes it unique, I believe, is the focus on successful cultural negotiation between teachers and their diverse students.
The methodology I use draws from both oral history and narrative inquiry. Informed by oral historians’ extensive work over the past few decades, I interviewed urban teachers who exhibit markers of success with multicultural students. Their interviews were transcribed and reviewed together in the co-constructed space of a specifically feminist oral history method. The analytical model is based on narrative inquiry. Though my main goal was to stay open to the stories these women have to tell, obvious policy implications emerge. These teachers’ experiences can inform the debate on how to improve urban schools and how to enhance teacher education and professional development programs.


Dr. Linda Drajem  (United States)
Lecturer in English Education

Buffalo State College

I teach full-time in the English Education program preparing pre-service teachers for their careers. Courses I teach range from the introductory courses, teaching writing, to the capstone course which is the Methods of Teaching English. In addition I supervise student teachers in the field. After a long career as an English teacher in urban high schools I returned to the University of Buffalo to study on the Ph.D. level and finished almost three years ago. My special interest is the cultural conflict between future teachers and the multicultural and multhiethnic diversity in urban schools.

  • Diversity in secondary education
  • Oral histories of urban teachers

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)