Race talk in a teacher book club
Pettis, Victoria E
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to interview and observe 10 English teachers who participated in a book club at their urban public high school in a southeastern college town and examine, using critical race theory, how they negotiated issues of race in five books. Related research questions examined how various teachers responded to texts that included themes about stereotypes and racism, what connections teachers made about race in the texts to their own lives, and what ways membership in the book discussion club has been meaningful in the lives of secondary English teachers. The predominant means of data collection for the five monthly book club meetings were participant observation and field notes, researcher’s log, audiotapes, and interviews. Data were analyzed using the open coding method. Nine themes emerged from the analysis: 1) making connections, 2) offering resistance, 3) expressing support/approval, 4) stories, 5) stereotypes, 6) white privilege, 7) institutional racism, 8) roles, and 9) benefits. General conclusions surround teachers’ selection of text that reflect diversity within American society and the creation of classroom environments that support a sustained dialogue about race and racism. Conclusions also reflect the need for teachers themselves to participate in teacher education and professional development programs to educate them about how to foster conversations about race and institutional racism and to examine the teacher’s role in addressing those issues in public schools. A final conclusion of the study was the need for teachers to consider creating their own book clubs among their colleagues and/or adopting the format in their classrooms so that readers are empowered to share their stories and connect with each other as a community.