Where All the Good Teachers are Cape Verdean Americans: A White Teacher’s Identity Positionings in an Urban Elementary School

  • Jihea MaddamsettiEmail author


This study examines how a white language teacher’s understanding of race affected her teaching practice in an urban elementary language classroom with predominantly Cape Verdean immigrant students. The teacher relied on her experiences teaching English in Namibia and her experiences learning Spanish in the United States and Afrikaans in Namibia to ground her practice, which focused on cultural difference and standard English language teaching without specific reference to race in the context of the United States. I adopt the theory of LangCrit, an intersection between Critical Race Theory, Critical Language Studies, and Positioning Theory, to first demonstrate that the teacher’s justifications of her teaching practices were contradictory and conflicting, and in fact shows how, despite her good intentions, whiteness is imposed, assumed, or negotiated in the context of urban language classrooms. Based on these findings, I suggest possibilities for and constraints on using critical theory-oriented praxis in the classroom grounded in teachers’ personal experiences to help teachers interrogate and disrupt whiteness in language classrooms. Without greater support from critically-oriented urban teacher educators, many white teachers with the best of intentions will continue to struggle in their search for culturally responsive and empowering pedagogies for immigrant English learners of color in urban school settings.


Urban teacher education Whiteness Identity positioning White teachers English language learners 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching and LearningOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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