Table of Contents


Thomas Hatch


In this section of the book, teachers write about both the problems and the possibilities of creating rich learning cultures in their classrooms and schools. The pieces cover a wide range of interests and styles, beginning with Boerst’s thoughts about the first day of school in a fifth-grade classroom in Michigan. Berger’s sixth-grade students build a culture of quality by working in their rural Massachusetts community, learning to critique one another’s work, and pressuring one another. Brandts illustrates how well-intentioned “pullout” programs in one southern California school disrupt learning and deny students opportunities to participate fully in the dynamics of their elementary classrooms. Akin’s narrative explores complex and sometimes contradictory perceptions of one student in an early childhood classroom in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lyne—through a website and video documentary—provides a glimpse of how the development of standards and exhibitions contributes to the culture of a K–8 pilot school in Boston. High school language arts teacher Moore chronicles how her struggle with teaching Standard English in the Mississippi Delta becomes the impetus to develop “culturally engaged instruction” for African American students.

1. The First Day of School: A Reflective Narrative Analysis
Timothy Boerst

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2. What Is a Culture of Quality?
Ron Berger

3. Are Pullout Programs Sabotaging Classroom Community in Our Elementary Schools?
Lois Brandts

4. A Narrative in Three Voices
Rebecca Akin

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5. The Mission Hill School
Heidi Lyne

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6. Circles of Influence: My Research Journey Into Culturally Engaged Instruction
Renee Moore

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This section of the book presents approaches that connect students’ questions and concerns to key issues in a wide range of disciplines. Two different chapters delve into the teaching of mathematics. Ball takes on the difficult challenge of responding to the dilemmas of authenticity, community, and understanding in her elementary classroom. Copes mesmerizes high school and college students in an inquiry-based demonstration lesson that uses NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards embedded in an engaging tale of a monk. Two teacher-authors use drama to deeply involve their students. Pincus, working in a magnet high school for academically talented students in Philadelphia, engages her students in a production of The Laramie Project, demonstrating how to scaffold learning that is both intellectual and emotional. Wolk’s elementary students do participatory-action research in their town of Pio Pico, California, and learn that community action can sometimes make real change—as documented on her website. Levy captures the interest of his fourth-grade students by developing a question that is relevant to both the American Revolution and his students’ lives. Hutchinson develops strategies and approaches to teaching in an urban secondary school that involve her students of African American and Latino cultures in the development of their literacy skills. Video, student work, teaching strategies, and student impact can be found on both Wolk’s and Hutchinson’s websites.

7. With an Eye on the Mathematical Horizon: Dilemmas of Teaching Elementary School Mathematics
Deborah Loewenberg Ball

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8. Messy Monk Mathematics: An NCTM-Standards–Inspired Class
Larry Copes

9. Learning from Laramie: Urban High School Students Read, Research, and Reenact The Laramie Project
Marsha R. Pincus

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10. Pio Pico Student Researchers Participatory Action Research: From Classroom to Community, Transforming Teaching and Learning
Emily Wolk

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11. Was the American Revolution Completed Before the War Began?
Steven Levy

12. A Friend of Their Minds: Capitalizing on the Oral Tradition of My African American Students
Yvonne Divans Hutchinson

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Issues of equity, race, and culture are among the most difficult—and yet among the most important—aspects of teaching that teachers face. As the pieces in this section illustrate, addressing these issues can be risky and complicated and often require the authors to examine their own backgrounds and perspectives. While investigating the underachievement of African American males in her AP English class, Carter delves beyond the factors commonly cited for underperformance and seeks understanding from research literature while adding her own observations and knowledge. Cone explores the persistence of the institutional and individual factors that can undermine efforts to build a culture of high achievement for all students, even after the success of some detracking efforts. Diaz-Gemmati engages her eighth-grade students and herself in a quest to initiate and sustain conversations and understandings about questions of race and prejudice in literature and life. A piece about the growth of a shy Hmong fifth grader reflects Campano’s efforts to develop teaching strategies that acknowledge and dignify the sometimes tumultuous experiences of children from migrant and refugee backgrounds that are often overlooked by traditional curricula. Struggling to understand her own beliefs and those of her 4-year-old Haitian students, Ballenger learns about the clash of cultures, particularly in terms of what motivates students.

13. Helping African American Males Reach Their Academic Potential
Marlene Carter

14. The Gap Is in Our Expectations
Joan Kernan Cone

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15. “And Justice for All”: Using Writing and Literature to Confront Racism
Griselle M. Diaz-Gemmati

16. Ma-Lee’s Story
Gerald Campano

17. Because You Like Us: The Language of Control
Cynthia Ballenger


This section casts the challenges that teachers face—including those of pedagogy, shifting school contexts, educational policy, and teacher research—into high relief. For these teachers, the “problems” of teaching bring both struggle and opportunities for learning. Brown, a secondary special education English/language arts teacher in Philadelphia, provides a narrative case (and an associated video case on a website) that describes the clash between her students’ realities and her beliefs about social action and the resulting growth for both the teacher and students. Martínez explains how Proposition 227—a proposal to eliminate bilingual programs in California schools—coupled with high-stakes testing and prescriptive reading programs, curbs his ability to improve and empower his first-grade students’ language facility in his Los Angeles classroom. Using ideas from chaos theory to frame the complexity of classroom teaching, Maas, an elementary teacher in Wisconsin, outlines five principles that have guided him in building a culture for learning amid the unpredictability that comes with an extremely challenging class of students and shifting school contexts. Moving back and forth between the world of practice and the world of research through an exploration of her work in a fifth-grade math class, Lampert argues that teachers cannot resolve the dilemmas of teaching, but they can make thoughtful choices and develop new solutions that take those dilemmas—and the ever present tensions that come with them—into account.

18. Human Agency, Social Action, and Classroom Practices
Vanessa Brown

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19. Proposition 227, Stanford 9, and Open Court: Three Strikes Against English Language Learners
Ramón Martínez

20. Principled Practice: New Science for the Classroom
Jeffrey Maas

Read the full chapter: Principled Practice: New Science for the Classroom (PDF)

21. How Do Teachers Manage to Teach?: Perspectives on Problems in Practice
Magdalene Lampert

About the Authors




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"Teaching is like dry ice; it evaporates at room temperature unless gifted and courageous teachers like those writing in this volume take the initiative to go public. Bravo for this superb publication of the scholarship of teaching."

Lee Shulman
President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


"Using inspiring stories and innovative accompanying websites, this engaging book is certain to add to the ongoing conversation on education reform and the pivotal place of teachers in that conversation."

Sonia Nieto
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


"Finally, a much-needed and inspiring book that describes the context, culture, and complexities of good teaching. The authors have captured the essence of teaching as an intellectually rigorous, reflective, and humane act devoted to the achievement of all children."

Jacqueline Jordan Irvine
Candler Professor of Urban Education, Emory University



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