By Joey Feldman, Guest Contributor
Duncan-Andrade (2007) argues that there are 3 types of teachers in persistently failing urban schools: Gangstas, Wankstas, and Ridas. He focuses his discussion on a small group of teachers he calls Ridas, who are typically very successful with a variety of students. He notes that “Ridas are often uncommitted to the larger school structure because they perceive it as morally bankrupt and hesitate to take on any challenge that would mean time away from their direct service to students” (p. 623). He identifies 5 core practices that differentiate the Ridas from other, less effective teachers. They are critically conscious purpose, duty, preparation, Socratic sensibility, and trust.
In relation to critically conscious purpose, these teachers “said that they teach because they believe their students, specifically low-income children of color, are the group most likely to change the world” (Duncan-Andrade, 2007, p. 625). Therefore, these teachers worked hard to understand the histories of the communities surrounding the school and they worked to “develop teaching practices that responded to the needs of poor and working-class children of color” (p. 625). Instead of using education as a way to encourage students to escape their communities, these teachers encouraged students to return to their communities to become change agents. They believed in the idea of teaching for freedom and prepared their students to combat current and future injustice.
These teachers also felt a sense of duty, not only to their students but also to the larger community. They saw themselves as members of the community and would often participate in community events after school and on the weekends. The Ridas got to know the parents and families of their students and made deliberate efforts to know where their students lived. They invited parents, families, and community members into the classroom and always encouraged critical feedback from visitors. The students appreciated the fact that the teachers embraced the culture of the community and didn’t see it as deficient. Because of the above mentioned practices, the students of the Ridas often had positive outcomes on traditional measures of academic success as well as increased positive self-identity, purpose, & hope.
Duncan-Andrade, J. (2007). Gangstas, wankstas, and ridas: Defining, developing, and supporting effective teachers in urban schools. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20(6), 617-638.
Joey Feldman is an Urban Education PhD student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI