Setting the Stage for Positivity
Much discussion has been given to the idea of reframing our views of and interactions with school-age children from culturally, linguistically, ethnically, and economically diverse (hereafter, CLEED) backgrounds. The discussion typically revolves around ending the deficit paradigm—which views students from these backgrounds in a negative context—and developing a new lens through which to view diversity. This new lens focuses not only on the strengths that a diverse student holds, but also on finding the positive aspects of those characteristics that people would typically view as negative. However, this paradigm shift—even much discussion of a need for it—has largely not transferred to teachers of these students. Some culturally-minded researchers (e.g. Weiner, 2006; García & Guerra, 2004) have started to put forth the idea that teachers need to be assessed according to their merits and strengths rather than their deficits; however, almost overwhelmingly—and ironically—as a field, multicultural education references the fact that teachers are deficient in their ability to successfully teach students from diverse backgrounds.
This paper sets out to show that, if teachers are to be properly prepared to work with students from CLEED backgrounds successfully and in a manner that respects the strength of their diversity, they must be afforded the same respect in their professional lives. That is, in order for teachers to develop their pedagogy in a manner that allows them to effectively teach students from CLEED backgrounds, they must be handled in a manner that respects who they are as people. I will demonstrate the need for the development of a societal educational culture that rejects deficit approaches towards teachers. Just as educators label students with deficit approaches, so too do administrators, legislators, parents, communities, and society at large label teachers.
Often, it seems, teachers are viewed as the gap between what legislation or policy demands of them and where their administrator—or, increasingly, student test scores—determines them to be. And, just as it is harmful to diverse students, the deficit paradigm is harmful to teachers of those students. An unfortunate side effect of this approach towards teacher development is that it trickles down to and impacts students. If we are to develop an educational environment that recognizes the promise in students, it must be modeled from all of these stakeholders to teachers.
Defining Deficit Thinking
Prior to making the case for a positive frame for teacher development, it is important to ensure a clear understanding of deficit thinking. Deficit thinking is an approach that views people according to what they are perceived to be lacking, rather than according to their abilities and strengths. It is an approach that looks for all the reasons a person will not be successful and, in doing so, rejects their potential. These reasons...