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er's nightmare-no common threads to pull theirpractice together in order to relate it to others. Thethought of their pedagogy as merely idiosyncratic, aproduct of their personalities and individual perspec-tives, left me both frustrated and dismayed. Howev-er, when I was able to go back over their interviewsand later when we met together as a group to discusstheir practice, I could see that in order to understandtheir practice it was necessary to go beyond the sur-face features of teaching "strategies" (Bartolome,1994). The philosophical and ideological underpin-nings of their practice, i.e. how they thought aboutthemselves as teachers and how they thought aboutothers (their students, the students' parents, and other162This content downloaded from 22.214.171.124 on Wed, 19 Jun 2019 13:36:30 UTCAll use subject to
Ladson-BillingsBut That's Just Good Teaching!community members), how they structured socialrelations within and outside of the classroom, andhow they conceived of knowledge, revealed theirsimilarities and points of congruence.9All of the teachers identified strongly with teach-ing. They were not ashamed or embarrassed abouttheir professions. Each had chosen to teach and, moreimportantly, had chosen to teach in this low-income,largely African American school district. The teach-ers saw themselves as a part of the community andteaching as a way to give back to the community.They encouraged their students to do the same. Theybelieved their work was artistry, not a technical taskthat could be accomplished in a recipe-like fashion.Fundamental to their beliefs about teaching was thatall of the students could and must succeed. Conse-quently, they saw their responsibility as working toguarantee the success of each student. The studentswho seemed furthest behind received plenty of indi-vidual attention and encouragement.The teachers kept the relations between them-selves and their students fluid and equitable. Theyencouraged the students to act as teachers, and they,themselves, often functioned as learners in the class-room. These fluid relationships extended beyond theclassroom and into the community. Thus, it was com-mon for the teachers to be seen attending communityfunctions (e.g., churches, students' sports events) andusing community services (e.g., beauty parlors,stores). The teachers attempted to create a bond withall of the students, rather than an idiosyncratic, indi-vidualistic connection that might foster an unhealthycompetitiveness. This bond was nurtured by theteachers' insistence on creating a community of learn-ers as a priority. They encouraged the students tolearn collaboratively, teach each other, and be re-sponsible for each other's learning.As teachers in the same district, the teachers inthis study were responsible for meeting the samestate and local curriculum guidelines.10 However, theway they met and challenged those guidelines helpedto define them as culturally relevant teachers. Forthese teachers, knowledge is continuously recreated,