Professor explores race in the classroom
October 13, 2011
Dyan Watson believes the best teachers understand their students just as well as their subject matter.
An assistant professor of education at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, Watson is passionate about fully preparing teachers to enter the classroom: she trains them in the field of social studies as well as in the methods of the most effective educators.
“Pedagogy is about understanding how to teach that content in a way that reaches your students,” she said in a recent interview with The Skanner. “So if you are going to teach 10th graders, you have to understand 10th graders developmentally.”
Central to this mission of getting through to students, Watson argues, is an understanding of how race and culture influence the classroom.
“I believe any teacher who is willing to do the work of exploring race and how it affects teaching can reach all students,” she told The Skanner. “That means understanding how one’s own race interacts with other races. That means being willing to get to know the neighborhoods and the cultures from which the students come.”
In this video, Watson describes her research into how teachers encode race by using words like “urban” and how that evasiveness impacts discourse in the schools.
“It would serve us well as a nation to be more honest in our language,” she told The Skanner. “You can’t work on anything that’s hidden by code words.”
Watson credits Portland’s Jefferson High School with preparing her for future success, including earning her doctorate at Harvard. She join the Lewis & Clark faculty in 2010 and now serves as social studies coordinator for the secondary program in teacher education.