Summary of The Dream-Keepers

Successful Teachers of African American Children

Chapter 1. A Dream Deferred

  • Do African American students need separate schools?
  • Though such a concept may seem to be a reversion to segregation, in fact, many of these students already attend segregated schools (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 4).
  • Some studies have revealed that African American students who attended private and independent schools designed specifically for them succeeded when they were not succeeding in their former schools, which were integrated (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p.6).

Chapter 2. Does Culture Matter?

  • The effective teachers in this study were like coaches, believing students were capable of excellence.
  • These teachers shared the responsibility of student achievement with parents, community members, and the students (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 27). They recognized the importance of community.
  • The parents wanted an education for their children that imparted excellence, but also one that did not separate the child from his or her home, community, etc.

Chapter 3. Seeing Color, Seeing Culture.

  • The author discusses how teachers see themselves, their students, and others.
  • Color-blindness, whereby a teacher might say that he or she does not see color, is identified as dysconscious racism (Ladson-Billiings, 2009, p. 35), which could also be described as equating equality with sameness (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 36). Dysconscious racism is a type of racism that accepts the majority culture's standards and norms--in this case the white culture.
  • The importance of the personal appearance of the teacher is stressed. One of the study's teachers, Pauline Drupree, tells students she dresses up everyday for the very important people at her job--her students.
  • Concern is raised about low self-esteem among teachers, possibly caused by low status of the profession in general society, low salaries, etc.
  • The teachers in this study all exhibited high self esteem and really wanted to be in their present schools, and in many cases, had turned down positions in more affluent schools.

Chapter 4. We Are Family.

  • Author discusses how these teachers structure social relationships in the classroom and how they extend those relationships outside of the classroom.
  • The typical classroom is an unusual social construct in that students sit next to each other, but are discouraged from having conversations. The teacher, usually, is the wise sage and is all-knowing; students are encouraged to outdo each other rather than cooperate (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 59).
  • Author discusses how things have changed, in that when she went to school, she also went to the same churches and shopped in the same stores as did her teachers; this is much rarer now, especially in lower socioeconomic area schools.
  • One of the teachers in the study, Elizabeth Harris, invited her students to attend her Sunday school where she taught and extended the sense of community to her students in that way (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 69).
  • These teachers expected students to take responsibility for each other and to teach each other (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 76).

Chapter 5. The Tree of Knowledge.

  • Much of the knowledge valued and tested in schools is memory based.
  • Social studies is discussed in this chapter, and the premise that one cannot discover that which already belongs to someone else is discussed. An example of this would be Christopher Columbus "discovering" the new world (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 101).
  • Teachers in this study viewed education and knowledge as vehicles for emancipation. These teachers consistently found ways to bring Black history and other viewpoints into class discussions.

Chapter 6. Culturally Relevant Teaching.

  • Many of the teachers in this study were activists--through the union, etc. One had sent her own children to a school run by the Black Panthers. These teachers were not necessarily the principals' favorite teachers, but were always identified by those principals as excellent teachers.
  • These teachers helped students know that they were knowledgeable and capable beings and could learn and figure things out (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 129),
  • They had an in-depth knowledge of their subject and their students.

Chapter 7. Making Dreams Into Reality.

  • Author cites research that indicates teachers do not believe African American students can be successful academically.
  • There appears to be a lack of studies about the possible ideological blinders prospective teachers may have (Ladson-Billings, 2009, p. 143).
  • Teachers should understand there is usually a reason when parents do not participate or do not send in supplies, such as poverty, working two jobs, etc.
  • Teachers who are specifically interested in teaching African American children should be recruited.
  • Teachers must understand the central role of culture in learning, rather than just do the food and festival approach.