Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Tricia Kress

Second Advisor

Jack Leonard

Third Advisor

Donna DeGennaro


This dissertation is an auto|ethnography , meaning it places the author's experiences at the center of analysis. The thesis argues that educators from the dominant culture can share the burden of change placed on students of color by critically reflecting on their positionality--or the way they socially construct their understanding of who they are in the world and therefore their relationship to educational structures and school actors. The analysis focuses on the author's transition from suburban to urban teaching and how this experience, combined with a broadening of theoretical perspectives, increased his criticality and, therefore, ability to re-conceptualize his experience with the hidden, social and emotional, and academic curricula. The author employs a variety of theoretical perspectives including critical constructivism, critical pedagogy, socio-cultural theory, critical race theory, and deculturalization to examine his understanding of himself and Others. Data sources include the author's personal archive of academic writing, a semi-structured interview with the author's former students, and the academic literature. Central to the thesis is the argument that educators from the dominant culture have a tendency to subscribe to the deficit model for student failure and therefore use the banking concept of education to deposit knowledge into students from subordinated cultures. This is perpetuated by hegemony and creates a dynamic where educators from the dominant culture place added burdens on students from subordinated cultures to change, which often sparks resistance and other unintended consequences. The data demonstrate that the overuse of positivist approaches to discipline and pedagogy in the researcher's former school sparked student resistance and invalidated the knowledge and various ways students from diverse backgrounds made sense of their world. Given the insights provided by the participants in this study, the research suggests that many of the perplexing problems in urban education can be better addressed if those in power radically listen to students in urban schools.