Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Education Evaluation and Research

First Advisor

Karen L. Tonso


This qualitative study examined the kinds of troublesome teacher-student interactions that principals in a large Midwestern metro community manage. Personal interview data from nine suburban middle school principals as well as a group interview with four of the nine participants followed an interpretivist paradigm. This study found that the tense teacher-student interactions are triggered by conflicting perceptions held by students and teachers as a result of racial/cultural differences and socioeconomic status. Conflicting perceptions included stereotypes, cultural insensitivity, student motivation, student survival, loud Black kids, and tardiness. The bulk of the teacher-student interactions described by participants primarily concerned interactions between the predominantly White suburban teaching staff and African American students from urban core areas. Considering the vantage points of students and teachers via the perceptions of self, race, culture, and socioeconomics helped frame the principals’ understanding of the teacher-student interactions and provided opportunities to examine and discuss their leadership practices as well as advice to aspiring principals and district administrators. This study concludes with recommendations to improve school settings that are diversifying.