In this article, Neason explores the idea that growing teachers to reflect the diversity of students in our school may seem difficult, but the difficulty may lie more in sustaining and retaining them. In 2014, classrooms became more minority-majority (Krogstad and Fry, 2014) and yet, 82% classrooms had a white teacher at the blackboard.
When students have a teacher from similar racial or cultural origin, they feel a sense of belonging, believe they are better understood, enjoy an increase in self-worth and are more challenged. These same students are more likely to stay in school longer, pursue college education and benefit from the support of a cohesive parent-teacher relationship.
Many school districts have looked inward and are designing programs to grow their own teachers who reflect the diversity evident in their classrooms. They work to develop positive views of teaching as a profession, create high school para-professional programs for students to experience teaching before making career choices and offer practicum and student-teaching experiences in the same neighborhoods in which the students grew up in hopes of bringing them back to their own schools to teach. Who better to support and understand the students in those schools than someone who has grown up in the community and can identify with their cultural differences?
However, when they get into the teaching profession, they are still beleaguered by the negative impact of working at low-performing schools with high poverty rates, the lack of racially and culturally similar colleagues and mentors and the deaf ears on which their input in conversations about student needs related to diversity and inclusion fall. As a result, the turn over rate for these teachers is 24% higher compared to their white counter parts.
Nobody is willing to sacrifice standards when it comes to teaching our students. That includes hiring unqualified teachers. However, if we agree on the benefits students get from having culturally and racially similar teachers, we need to look at ways to truly hear and retain these teachers. Programs such as “Grow Your Own” recruitment and retention in Illinois, the Boston Teacher Residency, Teach for America and its national alumni association, Collective, relevant program development and diverse mentorship provide such opportunities.
Krogstad, E. M., & Fry, R. (2014, August 18). Dept. of Ed. projects public schools will be ‘majority-minority’ this fall. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/18/u-s-public-schools-expected-to-be-majority-minority-starting-this-fall/
Neason, A. (2014, December 17). Why Black Teachers Don’t Stay. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.slate.com/blogs/schooled/2014/12/17/teacher_diversity_accomplishing_it_is_not_just_about_recruitment_it_s_about.html