In primary and secondary school (K-12), I had one teacher who was not white. One. Out of how many? Probably well over 100, as once in middle and high school, I had as many as 8 teachers a year (1 for each course). Sadly, I highly doubt I ever really thought about this growing up because I am white. Thus, having only teachers that looked like me seemed normal and not something to cause second thoughts.
Although I only had one black teacher growing up, I had tons friends who were not white. And my schools were always pretty diverse in regards to the races/ethnicities of the students. By why was there little to no diversity in regards to the teachers? Is teaching not a popular profession for racial minority groups? Or is our society so messed up and prejudiced that it is harder for people of color to be hired as teachers? I don’t know the answer to this. But, kids tend to think about the careers they see people like them doing. So, if there are very few black, Hispanic, Asian, etc teachers, students who are black, Hispanic, Asian, etc may subconsciously think teaching is not a job option for them.
While pondering this, I came across an article published last month titled “Want students to succeed? Hire more teachers look like them, reports says.”
The article states that the percentage of students in K-12 is becoming more and more diverse, with 49% of public primary and secondary school students being from a racial minority. This stands in stark contrast to the mere 18% of public school teachers being from a racial minority. A school district in Georgia is specifically examined – the number of white students is decreasing, while the number of black, Hispanic, and Asian students rising. The number of non-white teachers has remained relatively stagnant in comparison.
This article states that having more diversity in the classroom is imperative to the success of ALL students. “It’s important for kids who are traditionally underserved to see people in positions of authority who look like them. You need to feel like you’re not relegated to the sidelines. You need to feel important” (Kate Walsh; http://www.macon.com/news/special-reports/disintegration/article179945276.html). The article also states that having a diverse group of teachers is imperative, even in schools that have a non-diverse student base. Teachers with diverse backgrounds and experience “can provide perspectives that children may not otherwise be exposed to” (http://www.macon.com/news/special-reports/disintegration/article179945276.html). While having teachers who are similar to the student base is also important, as it enables students to feel like their backgrounds are understood by someone in an authority position.
I, for one, agree strongly with the sentiments presented in this article. What are others’ thoughts and experiences about teacher diversity in K-12? In higher education? I am curious if my experience in school is as common as it appears?