On The Reason Why You May Only Get One Black Male Teacher Ever In Your Life (If At All)

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose, Race38 Comments

KRS-One, The Teacher

KRS-One, The Teacher

Here’s a real and researched statistic for you. Before college, I only had 1 Black male teacher. I also believe I had 1-2 male Latino (sorry for redundancy, it’s necessary) teachers in my lifetime before college as well. His name was Mr. Wingate and he taught me Computer Applications. In 12th grade. Nothing profound, but at my predominantly Catholic-Irish-Italian high school, he certainly caught hell for his bowties and manner of speaking (Spoke too properly, frowned upon by those who considers themselves the arbiters of proper speak, I guess). If I do the math correctly, that means out of the possible 40-60 teachers I’ve had in my lifetime, only 2-3 of them were men of Black / Latino descent. For someone who was born and raised in NYC, that’s staggering. That’s a 3% chance for someone like me to go without seeing someone representing us in the field of education.

Maybe some of you are wondering why that’s so important. Many teachers of all races, backgrounds, sexes, and ages have come in the classroom and proven effective facilitators of learning for urban youth, and to a certain extent, that’s true. And if the children is learning (I know what I wrote), then I admit there’s much to be gained there. I love that so many people are concerned about the plight of urban youth that they’re this open to talking about it and making a difference in a field that really needs teachers regardless of background. Plus, I get that there needs to be a diversity of experiences for everyone, as they have to survive in the same world that everyone else does. A small part of me also thinks who better to teach urban youth the tools needed to survive in a predominantly White country than … White people.

But I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t disturbed by the lack of representation of Black / Latino males as teachers. For some, it’s simply that, while they may not be teachers, they’re still in the education field as principals, school aides and staff, third-party vendors, education lawyers, and professors in institutions of higher education. Those that do leave on that cause should still be counted within the ranks (for the most part) because, just as there’s a need for educators in that classroom, there’s also a need for people to make changes happen in school structures. While too many males use the “advancement” in position as a means of staying in education but not dealing with what happens in the classroom anymore, there are also those who’ve inspired us by staying in the classroom.

There go a few.

Then there are those who view teaching as a second-class profession. That speaks volumes about the society that we live in, where too many teachers are spoken of favorably, but when asked if they’d ever be teachers, they respond, “I don’t have the patience for this,” and “You guys don’t get paid enough.” In this capitalist society, money means stature, whether we value the person who holds the position or not. It’s not just coming from this generation either. My mom, whom I love dearly, on occasion wonder aloud why, with all the stress and duress I endure as a teacher, I would put up with this mess when I could make 150% more as a computer programmer.

There go a few more.

Then there are those of us who left the profession because it’s really easy to get jaded about the school system AND the human experience. For how can we continue to put up this farce that students in our schools have equity to those living in more affluent neighborhoods? I don’t know any fellow Black / Latino male (or female) teacher who thinks that every student in their school is getting properly serviced by this school system. We have there a divergent road where one side says, “Man this system is hopeless” and the other that says, “We’ll continue to fight.” While people say that our needs are too great, we only need to peak in other schools and see just how nurturing and inspiring some of these places are. When we see that, even if they’ve had us as a teacher, they can fall through these really big gaps in the path towards true education, and they fall in the stream of the stereotype, the prison, the drop-out, the cast-away.

Thus, when our students see more Black / Latino sports figures populating a multi-million dollar court or field and yet only see one Black / Latino teacher in their whole grade, or 2-3 in their whole school, then they’re probably less inspired to take teaching seriously. It’s why for a good generation or two, rappers kept talking about teaching, because they didn’t feel educated in the classroom. That’s why when we see those men in wild robes on the corner speaking, they’re usually followed by a crowd of men who also believe in that message, even when it may seem far too radical for our tastes.

And it’s also why, as a Black Latino, I see the value of being a teacher. While I can’t always pinpoint what makes me any different from other teachers of different backgrounds, here’s some things I’ve learned:

  • The Black / Latino males respond more readily to me than they do to most of their other teachers.
  • The girls in my class are more willing to share their experiences with me and look to me to show them how a male should treat a woman
  • The people in my class may act like they hate me temporarily after I’ve scolded them about something, but they know I have their best interest at heart
  • They also ask me about what it was like when I was growing up, because they know my experiences mirror theirs.
  • Some of them have considered becoming teachers because of me.

It’s not that gravitate to my color, either, but there’s a part of them that sees an authority figure who looks like them, understands what they’re going through, challenges them, and models for them how to act. Even those who graduated from my school have a hard time using the n-word around me because they know how I feel about it. Soon, because I said it, they’ll also see the value of not looking at themselves in the mirror as something inferior, and that they too can pass it along to people who need it the most. My 3 uncles from my father’s side are all teachers, coincidentally, and I hadn’t known that until I really saw teaching as a possibility.

People with only a 3% chance of ever seeing a teacher like me. And if the teacher isn’t even that good, well, another one bites the dust …

Jose, who wants to keep believing …

p.s. – Yes, that’s another KRS-One reference. I’ma do it again.

Comments 38

  1. So, what do you, Jose, propose as one change for attracting and keeping men of color in the classroom, and in the urban classroom in particular? Perhaps we need to hear more from brothers like you, based on your experiences as a teacher and as a former student, on the issue. Perhaps an opportunity for a series, and some guest blogging?

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    Great minds think alike, Ms. Webb, as per your latter suggestions.

    I think the key, essentially, is truly societal, and making a societal shift in how teachers are perceived. This is true of the teaching community as a whole, but is particularly endemic in the communities that most need it.

    1. From my perspective as a Black male educator trying to “break into” the NYC school system, it is becoming increasingly frustrating to do so. I am already well educated, having earned a BA in Japanese and East Asian Studies from Ohio State University, and an MA in International Affairs from The New School in New York. I have 2 1/2 years of teaching experience both domestically, and overseas. I am an NYC Teaching Fellow from Cohort 27 (2016). I have went on roughly 12 interviews and counting within the span of about 1 month.

      About 95% of these interviews are at schools in the Bronx. My certification is ENL/ESL/TESOL K-12. I have noticed a trend that while everyone claims that most of the high needs schools are situated in the Bronx, that these schools are NOT at all serious about hiring someone like myself. And I don’t want to start feeling like it has to do with the fact that most of these schools have administrators that are predominantly of White/European descent, but it just starts to make me wonder if these schools really are in need of teachers, or what their real agenda really is to begin with. Recently, I went to an interview at a school that I researched and found out the principal had a very horrible reputation, especially when it comes to retaining teachers. (The teachers either don’t stay longer than 1 year, or she reportedly fires them). I wasn’t too keen on even interviewing with the school, but I went anyway.

      At the interview,I spoke with the very principal who had all these poor reviews, and she seemed like a decent person who was genuinely interested in helping her student population (mostly Hispanics/Blacks) get good educations. I had a generally good impression of the principal and the school after the interview, and the principal was very adamant about the fact that she was looking to make a hiring decision that very same day. Well, I get a voice message later that day saying they are trying to contact HR about something related to making a hiring decision. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but after thinking about it, I figured it just had something to do with procedures and perhaps even trying to figure out how much they would have to pay someone like me based off of my prior experience/education.

      Well, this back and forth went on for 3 days, with the school claiming they had yet to have someone from HR get back with them. They left a second voice mail stating that they would get back with me the next day. I sent a reply email to the school’s assistant who was handling the matter to let them know that I would be awaiting their call back tomorrow. Within 10 minutes of emailing the assistant to confirm that I would get a call from them the next day, the principal replied back stating that they would not be able to offer me a teaching position with their school. So, not really having any definite clue as to why this might have happened, I sent a reply back to the school asking if they could please clarify/share with me what influenced their decision not to extend the job offer to me. Never got a response back, and I doubt that I will. Perhaps it’s a sign that I don’t belong at the school after all. I’ve always been the type of person to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt, just like I would expect others to give me if there is a misunderstanding, but I’m starting to feel like I’m wasting my time as a Black male educator trying to find a position in these “so-called” high needs schools. I’m interested to hear other people’s perspective about my story and any advice you could give regarding this phenomenon.

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        That’s a lot deeper than I can do in a space like this, but suffice it to say, I’m not surprised in the least. Some “high needs” schools have leadership that, frankly, *wants* less diversity because diversity usually means retention. On the other hand, programs like NYC Men Teach have been critical to elevating the narrative of male teachers of color. I would do a reach out and see where their next job fair is, or at least ask if they could post the schools that were in attendance so you can reach back out to them. In the interim, keep your head up. The folks doing the work are dependent on you.

  3. I was most struck by this in your post: “They also ask me about what it was like when I was growing up, because they know my experiences mirror theirs.”

    What a gift that you can give your students.

    It saddens me that so many young kids are missing out on the experience of having Black/Latino Male teachers. What can we do to make it so we don’t have to wait for that societal shift? How many kids will miss out until that happens?

    Marcy, I love your suggestion about blogging. What a blessing that with online conversations we can make a wider difference than just in our classrooms.

    Your post really made me think and I’m looking forward to more!

  4. I am an educator and will always be a teacher.

    I first looked into the eyes of a Black male educator at Howard University. Not one single Black male teacher crossed my path until I pursued my undergraduate degree. Growing up in Los Angeles California, I only had one Latino teacher. Mr. Gomez was my French/Spanish teacher in high school. True, but thinking about it now, it puzzles me. LA? How did that happen? Perhaps that’s why I was one who “viewed teaching as a second-class profession.” I had no role models like Mr. Vilson or Mr. Champion.

    After one year of a lucrative, yet spiritually unfulfilling, career in sales and marketing, the noble profession called me. I answered, thinking it would be an “easy” way to feed my need to give back to my community. WRONG! I did not respect teachers until I became one. Sad, but true. This is the most difficult, stressful, heart-wrenching, amazingly fulfilling, and satisfying profession that exists in our community (biased maybe).

    I am currently an administrator in Atlanta. In my district, we have many Black male teachers, but few Latinos. Of those males, very few teach on the elementary school level (I taught 1st and 2nd grade before leaving the classroom). Majority of our students are Black. Many of them need strong male role models in the primary grades, but sadly, they don’t see many.

    WE are not respected in society. Teachers, period. I do not cry out for respect. I accept this reality, because I thought this very same way. The few of us that exist (Blacks/Latinos in education) must continue to give our all. Our students respect us. This is most important. The difference we make in their lives is why we TEACH, despite society’s opinion.

    Keep dropping gems of knowledge. I respect and admire you.

  5. I’m white and female, that typical bastion of traditional American culture that dominates the educational field. I find it hard to remain in classroom-level education because of all the challenges: the low pay, the disregard, the commonly-held view of the teaching vocation as a second-class profession…but then add to that the racial and cultural divide that I often must surmount with students of color or various nationalities — this cultural/racial obstacle is one that becomes extraordinarily challenging on top of these other struggles.

    I find that I have to work especially hard to form a relationship with students who are not “like me.” Many (not all) see me as a symbol of “the other side” and dismiss me before I even have a chance to speak. I suppose this is similar — although in a watered-down, opposite way — to the prejudice that you face and that other races have faced for generations in “white” America.

    Students need to see us working together in order to trust that both of us are serving in their behalf. There needs to be more of you — not just in numbers, but in high quality — not just to reach the students as “mirrors” and role models (important objectives!), but also to fortify the ranks of all educators by creating a racial and ethnic balance. That way, perhaps white teachers like me who are the traditional stereotype can be viewed less as the enemy and more as individuals. Currently, the numbers are so out of balance that to many non-white students, school seems like a foreign land, populated with an army of whites who are out of touch with their worlds. These students enter schools as foreign visitors, and as we all know, visitors are always on their guard. That tension does not leave much room for learning.

    Thanks for an insightful, provocative post.

  6. i’ve had one black teacher in my life before college. he left a mark not because he was black, but because he demanded such a high quality of work from his students. and was willing to bust your balls in front of everyone if you stepped out of line. God bless mr. ric henly.

    that said, with the most popular image of blacks AND latinos are often those in the entertainment/sports fields, it takes away from other powerful positions the younger generation can take on, from doctors to lawyers to teachers. there needs to be a ginormous cultural shift on who we as a community views as our heroes and role models. that was actually a very lively conversation in one of my all-time favorite classes in college.

    the lack of disrespect may come from a lack of knowledge of what teachers actually do. people just see that you’re done by 3p and have 3 months off for summer but they don’t see all the hours of unpaid time you put in preparing for classes, staying after to help kids with work or to supervise a student group. they don’t see the time you spend in meetings, meeting with parents [or at least attempting to], meeting with students. and to be honest, the only reason why i know of all that is because i’m friends with a lot of teachers.

    but with you on the front lines everyday, maybe you can help grab the attention of another student to begin thinking of teaching as a career.

  7. Jose, you are such a good writer! Have you thought about putting this one into a TM essay too? Your blog really made me think, and count, how many Black and Latino teachers I had growing up. I don’t think I had or remember one single male Latino teacher, but I did have Mr. Green in Elementary, and get this, in the 70’s (I am not that old) I had an African American principal in elementary school too, and several female teachers of color at my elementary school, which was rare. I teach in urban Los Angeles, where the student population is African American and Latino. There were 3 male teachers at my school (1-white, 2-Latino) last year. Our students do need to see people that look like them in classrooms, but I believe it is also important that they see teachers that model respect diversity and promote the field of education. As a Chinese immigrant, I never had an Asian teacher until high school, yet I wanted to be a teacher because I had educators that inspired me to learn and taught with passion and respect for what they were doing.

  8. Great essay, Jose. I have very little to add that the other commenters haven’t already, but it’s a very nuanced exploration of the challenges faced by those who would seek to have a diverse and excellent teaching force.

  9. So now I’m sitting here trying to think of all the teachers I’ve had before college and I really can’t come up with one that was Latino or Black. I only came up with two Latino Teachers I had both in High School. One taught High School Math and the other Spanish.

    I remember when we (my daughter and I) first moved to Far Rockaway. Upon entering her new school I was soooo disheartened. As I scanned the building, the staff, and children it was very disturbing. I couldn’t locate any Latino or Black teachers. I was hoping that there would of been a big difference from the time I entered the first grade to the time she was entering first grade….but alas….it appears somethings don’t change that much. She is now in third grade and I’ve only seen one black educator who saw her only for reading purposes…..so even then she doesn’t get to spend time with that teacher everyday. It’s like Black and Latino educators are a rare commodity. I am a very big supporter of diversity, I even prefer it vs being surrounded entirely by your own kind…….but diversity should also have “you” in the mix too…..and that unfortunately is not happening…..while the Latino and Black population proliferate, the number of educators in our school system remain the same.

    Jose is an excellent post! You’ve made wonderful points here….and I’m happy to say……..my sister is a teacher…….but she too is but a few in your pool as well.

  10. Being an educator of color does make a big difference : The students see me, a Manhattan born, Bronx reared and raised African-American female and know that anything and everything is possible; they see that people of color, contrary to popular belief, can be more than just athletes and entertainers. They see that people of color can be smart, intelligent, well-accomplished achievers in a variety of fields of endeavor. Note that this is one of the many reasons why President Barack Obama is so important, and this is also why it is so critically important that there be an increase in the numbers of people of color, especially male, who enter the teaching profession . In fact. I believe that it could be successfully argued that one of the reasons why the school to prison pipeline is so strong among Black and Latino males is due precisely to the low number of Black and Latino males in the field of education.

    P.S. If you are an educator who is not a person of color who teachers primarily Black and Latino students, you should have no worries because, at the end of the day, our children so desperately need good, quality educators of all backgrounds. They need educators who care about them , their lives, their successes and their failures. THEY NEED ALL OF US.

  11. Being an educator of color does make a big difference : The students see me, a Manhattan born, Bronx reared and raised African-American female and know that anything and everything is possible; they see that people of color, contrary to popular belief, can be more than just athletes and entertainers. They see that people of color can be smart, intelligent, well-accomplished achievers in a variety of fields of endeavor. Note that this is one of the many reasons why President Barack Obama is so important, and this is also why it is so critically important that there be an increase in the numbers of people of color, especially male, who enter the teaching profession . In fact. I believe that it could be successfully argued that one of the reasons why the school to prison pipeline is so strong among Black and Latino males is due precisely to the low number of Black and Latino males in the field of education.

    P.S. If you are an educator who is not a person of color who teaches primarily Black and Latino students, you should have no worries because, at the end of the day, our children so desperately need good, quality educators of all backgrounds. They need educators who care about them , their lives, their successes and their failures. THEY NEED ALL OF US.

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    I hope to have something about this soon, but here are a couple of things I wanted to say as an overarching response:

    1. I’m glad so many of you are open to this idea. I understand that this isn’t just a Black male issue but an overall society issue, whereas critical mass as a lot to do with how many teachers there are in general, and the amount of teachers we have is actually getting worse as the economy gets worse. However, as many of you mentioned, the idea of having males of color represent in the classroom may eventually make a cultural shift where this is a non-issue. We hope.

    2. The issue of passion is also critical to this. Jane brought it up where she said, while she never saw an Asian face as a teacher, the teachers she did have were passionate, and sometimes that’s enough. I’m still ambivalent there, too, because I’ve seen too many cases where, even if they met the background criteria, they didn’t share the passion criteria, and thus faltered in the process. Again, it’s a deep complex issue.

    Thanks all for your comments.

  13. An important topic, Jose. From my perch here in Miss., I like to look at it from a historical perspective. I highly recommend the book, A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South by Adam Fairclough. It connects the current “shortage” of Black male teachers to its roots (this is not a new problem). It’s also a problem with multiple sources such as the disproportionate number of Black males who end up in prison rather than college, or the move to require more standardized tests for teacher certification which in turn limits the pool of Black candidates since Blacks consistently score lower on those types of tests at all levels. Because of its long and complex history, multiple, thoughtful, and purposeful solutions will be required to change. One hope I have is that as education moves away from being brick-and-mortar, factory/plantation model bound, more Black males can be brought into an more active teaching role through new uses of media. Meanwhile, we have to continue to challenge the hypocrisy of a system so clearly stacked against those it claims it most wants to help.

  14. While I agree with the philosophical perspective of your article, I must say that education is not a favorable career and becomes less favorable on a daily basis. As you mention there is a societal disregard to the profession. In addition there is a systematic disregard within the profession from administrators towards teachers. And sadly there is also disregard from many students towards teachers. This has resulted in many teachers becoming disappointed with their career choice. Why would I want anyone to be in this unsupported situation? I would never support my children if they were to decide to go into the teaching profession. The reality is that teacher burn-out is at an all time high and teacher respect is at an all time low. As a Hispanic, I say let my children become lawyers, doctors, or accountants but not teachers. When there is more respect for the profession then perhaps I would support recruiting more Hispanics and Blacks. But at this time I think we need to focus on careers that are more promising and uplifting for minorities who already are facing obstacles.

  15. This is a thought-provoking blog post. I simply don’t remember a Black or Latino male teacher before I got into college. I’ll need to let this post marinate with me for awhile…

    peace, Villager

  16. A) There’s a lack of male teachers to begin with. A lack of good role-model type male teachers.
    B) In our school at least 30%, maybe more, of the student population is Mohawk. Not one Mohawk teacher. The same goes for the elementary schools in the area that have similar demographics.
    C) Passion is needed but I don’t think it is enough to have passionate white teachers teaching everyone. I personally feel I’m missing out on something by not having a more diverse set of colleagues. Of the 60 or so teachers at our school the majority are white women, next comes white men, then we have 3 black teachers (2 men, 1 woman, 2 of whom are Haitian, none of our students are). How can we be a community school if our teachers don’t reflect it?

  17. @Wishing to be a former teacher: I get where you’re coming from, but your comment begs a few questions:

    How will teachers, especially teachers of color, ever get any respect if we are telling children that the job is not “promising and uplifting”? Teachers will begin to get more respect only when we actually start respecting them.

    Don’t you think that seeing positive role models of color, in positions of authority (that is, of course, assuming that you *respect* teachers as role models and authority figures) can only help to inspire those kids that feel the calling to be doctors, lawyers, or accountants to *stay in school* so that they may actually become doctors, lawyers, and accountants? The path to those careers starts in the classroom.

  18. Well done, Jose. I applaud this article and your conviction to share it. I wish it could be shouted from the highest rooftops in education. I am a rare breed, a teacher activist who has decided to devote my remaining days to expose and hopefully resolve the plight of the American classroom teacher. Recently I was afforded the opportunity to be a freelance writer for TheApple.com because of a book I wrote called The Poisoned Apple where I tackle how the poor treatment of teachers is enabling a sharp decline in the quality of education in this country.

    As an African American educator, I have the double pleasure of witnessing how race still plays a factor in how I am treated as a professional. I am not sure if you can relate to this but sadly I feel attacked at times by both sides of the fence. People in our community who should have my back and push their children and me to excellence are often my greatest stumbling block. Those from other cultures seem very blind and dismissive to the inequity that still exist in public education and can find my pointing it out quite offensive to them.

    I feel in a “Catch 22” many days however, when I come across colleagues like you I am inspired to press on. I want all of my children regardless of race to be their best and I love them all. In addition I want the males in culture to know that they are worthy to teach and I for one desire to sit at their feet one day to learn.

    Best wishes,
    Madison Paine

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  21. Jose,

    Gracias for this post. I really had to step back and go through my personal history. I had one black male teacher, 5th grade Mr. Newsome whom I loved and respected because he really pushed. Up until a few years ago I would see him on the subway and we would chat. I remember that him being te only male teacher of color, the only teacher of color period in a really diverse small Catholic school often found him bearing the brunt of racism and emasculating language used against him. Why would a man be a teacher? Why would a man of color be a teacher? Was he gay? Were some if the questions that surrounded his existence.

    I never had a woman of color teacher until college. Which still confounds me but not really considering that the schools I went to were “elite” where there were few young people of color and reflecting our lives wasn’t a priority.


  22. I am a non-white (aka Asian), and I NEVER had an Asian teacher or professor in WHITE AmeriKKKa. I often noticed that white teachers and professors related better to and preferred white students. I also noticed that school administrations favored white personnel, teachers, students, and families. So whoever said that this was post-racial America (as they celebrate the illegal occupation of Hawaii and the Thanksgiving Day of Native American genocide) is living in the united states of DELUSION.

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    Both of you, thanks for your reflections. I’d like to address BeenThere really quickly. In a word: yes. HAHA! Honestly, while I think America does have a level of equity many countries don’t, I also see we have a long ways to go before saying we’re this kumbaya sort of nation some people believe we’re in.

    Mala, that’s what we need to provide. We need to be those leaders and the like. That is, if we can ever get ourselves to rise up and do it for self.

  24. Not sure what life is like in NYC, but here in Houston at my urban school we have a number of both Black and Latino male teachers. It was not always that way. I’ve taught at this school for 15 years and in that time we’ve added diversity of ethnicity and gender. We have quite a few males of nearly every ethnic group on staff.

    Our student body is mainly Hispanic, with Black and Whites in smaller numbers. I think it benefits all of our students to have both male and female teachers of all ethnic groups.

    I was talking to a fellow teacher about this very thing not long ago. He was surprised when I told him that I only wished our student body was a little more diverse too. Even though Houston is a diverse city, many of the schools are in mono-cultured neighborhoods or suburbs. I grew up in schools dominated by the nearby Army base or ones run by the Dept. of Defense. I remember that even in the ’70s and ’80s there were faces of color in those schools. Not many, but more than you might have seen were it not for the influence of a multi-ethnic military.

    I guess I lived a sheltered life, going from army base to army base. I thought all of the world was as integrated as the military. But when I went to a small college in Texas, I found out that was not so.

    I think that large urban schools may have an easier time recruiting ethnic teachers, but I think lilly-white schools in the suburbs and rural America can do better too. The more we all are able to experience people who are different from ourselves, the better. We all can benefit from diverse staffing in our schools, especially young urban males of all ethnic groups. They need positive role models, especially educated males.

    I will be adding your blog to my RSS reader. I can’t wait to read more. Keep the faith, keep teaching.

  25. I think that having more Black and Latino teachers is incredibly important in inner city schools (at least here in LA). As someone who is not Latino (asian and white) I still find that kids respect me because my experience mirrors theirs. I had a class in Watts that instantly warmed up to me when I told them that I grew up in the projects outside of Baltimore, because they knew that I was familiar with their experience. Having teachers who made it out of the hood, regardless of race, is incredibly important.

  26. I have read several other posts and news stories that cover this topic, and have to say that everything is based on statistics. I don’t believe that the simple answer is that the government is racist, but more that a higher density of select races are prevalent in schooling zones that are under scrutiny for performance-related issues – often not their own fault by are due to decreased budgets etc.

  27. I agree with Joel. I think it is so important for teachers to be able to make a connection to their students, I’m Anglo and I teach in a school that is 85% Hispanic. But I have learned enough Spanish to impress the students, not much, but enough. I can even discuss grades or discipline with a parent in my broken Spanish, and that often gets them to try their broken English – we can meet on common ground. I also came up from a lower economic working class background, like many of my kids. My great grandparents are immigrants who spoke no English when they arrived. I know their immigrant struggle. I share a Catholic faith with many of my students – we don’t discuss it in class, but I let them know that I am what I am. All of these small things help me make connections with my students. Each one is not much, but together it is a web of bonds that help many to see me as a fellow traveller and worthy of their attention. That is half the battle right there, getting any group of students to see you as worthy of their time and attention. So, I think all teachers need to find those connections to their students, or learn how to make some. But I do agree that they need to see people like themselves among their teachers. Not every teacher, but some need to look like they do – especially male teachers. When did intelligence become separated from success for kids?

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    NYC Private Schools, I also believe that this country (amongst others) has a legacy of ensuring certain people get certain neighborhoods by adjusting pricing, conditions, and the like. It’s not a simple answer, but there’s a strong likelihood there.

    Robert, it became separate when people who really believe that only tests matter, thus avoiding discussions about race, culture, and responsibility.

  29. If one pebble can have a ripple effect, your example is one gigantic rock. I’m moved by your awareness of how much your example matters and how deeply it can change lives. Thank you for hanging in there. Your success at reaching this population matters to everyone in America!

  30. How did I miss this one? My confession: I read your blog for cathartic reasons. You say what so few do, in such a powerful way. I can now get up and go back into our crumbling Oakland schools and do what I need to do so that perhaps one day in district we’ll see more teachers who look like you, and me too. Thank you, Jose.

  31. Urban and suburban public schools need Black and Latino teachers. Urban students need Black and Latino teachers as a positive role model. Unfortunately, to many of these students (male and female) fathers are absent from the home due to incarceration or neglect. Suburban public schools need Black and Hispanic teachers to dispel the belief that these groups of men are all criminals or hanging on the corners and to show they are intelligent men who have something positive to contribute to society. It is sad that states like New Jersey has raised the college grade point average and teachers test scores as an attempt to keep Blacks and Hispanics from the teaching field.

  32. As a white high school kid in the 60s I had two black teachers: a woman named Ruby Long who taught our forensics (public speaking) program and a man named Bill Smith. I adored them both, but retain special feelings for Mr. Smith. He taught chemistry. I was terrible in chemistry. But Mr. Smith stuck with me, gave me extra time, helped me figure the essentials out, and by the end of the semester I had myself a hard-earned C. I never became a chemist, but among great teachers I had in high school Mr. Smith was primer inter pares in showing what a dedicated teacher can do with an indifferent student.

  33. I became a teacher because KRS-1 always referred to himself as “The Teacher.” I watched the Huxtables and ‘A Different World’ (which followed the plight of african american students at a black college).

    The role of media and the portrayal of blacks plays a bigger role than we want to believe.

    Thanks for the write up. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m right there alongside you.

  34. Pingback: Be About The Kids - Mrs. Russell's Room

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