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Teachers of Color Caught In The Windmill (On Real Equity)

Jose 4 Comments

 

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Last week, I delved a little deeper into this issue of teachers of color, hoping to sow some of the prevailing narratives up and construct something more cogent.

Yet, when it comes down to it, the lack of teachers of color is a symptom and not a cause of the education gaps we currently see.

Time and again, we get reports from former teachers of color about why they leave, and often, it’s the same symptoms for why teachers in general leave: lack of empowerment and autonomy, working conditions, and low pay. With teacher of color, education systems only exacerbate this problem because many teachers of color come back so they could give back to similar communities that they grew up in. Yet, they see some of the same deficiencies from their childhoods manifest in teachers’ lounges and observations about their colleagues. Because many teachers of color who come from similar neighborhoods they’re serving don’t have a family-established wealth to fall back on, they tend to leave at faster rates than the average teacher, too.

But there’s more. This research by Ivory Toldson done on this topic suggests that lack of teachers of color isn’t for lack of want, and that systemic elements of our education system will continue to put people of color at odds with their education system, regardless of whether it’s public, private, or hybrid (charter).

I’d take it one step further and say, why bring in more teachers of color into a system that continually ostracized the already disenfranchised? If teachers of color want to “give back” to the places they grow up in, then we have to consider why the neediest schools consistently get shut down, “turned around,” or transformed into a charter school, replete with uncertified teachers. If teachers of color want to go to schools where the children have similar experiences to them, then we have to wonder why we don’t make all teachers, regardless of race, culture, or gender, take cultural competency classes so teachers of color don’t have to teach both their students and their peers.

Because even the prospect of having more teachers of color threatens the status quo in a way that those who currently staff our schools aren’t prepared for. Too many folks think TOCs might take “seats” (see this comment by Renee Moore here). We aren’t. We can create more seats.

Because “education progressives” are perfectly OK with diversity as long as it doesn’t affect their specific school. Then, it’s a question about “dynamics.” Uh yeah. You should hope so.

Because some folks get mad at the new-found attention teachers of color have garnered, so someone quips, “Teachers of color are equally capable of being assholes.” If so, then why bring it up unless you’re nervous someone will take your seat?

Because we can’t address any of the shortcuts to equity without actually addressing the pillars of race, gender, and class across our education system. Without those honest conversations, I don’t see policies as anything more than a “We’re doing something for the sake of doing something” scheme.Because the symptomatic failures of our education system often doubly affect teachers of color: as the students they once were and the teacher they wish they could become. We can do better. Jose

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 4

  1. John T. Spencer

    Our neighborhood school was described as a “great school” until the neighborhood became more diverse. Suddenly, I heard words like “declining” and the code words of “the school has changed” and “the dynamics are different.” I noticed, too, how the gifted program that my son qualifies for is suddenly located in a different area of town, just two or three miles north of us. What’s odd is that so many of these people describe themselves as progressive. They talk about diversity and the need for it, but the moment they craft policy, it’s more white noise.

  2. Nicole Stevenson

    I am sick of this whole entire thing about failing schools, and the NCLB law that caused this worthless debate on education in America. I am tired of listening to Pres. Obama and Duncan talk about competing against a global society. And this is one of the problems. The U.S. can’t deal with foreign countries being better than her. Our government is willing to destroy a whole successful American education system to compete against foreigners. This is insane, leave our educational system alone and let teachers teach and not compete. Let American students enjoy learning and not compete but exchange knowledge. And now the new word for urban schools is equity. Dear Mr. President, I am confused. This is America were Indians live on reservations and the majority of blacks live in the inner city. This is America where neighborhoods are divided on racial lines. Where you made history because you were the first black President and you are struggling from the same thing that has caused the lack of equity in America. Equity as it is being applied only to urban schools is just another racist attack against any thing where blacks might have been prospering. No one cares about urban students because if some one did they would have helped the neighborhoods. Education is the last stronghold for blacks of all ages, male and female and now they are using the word equity to get rid of the Black teachers. Black teachers are no longer needed or wanted, do not apply. And if you are an older black teacher either retire so we won’t have to fire you and most definitely don’t apply.

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