Why It Matters That Black Male Teachers Aren’t Alone in Schools

When I started my career as a middle school teacher through an alternative certification program, I was told to not expect to see another Black male teacher in the school I would serve in. When I arrived at Turner Middle School, much to my delight, not only were there a couple of Black men teaching, they were also members of the leadership team.

This is a foreign concept in too many of our schools. The lack of Black men leading classrooms, schools, and districts isn’t just detrimental to Black children, but to all children. White children growing up in schools and communities devoid of diversity can easily continue the trajectory of the white supremacist leanings that permeate too many schools.

When a Black teacher is the singular person of color in a school, it can represent some of the additional burden often referred to as “the invisible tax.”

William Anderson, a friend and member of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) and  a teacher leader in Denver Public Schools, articulates his experiences as a teacher that mirrors the experiences of so many Black male educators in Chalkbeat:

Being the only person of color at the school meant that I received a great deal of attention while still feeling alone — and under a great deal of pressure. I felt like I was always on stage, always “representing,” because I knew for many of the people that I worked with, including students, their interaction with me might be their only meaningful connection or communication to a black person. Even with people that I felt had true love for me, it was a lot to shoulder day in and day out.

Schools and districts should look for ways to cohort people of color who serve in their schools to relieve the burden and pressure. By working to create a more inclusive environment and being cognizant of the pressures that a lone educator of color can face in an all-white school environment.

Read William Anderson’s account of his experiences in Denver here.

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About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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