“Until we, as a nation, collectively acknowledge and address the unique challenges that teachers of color face every day, we cannot claim to be truly valuing them.”
There is a mismatch in our schools and without smart, deliberate actions, we won’t right the ship. Currently, almost 80% of teachers are white. They lead classrooms that are mostly students of color.
There are lots of things that states, districts, and schools can do to support the white teachers who teach students of color; good hiring practices and sustained professional development are just a couple of strategies.
But, there also needs to be far more support for the 20% of educators who identify as teachers of color. Only 2% are Black men.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education and current CEO of The Education Trust, Dr. John King, and Dr Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, wrote an op-ed for The Hechinger Report that provides concrete examples of how to support Black and Latino teachers. They rightfully challenge policy makers and administrators to go far beyond appreciating our teachers and demonstrate that we value them. By doing so, we are valuing our students – those of color, as well as, White students.
As a new teacher, I found the coaching, support, and leadership opportunities at John P. Turner Middle School, as integral to the success and sustainability of my career. It isn’t lost on me that my experience, unfortunately, is not as pervasive as it should be for teachers of color. That’s not only sad, but it is infuriating because it has a negative consequence on our students’ outcomes.
Unfortunately, in conversations among education administrators, policymakers, and others about the need for more teachers of color, there isn’t enough emphasis on the burdens that these teachers face and what it takes to support them.
Read the entire op-ed here.
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.