Education has never been something that has been valued in the United States as evidenced by our nation’s leaders continually cutting the education budget. They take away the capital needed for programming, initiatives, and resources that go towards the children, who for decades, have been poorly educated in our education system.
As teachers, the continuation of inequities and systemic issues in public education helps to continue the systemic issues we see with socioeconomics, poverty, homelessness, the criminal justice system, and mental health in our society. Teachers show up everyday to work to fight against this and simply teach the children.
Each year more than 200,000 teachers leave the profession according to the Learning Policy Institute.
State and local leadership failed teachers and students during the massive switch to virtual learning. The praise for teachers during the pandemic quickly turned to blame. 2020 has exposed a lot of inequities in education. However, instead of holding those able to make improvements accountable, we demanded more teachers. This forced some teachers back into the classroom for face to face learning while forcing others to leave the profession. Despite battling the pandemic during face to face learning, teachers also:
- Have no time to use the bathroom in face to face learning environments
- Are not properly supported with student behaviors
- Consumed by meetings of nothingness resulting in no planning time
- sked constantly to fund our their initiatives that help students achieve
- Trained to provide instruction that is always based on competition
- Forced to take on too many roles
- Bullied if they speak out against injustices
- Prevented from giving students failing grades to reflect their true progress and what’s needed to really help them
- Forced to push students to the next grade level who are unprepared
- Pressured to teach to the test
No one wants to come into a failing education system that refuses to change especially when Black and brown children and teachers are at the center of inequitable practices in public schools.
However, there are three actions I believe will strengthen the teacher pipeline.
- Demanding innovation be a driving force in teacher preparation programs.
- Diversifying state education departments and teacher prep program instructors.
- Giving teachers a voice at the decision making table.
Strengthening the teacher pipeline is a step in the right direction for equity. The current system isn’t helping drive the local innovation of schools and programs and teachers and parents are demanding. How do I know this? Look at this year in education. Teachers across the nation could not effectively teach during virtual learning because of the digital divide. This divide was driven by lack of access and literacy.
State education departments and school boards are still heavily run by conservative, older white men. They are using the same processes, procedures, and policies of their grandparents. Which at that time, didn’t believe in integrated schools, teachers of color in public schools, and that teaching was just a dignified babysitter for children while the “men” work. White men outnumber other male educators and are third behind Black women in the field according to the Center of Black Educators Development.
Let’s face the facts. White men have never valued education in America.
According to the Science Direct, conservative views push for females to lead the instruction of education and white men to drive administration and business. The problem with this is representation and diverse ideologies. We don’t have a lot of Muslim teachers in classroom for a reason. Just like we don’t have many male educators of color. We can’t retain Asian and Latinx educators in public school districts. Gwinnett County, Georgia is the most diverse county in the state.
I believe it’s a perfect reflection of southern states. This district has more white men and white teachers in a diverse county that doesn’t have representation for all students and families they serve. If educational leaders and teachers don’t believe your race, religion, or sexual orientation identity shouldn’t have basic human rights, wouldn’t this show up in how we train, educate and lead you?
Representation and identity are important.
The Executive Director of Profound Gentlemen recently shared his experience with the lack of Black identity in public schools. We cannot ignore the facts that the teacher pipeline needs to change, but changing this includes our votes in local elections. It requires us to diversify school boards. It leads us to demanding equity audits of teacher prep programs and the agencies that implement the practices used to train teachers. It calls us to look at the pipeline for teachers to matriculate through the education system. Retired teachers and school leaders who have records of student achievement and unbiased teaching practices should be elevated to lead state teacher programs.
State university systems must change too!
Currently, I have old, white professors leading our teacher prep classes in my Masters of Special Education program. They are learning and oftentimes shocked by the experiences I share from my 16 years in education. It’s because they can’t truly identify with teachers, students, and families who have not been provided equitable educational services because our teacher pipeline doesn’t truly prepare teachers to support, educate, and empower students who look like me.
Jason B. Allen is a Special Education Teacher in Clayton County, Georgia. He is a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE) and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow. Jason’s blog was originally posted on his EdLANTA blog page.