As a part of my series on educator diversity, I’m having conversations with educators of color that have expressed an interest in speaking with me about their experiences. The goal of these conversations is to provide voices to the plight of educators of color, and to show how we can not only get more young people of color into classrooms and into education in general, but that investments also need to be made on the back end to ensure we keep really good educators in the work.
For this interview, I have the opportunity to speak with Simone Muschett, Founder of Resilient Young Minds, Inc, social worker, educator, and author. Simone holds a dual certification in General and Special Education and continues to mentor her students, old and new. As a result of Simone’s continued effort to develop the whole child she received her Masters in Social Work from LIU Brooklyn and aspires to build her own residential alternative school in the near future.
Malcolm (MD): Simone!! I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to connect with you, and it’s always a pleasure to learn more from you and your perspective on things, especially in regards to education. Thank you so much for your willingness to speak with me about educator diversity.
Simone (SM): Of course! This is work that I’m passionate about and as you know I wrote my book on how tough your first year of teaching is, so this is right up my alley.
MD: Cool, so let’s jump right into it. As with everyone I speak with, I’m curious why young people of color aren’t becoming educators at a higher rate. You said certification, can you elaborate on that?
SM: The certification process is real, when I was doing RELAY in New York City I had to take the tests a year earlier than I was supposed to so I could be certified the old way. I’m grateful for that because the EDTPA process is a deterrent for a lot of new teachers.
MD: Yeah, I’ve heard about what a challenge the EDTPA is. You’d think we’d be trying to figure out how to make the certification process less taxing, not more.
SM: New teachers struggle with the pressure of data and organizing themselves and being in school versus teaching. It’s a lot of pressure on a person fresh out of school or changing careers. You have to learn these theories and names, apply whatever strategies in your classroom on your own, and you have to be able to teach well enough that your students master the material, while demonstrating their growth and knowledge.
MD: That is A LOT to ask of someone brand new to the field of teaching. There are third and fourth year teachers that still can’t do many of those tasks consistently.
SM: Exactly. The certification process is tedious and it asks new teachers to prove things in their first year that are so difficult to prove. You then go on to find out that most teachers don’t find their stride until year five or six. So to help new teachers out, I started a new teacher support group based off of my book. I originally started it because new teachers would read it and reach out to me because of their experiences as new teachers.
MD: I love that teachers had enough foresight to reach out to you in order to ensure they had a better experience as a new educator. And more power to you for your continued willingness to help others. So let’s transition a bit, what do you think is preventing educators of color from staying in education?
SM: Sometimes the field of education makes you choose your personhood/happiness versus quotas and protocols. Work/life balance definitely leads to unhappiness. I see educators of color come in with the call to lift up generations after them, and provide the quality education that we believe our Black students deserve. But most of us go beyond the 8 AM to 2:40 PM in order to be prepared.
MD: And you feel that adversely affects BIPOC educators more?
SM: I feel that BIPOC educators get lost in the work when trying to make up for the poor education quality that their students have been getting. It shouldn’t be us sacrificing ourselves and our time to do that, that should be inherent in the system. When I say work/life balance I’m referring to the teachers that go above and beyond, and unfortunately they’re expected to go above and beyond all the time. And sometimes you’re in a school where you go above and beyond but you see co-workers that don’t give that same effort or amount of time.
MD: You had many educators of color as a student, how did that affect your sense of culture and pride as a person of color?
SM: Even though I had quite a few educators of color growing up, it was my white teachers that really invested in me. In HS I had Black teachers but I didn’t have any strong bonds or connections with them. I had a few of my white teachers who were really nice to me and they saw me as the little Black girl that’s smart and they wanted to help me. At that time in my life I really needed that validation.
MD: Very interesting that you didn’t really build those connections with the teachers of color, but that’s great you had folks that were looking to affirm you and your intelligence. Simone, again thank you for speaking with me and for providing some insight into how we can better support educators of color.
You can connect with Simone Muschett through her Instagram, or LinkedIn. You can also connect with me via my podcast The 3rd Lap Podcast and learn more about The Center for Black Educator Development here.