Friday, December 09, 2016

Thru Black Eyes: Black Educators' Perspectives and Reflections On the Struggle for Quality Education-for-Liberation

Through Our Eyes:
Perspectives and Reflections From Black Teachers



B Y A S H L E Y G R I F F I N & H I L A R Y T A C K I E

“The difference I would like to make is a difference that my
fifth-grade teacher, an African American woman, made [for]
me,” says an elementary teacher from Oakland, California, who
is also a Black woman. She credits that teacher with instilling in
her a love of math, but also with fostering the self-confidence
that would buoy her when other teachers doubted her ability.

Now, she tries to give all her students — and especially her
Black students — that same assurance. “I make sure I get to
know each and every one of my kids, and let them know that
they can do it.”

This teacher experienced what research has shown: Teachers
of color bring benefits to classrooms beyond content
knowledge and pedagogy. As role models, parental figures,
and advocates, they can build relationships with students
of color that help those students feel connected to their
schools.1 And they are more likely to be able to enhance
cultural understanding among white colleagues, teachers, and
students.2 Acting as “warm demanders,” they more frequently
hold high expectations for all students and use connections
with students to establish structured classroom discipline.3

Furthermore, they are more likely to teach in high-need schools
that predominantly serve students of color and low-income
students.4 Black teachers especially are more likely to stay in
schools serving Black students.5

And yet, teachers of color represent only 18 percent of the
teaching population in the U.S. (Black teachers are 7 percent.)6
State and district leaders recognize the need to diversify the
teacher workforce and are working to recruit more Black
and Hispanic teachers.7 And their efforts may be paying off:
Research shows that the percentage of teachers of color in the
workforce grew at twice the rate of White teachers from 1987 to

But while leaders have been busy trying to pour teachers
of color into the profession, they have not plugged the drain
through which too many exit. Indeed, teachers of color, are
exiting the profession at higher rates than other teachers.9

Simply recruiting more teachers of color only gets them in the
door; we must pay equal attention to creating the conditions
to keep them. And while it is critical to diversify the teaching
force, just having a Black or Hispanic teacher in the classroom
isn’t enough. They must be strong teachers, so diversity and
excellence go hand in hand.

Holding on to teachers of color, though, requires education
leaders to understand their unique experiences and
perspectives. And who better to learn from than the teachers

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