A tradition for many schools that educate predominately Black children involves welcoming the children back with scores of Black men cheering them on as they enter the building to start the school year.
To all the school leaders soliciting the services of Black men to welcome back students this September, I say: Recruit those Black men to teach in your schools.
- Encourage Black men to enter the profession.
- Point them to the resources that can help them earn their certification.
- Hire them and work like hell to retain them.
- Black men face a number of obstacles to both entering and staying in the profession, so provide them support to develop and improve as educators.
- Respect their knowledge, and honor who they are and what they mean to all students.
It’s not enough to ask Black men to simply welcome and encourage Black children when only 2% of teachers nationwide are Black men. Our children deserve more than a one-trick pony at the beginning of the year.
Research shows that Black students perform better academically when they have a teacher of the same race in front of them. Research also shows that Black students who have had at least one Black teacher in their life are significantly more likely to enroll in college. The evidence is clear—you need Black teachers if you have Black students.
Suburban Schools Need Black Male Teachers Too
To suburban school leaders: You aren’t off the hook because you may not solicit the services of Black men to welcome your students back, or because your school is not heavily populated by Black students. You need more Black teachers too.
It is important for White students to encounter Black people who are knowledgeable and in positions of authority. And research shows that students of all races have more positive perceptions of Black (and Latinx) teachers than they do of their White teachers. Teachers of color can also help to disrupt the one-sided portrayals of the world offered in many schools, provide insight and help to expose White students to a different perspective.
When you put those invitation flyers together this year, request that the Black men in your community join the school for an assembly where you will honor them for their contribution to the lives of the children you serve, and for their contribution to the community. Following the assembly, bring the men to a classroom filled with refreshments and district leaders to discuss with those men how to become teachers.
- Tell them why you believe they can have a positive impact on the school and show them the research.
- Tell them you don’t want them for only one day at the beginning of the year and you want to see them more than on parent-teacher conference days.
- Tell them you want to see them every day.
- Ask them what they wish for their children’s education and let them know how they can make that wish to come true…literally.
You won’t convince every man in attendance to become a teacher, but don’t let that stop you. If you can change the mind of one man that day, you’ve started something great. The bottom line is that the number of Black male educators won’t increase unless school and district leadership take the initiative to turn every opportunity into a recruiting opportunity.
Many school and district leaders will argue that there aren’t any Black male teachers to recruit. The folks who make that argument are full of BS— meaning “bad stats.” According to Dr. Ivory Toldson, primary school teacher is the top profession for Black men with a college degree. And in case you didn’t know, there are more Black men in college than in prison. You can find Black male teachers, but are you looking?
- Have you opened your doors to the community for an info session on how to become a teacher?
- Have you partnered with community stakeholders to recruit Black men and women to work in your school?
- Have you partnered with an HBCU to provide you with candidates to interview?
You must use the kind of vision that requires you to see the best of what students can be when looking at these men you call on to encourage your students. They can be much more than cheerleaders on the sideline.
Put them in the game.