Throughout my entire K-12 educational career, not once did I have a Black male educator.
For nearly eight hours a day, and for 12 years, I was never offered the opportunity to see a reflection of myself in one of the most influential positions in our society: a teacher.
Only 2 percent of educators in the United States are Black men. That means that millions of Americans have never had a Black male teacher. That includes teachers, counselors, deans, principals, paraprofessionals, special education interventionists, P.E. teachers and anyone else that influences kids has never had a Black male educator.
Not having experienced a Black male teacher drew me to the profession. I wanted to lead my own classroom, develop meaningful relationships with students and inspire other Black males to enter the profession.
The feeling of isolation I felt as a student is common among Black male educators that teach in environments that lack other Black males. I grew to understand the value of mentorship, and used that understanding to support other Black males to develop their teacher practice, strengthen their networks and navigate the complexities of the profession.
The lack of Black male teachers in our country is a systemic issue that will not be remedied with a sprinkling of additional hires in a few schools.
We have to reject the status quo of Black male teachers being an anomaly in the teaching profession, and aggressively recruit, develop and retain them in order to profoundly impact our students.
Just like I needed Black male teachers to reaffirm my identity and serve as an aspiration, our students need that today.