Black Male Teachers and the dearth of Diversity in Classrooms – By Yvonne Sam

By Yvonne Sam

       Is the scarcity of diversity a problem for teachers or students?

Very often young people are asked what they want to be once they grow up. Despite the varying responses, the fact nevertheless remains that it is somewhat difficult for young people to visualize themselves in a career or professional field when they fail to see someone who looks like them in that field.

Point in question is that young girls may say that they want to be a teacher because the majority of their teachers are female.  On the other hand young boys, especially Black boys, may struggle to see themselves as teachers.     

There is a reason for such a struggle. Research shows that there is a shortage of Black male educators in the classroom setting from elementary to secondary. Students deserve to see a more realistic representation of society and when they Black male educators, then they see more possibilities,  in truth, they see more possibilities of what they can be.

In 1992 following the Yonge Street Riot, which some folks termed an uprising against police brutality, Stephen Lewis, (Advisor on Race Relations) wrote a Report on Race Relations for the then premier of Ontario Bob Rae. It was the first to officially name the injustice in education as anti-Black racism.

“Everywhere, the refrain of the Toronto students (was) … where are the courses in Black history? Where are the visible minority teachers? He called the lack of progress in dealing with racism in education “shocking.”  Another report that yearTowards a New Beginning, identified concerns for Black students including streaming below ability (pushing them out of university-bound courses), high dropout rates, lack of Black educators, Eurocentric curriculum and interpersonal racism.

While students of color make up over half of the student population in the elementary to Grade11 setting, black male teachers make up less than 10% of the entire teaching population.

Not only are Black students not seeing themselves reflected and celebrated in the curriculums but the lack of racial representation in school staff is also significant. Quebec continually misses the mark of its already too-low targets for racial diversity in the makeup of educators. Largely being taught by white instructors and, therefore, being denied positive Black role models within institutions of learning only further cements the lower status of Black students.

In 2015, The Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators noted that the employment of visible minority elementary and secondary teachers across the province fell 50 per cent short of the province’s demographic makeup as of the last national census.

A diverse and inclusive education workforce can play a pivotal role in guaranteeing that students receive a robust, quality educational experience. The issue has been afflicting the school system for decades. Notwithstanding the fact that this has been an issue long overdue for a solution, very little, if anything has been done to improve or rectify the situation. Black male teachers provide

alternative narratives to the negative images of Black males as criminal and convicts graduates of the penal system, or the overrepresented images of success through sports or the music industry, of the misperception of Black males as promiscuous, lazy, trifling, angry and threatening.

The lack of Black male teachers remains a recurrent theme in educational discussion. The president of British Colombia Teachers Federation Glen Hansman acknowledged that males avoid teaching because they are afraid of being stereotyped as potential child predators, or being falsely accused of sexual abuse. “Male elementary school teachers, especially primary ones, face that kind of dilemma,” said Hansman. The shortage of Black male teachers is certainly not unique to Canada. According to the National Center for Education Statistics Black men make up 2% of teachers in the US.

On October 5, World Teachers Day or International Teachers Day is celebrated in over 100 countries. Established in 1994, it commemorates the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the status of teachers which is a standard -setting instrument that addresses the status and situations of teachers around the world. According to Roy Jones a professor at Clemson University’s College of Education in South Carolina, research shows that in thecae of minority children, having at least one teacher that looks likes them is a key to their success. He cites a Johns Hopkins University study that found low-income black students with at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. .

This “race match effect” is sometimes called “the role model effect,” a term that gets at why the researchers think a stint with a black teacher can be so lastingly beneficial for black students. A published study found that race played a big part in how teachers judged a student’s abilities. When a black teacher and a white teacher looked at the same black student, the white teacher was about 40 percent less likely to predict the student would finish high school.

Conclusively, there are definite areas of focus when it comes to potential solutions. Recruitment efforts need to improve, there needs to be greater representation in teacher preparation programs and enriched experiences in school settings School Boards/ Commissions, teacher colleges, should all realize that if we want to see more diversity then they must offer more opportunities that will increase pathways into education beyond the traditional routes. The pipeline must be incentivized to attract more diverse talent to the field.

In the meantime, it is my hope as an educator that school policymakers painstakingly consider how they could change a student’s chance at success by getting him/ her into a classroom with a teacher of the same race.  If having a teacher with high expectations for you matters in secondary school, imagine how much it matters in the third grade. Many black kids cannot imagine being an educated person and that is because they have never seen one that looks like them.

Then, given the opportunity to spend a whole year with one, this  one black teacher can change a student’s entire future outlook. This is not a situation where black students need two three or four black male teachers to make a difference. In the classrooms let black students see the diversity. Teaching should be reframed, wherein the work is seen as an opportunity for social impact and change.  At the end of the day what matters is representation. It is a goal that every school should strive towards.

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  • kamtanblog  On 10/15/2019 at 3:29 am

    An interesting take but also a very biased
    one. In most primary schools today with classrooms of 25/30 to a class it is neccessary
    to have teachers assistants in the classroom.
    In some schools the teachers role has changed.
    The teacher no longer sits in desk at front
    facing classroom but sis in middle of class
    with their pupils. There are also two or
    three teachers helpers/assistants sitting in
    classroom with pupils.
    Also technological changes are helping
    teaching in the class room. The blackboard//book is being replaced
    with computers. Children are much more
    savvy today with the technology available
    than generations of past.
    Using race as the excuse for lack of
    black teachers in the profession is not
    only short sighted but less important today.
    Racism has existed since Roman times and
    it will remain with us for centuries to come.
    Prejudices (rich v poor) more an issue today.
    Those are the issues we should be addressing.

    Yes education education way forward.
    Not the willful ignorance we have today.

    • Trevor  On 10/15/2019 at 9:36 am

      In Guyana, we have great educators like Ms. Gem Rohlehr. Meanwhile, in the ABC countries, everyone talking how lawless the teachers are, and how a child there is likely to suffer from bullying, abuse and even child rape from a school than walking alone on the streets of a drug-infested town.

      The quality of teachers in the ABC countries are going downhill they say, and I’m not shocked. On Facebook, people does laugh how every single day in America, some teacher is on the news having sex with students and getting pregnant from 12yo male students.

      Such lawlessness doesn’t happen here compared to the ABC countries. Our teachers are underpaid, yet they do their jobs.

  • Trevor  On 10/15/2019 at 9:33 am

    It’s because the teaching jobs are handed to Caucasian females and Indo-Canadian/American females who take sides with the white woman.

    One of my friends who lives in Canada (and also doesn’t have much nice to say) allege that there was a school in a Caribbean area (Jane end Finch) and the school was underfunded by the government, while the Catholic, Jewish and Asian schools received more funding per capita than the Afrocentric school.

    My friend also said that lots of young men from the Caribbean, even the Indo-Caribbeans, end up living a life of gang culture because the system is stacked against them.

    It’s a new form of post-colonialism…Caribbean men working to supply the street drugs for the white middle and upper class.

    Young men…Take heed! The White countries have no love for your souls…Glad I didn’t apply for any visa…I’ll stay here thank you!

  • BridgIt A Sam-Bailey  On 10/17/2019 at 12:42 am

    Has anyone taken into consideration the “home” situation? What is the role of the parent/parents? The school should not be blamed totally, if the students do not try to emulate the teacher. It is the parent’ responsibility to guide or steer the children from birth. There are books for children in nurseries and toddlers. Don’t give toddlers guns, dolls in proms, and the like, because as they grow up they get the real things, not the plastic ones. Set the scene for your children. Have conversations with them. Inculcate that desire to become somebody who could transport that to the classroom. The school will continue what the parents nurtured in the child. You cannot build a house without bricks and mortars. Wake up parents. Invest in your children, not in posh expensive cars, big houses, and the like. Don’t blame others, when you did not try to steer your children.

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