Sunday, November 14, 2010
The Color of Learning
Go to any major city and you will see that the teachers as well as the state and school leadership are mostly White. Not that that is inherently wrong or some sort of a conspiracy, but it is a major problem. And, one we need to seriously talk about. Believe it or not, there is a color to learning.
The students who attend those schools come from some of the most poorest, violent, drug-infested communities in the country. Most of them come from single-parent households, non-college educated parents, and never see a professional who look like them in their neighborhoods. So, when they go to school, they need to see teachers and administrators of color, because those individuals do more than the ABC's of teaching and learning or running a school. They serve as life models for students who only see rappers and ball players leave the neighborhood.
Colleges of education, civic organizations, as well as the State Departments of Education have to make it a priority to recruit and hire more teachers and administrators of color. I am not talking about a quota thing or a "reverse discrimination" thing; I am talking about the need to bring in people who have a better chance at reaching the students on a visceral level - beyond the speech of the benefits of getting a college degree.
I know from personal experiences that I connected more with Black teachers and how often Black parents sought me out once I started working in education. I can't describe in words what it means to see someone who looks like you and who you can relate to on a cultural level. There is a level of trust involved and a belief that this person has your best interest at heart. And, that is a powerful motivator as a learner and as someone who is trying to find their way in a country that doesn't like to show the full diaspora of people of color.
Now, before you call me a racist, I am not saying that White teachers and administrators have no place in urban schools or can't or aren't doing a great job. I know many who are and consider quite a few of them to be friends. What I am saying is that it makes a difference to students of color the race and gender, for that matter, of the teachers and administrators at their schools. If you don't believe me, ask them. They will tell you it does.
What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.