Originally published on The Kansas City Star - May 20, 2021
Educators are the architects of our society. They provide the foundation that everything is built on. But when our educators are not a reflection of the diverse students they serve, cracks begin to form.
There are more than 3.8 million educators in the United States. Only 33% of those are males. And only 7% of all educators are Black. The number of Black male educators is even smaller.
It’s time we change this.
Students need to see a face at the front of the classroom that looks like them to realize the potential they have. Increasing the number of Black male educators in K-12 classrooms demonstrates to Black students that this is a career they can explore. And with interactions between Black male students and educators currently predominantly related to athletics or discipline, this is a change that’s long overdue.
So how do we make this change? Here are three measures we need all schools to embrace.
▪ Build a pipeline of Black male talent
The number of Black male educators in the U.S. is low. One way to increase numbers? Grow the talent pipeline.
This can be accomplished through partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities. In 2018, 38% of the 20 million students enrolled at HBCUs were Black males. By increasing school and district recruitment efforts at these campuses, we can lower barriers that may prevent young men from joining the education field and instead usher them in the door.
Not only should schools recruit from HBCUs, but they also need to offer partnerships that develop talent. Creating student teaching programs that welcome Black men into the classroom promotes this opportunity.
▪ Cultivate inclusive school environments
Once we develop a sustainable pipeline of qualified talent, it’s important to ensure that schools provide an inclusive and supportive environment.
This includes encouraging students of the next generation to envision themselves in these roles. We need to capture their attention at a young age and highlight the unique opportunity they have to pave a path forward in creating a more inclusive classroom.
It’s also important to provide ongoing professional development to educators. We need to welcome them at the door, but also support them as they learn and grow alongside their peers and their students. Learning is a lifelong journey for all of us, no matter our title or background.
▪ Put our words into action
It’s easy to talk about wanting to increase diversity. It’s another to commit and execute actions that deliver on this goal.
We must also make sure our schools are safe, welcoming environments for educators. Just as students need to see themselves in their class leaders, Black male teachers need mentorship and support from their peers and administrators. This requires getting everyone on board. We need to examine the past and understand why our education systems are designed the way that they are.
We must also look to the future. We need to envision the environment we want: one that welcomes Black male educators and helps our students see themselves in those who have such a pivotal role in their lives.
Putting words into action is something that I’m proud to be a part of. My school, Missouri Virtual Academy, and our partners at the publicly-traded education company Stride, Inc., are working with the National Association of Black Male Educators to build this talent pipeline, recruit from diverse sources and support Black male educators in the classroom.
This is a step in the right direction to deliver on our goals to better serve our students and to ultimately shift education in a more equitable and inclusive direction.
It is my hope that all schools commit to promoting Black male educators.
Please understand that I’m not saying we should hire Black males exclusively. We need to hire the best candidates available to serve students. Following these practices and implementing at all levels would open the pool of highly qualified Black male educators who can fill those roles.
Together, we can foster change and provide a mirror for Black students to realize the limitless possibility the future holds. This all starts with the reflection they see as teachers build their foundation up.
Kelvin Carter of St. Louis is an educator with more than 20 years of experience. He currently serves as the career readiness educator director at Missouri Virtual Academy, an online public school program.
For more information about Missouri Virtual Academy, please visit mova.k12.com.