Having the ability to relate to the stories and backgrounds of my students is a very special gift, one that’s important to not take for granted. When stories are shared inside the four walls of my classroom, having the ability to relate or share similar stories with my students builds a sense of trust. On multiple occasions, students have shared how much they value having teachers of color in their lives, and reflected on the trust and sense of community that comes with it. However, teachers of color need unique support that’s specific to the identity markers we hold, support that is often overlooked during professional development and in teacher preparation programs. There is a strong push to have topics of race and mental health discussed inside classrooms over the last few years. However, these topics hold the same level of importance within adult learning spaces in education. Educators should be engaging in critical identity work before entering the classroom spaces where we spend the majority of our time during the school year. These priorities are especially true for educators of color.
According to a recent U.S. News article on the importance of hiring and retaining teachers of color, “Teachers of color make up less than 20 percent of the workforce at a time when students of color are the majority in K-12 classrooms.”
As important as it is for students to have teachers who are diverse and are able to offer different viewpoints, it’s also important that students see themselves reflected in the faces of the leaders inside their classrooms and schools. Another recent publication, The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce, states that “the elementary and secondary school teacher workforce in the United States is not as racially diverse as the population at large or the students.” Students should have a source of inspiration and role models inside the classroom. I’ve shared countless stories with my students about my journey through college and how important it is for our voices and perspectives to be inside that college lecture hall. We serve as proof to students, that they too can make it through the system and come out successful. In order to retain and better support educators of color, school systems and districts need to provide the proper support to keep us inside the classroom.
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