By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Young people are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. While the answers range, the fact remains that its difficult for young people to envision themselves in a career or professional field when they don’t someone who looks like them already in that position.
For example, young girls may respond that they want to be a teacher because a majority of their teachers are female. But young boys, especially black boys, may struggle to see themselves as a teacher. And there’s a reason for that.
In a report released by the University of Phoenix, Dr. Kimberly Underwood, the research chair and lead author of the paper, found that there is a shortage of black male educators in the P-12 classroom setting.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, students of color make up over half of the student population in the P-12 classroom setting. However, black male educators make up less than two percent of the entire teaching population.
Per the report, “A diverse and inclusive education workforce can play a critical role in ensuring that students receive a robust, quality educational experience.” And yet, the lack of black male educators, has been plaguing the schooling system for decades.
Despite the fact that this has been an issue, long overdue for a solution, little has been done to improve or rectify the situation, the report summarized.
Underwood and her team, the University of Phoenix Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research, partnered with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) to determine what factors contributed to the lack of black male teachers.
The group’s research combined with NNSTOY’s 2018 cohort of Outstanding Black Male Educators resulted in a joint paper titled, “Having Our Say: Examining Career Trajectories of Black Male Educators in P-12 Education.”
Part of the paper included Reflections of a Black Male Educator, in which the author expresses his desire for more black male educators.
“Black male educators provide alternative narratives to the negative images of Black males as criminals and convicts, or the overrepresented images of success through sports or the music industry, of the misperceptions of Black males as lazy, trifling, promiscuous, predatory, angry, threatening…” writes the author.
He added that having more black male educators makes way for more blacks in administrative positions.
“With limited insight into the factors affecting Black male educators in P-12 education, the voices of the NNSTOY fellows served as the ‘coal miner’s canary’ – calling attention to the challenges experienced within the career trajectory of many Black male educators at every phase,” said Underwood, in the report.
Underwood’s teams determined that there are three 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.
At the end of the day, what matters is representation. It’s a goal that Underwood and the University of Phoenix strives towards and it’s one that every school should strive towards.