Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How Do We Recruit Teachers of Color?

That's the question posed in this NY Times piece. There is a whole lot about how students respond better when their teachers look like them. Where are all those teachers of color, and why are so many teachers women? It won't do for me to just go to work tomorrow and ask my colleagues why they're women. Doubtless it has something to do with biology.

Actually teaching is traditionally a profession dominated by women, as is nursing. There really are not a whole lot of professions like that. There's no really easy way to say this, but we live in a sexist society, have done for years, and with Donald Trump President, I don't see that changing any time soon. There's a reason why our pay lags behind other professions, and there's a reason why a whole lot of states can't be bothered to pay us.

I used to go to MORE meetings, usually with a bunch of white people, and someone would get up and ask why there aren't any teachers of color. I don't know what to say to that. My work entails representing working teachers, not recruiting new ones. I'm not going door to door and asking people why they don't go into teaching. I hear quite a bit from teachers who say they don't want their children to go into it and be observed by Boy Wonder until they are sick to their stomachs. I understand that. I can imagine some arbitrator at Gold Street sentencing a teacher to Death by Danielson.

Honestly, who needs that? Who needs to be vilified in the press on a daily basis? Who needs to hear that the job we do is terrible, that we're failing the students, and that the only solution is to leave our public schools in the hands of white billionaires like Betsy DeVos, Bill Gates, and the Walton family, none of whom would send their kids to public schools on a bet? I have an idea. Maybe we should put the school systems in the hands of people of color, you know, people whose kids attend our schools. Or maybe we should make the gazillionaires, if they care so much, send their kids to public schools.

The Times does place this little tidbit way at the end of the article:

More qualified people would stay in the profession if the jobs had better pay, benefits and support. Nonwhite teachers in schools with poor resources are at particular risk of burning out.

Like most of the piece,  this seems to apply to everyone, not just people of color. I question why white teachers with poor resources would be inclined to hang around. I can tell you plenty do not. I fail to see why only teachers of color want better pay, benefits and support. I want better pay, benefits and support, and I'd very much like to meet the person who doesn't.

Non-teachers think this job is a walk in the park, you just get up in front of the class, make the kids do some homework and take tests, and go home.  Here's a fact the Times writer may not know--New York City has the highest class sizes in the state. The more kids you face, the less time you have to address their issues. If you can't or don't address their issues, your chances of being a successful teacher plummet. There are few things more soul-crushing than losing control of a class. I'd argue that would be awful for just about anyone.

Here's another thing the Times may not know. We have a society that provides crap jobs and little opportunity for a lot of our people. This places families in crisis. If you need money, you can't always put work off four years so you can go to college. In fact, you often can't handle the tuition, despite Andrew Cuomo's brilliant plan to cover 3.5% of those who attend state or city colleges., Maybe if we created more real opportunities, as opposed to talking points for our relentlessly ambitious governor, more people of color would take advantage. In fact, maybe if our governor funded our schools to the tune of the C4E law, there could be better pay, benefits and support for teachers.

Maybe that would do it. I haven't got a magic bullet, but I respectfully suggest that people who want a better or more diverse teaching force might refrain from treating us like crap. Let me further suggest that this begin at the Times Editorial Board, most of whom wouldn't know a good teacher if one were beating them over the head. In many respects, I couldn't blame that teacher at all.
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