By: Courtney Riley, M.A.
Black men do not want to deal with kids. Black men do not want to deal with a lesser salary. Black men do not want to do a woman’s job. Black men can’t pass standardized tests. Black men are considered to always be the authority. Black men are supposed to listen and follow instructions, not teach. Black men are not becoming teachers in the United States.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black male educators account for 2% of the nation’s population of teachers. In Fall 2020, 49.4 million students attended elementary and secondary school. 7.4 million were Black students, and 14% of the nation’s students were Black. In the country, there are 3.2 million teachers and yet, 60,000 of the teachers nationally are Black males. These numbers reflect the shortage that is occurring with retaining teachers.
The teacher shortage around the nation including the Houston area has caused constant attention to the American education system. Many teachers realized during the pandemic that teaching had many perils and downfalls. Jeremy Davis, an educator in the Houston area stated, “Educational stakeholders have demonstrated limited evidence of attracting or retaining Black male educators.” The underrepresentation of Black male educators within school communities continues to be a problem within the education workforce. Ineffective school leadership, chaotic school climate, and poor recruitment and retention efforts are among several factors that explains why Black male educators are poorly represented within the school communities.
One such downfall of employing Black male educators was the amount of work required without the desired pay. “Educators tend to be paid less than other professions, especially in areas where educators are needed the most,” said Educator D’Andre Edwards. He further mentioned that “In order to attract more male educators, we have to increase the pay. Increasing pay will ensure that Black males have the power to thrive.” Teachers have expressed sentiments of equitable pay for the profession in recent years.
Educator Jamaur Barnes mentioned how, “Black men are not teaching; because, we don’t know that we can. I think that our society has pushed the Black man to be ‘The Head of the Household,’ which in turn forces him into more financially driven roles such as being an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, etc. Whereas an educator is a job that is generally marketed more towards women, who are thought to be more of a ‘nurturer.’”
Historians and educators suggest that integration led Black teachers not being able to rely on staying in education. Many talented Black teachers were not afforded the opportunity to teach at the newly integrated White schools with more resources because integration was not accepted by all. White leaders would deny qualified personnel the opportunity to teach and lead in what was deemed as their spaces. Entrepreneur Ryan Sherman believes that Black culture was cultivated from the lack of respect received.
“Leaders are built from within and are comfortable with voicing an opinion”, said Sherman, owner and creator of several Black businesses that support developing confidence in Black leaders.
For many Black men, teaching is not always the career sought after, especially those seeking careers that hold esteem and power.
“Black men may not always see the power in teaching or the impact in the educational field overall. Black men also have been conditioned to think that in order to claim their place in society, they must have a music or sports job, or a job with a glamorous salary or a position, which is something you don’t’ always get being a teacher,” stated community activist Rhys Caraway.
Black men often are utilized in the capacity of being disciplinarian and the handler of all things behavior. For Patrick Campbell, this held true. “Black men aren’t teaching because they are being used as overseers of the behavioral students of color. Some are often tasked with administrative duties because they are simply a black male,” says Campbell, an educator who serves as a District Instructional Coordinator, who believes Black men are more than the perceived disciplinarians.
Black male teachers want to be the relationship builders as well. Campbell stated, “When black men enter the field of education, we want to positively change the trajectory of the black and brown students through effective mentorship. We do not want to spend our days and hours being a disciplinarian to students that other teacher cannot handle or build positive relationships with.”
If you are not able to teach content and go through the process to become a teacher, become an effective mentor. Mentor our youth in all ways possible. Show up to their events, be involved in their completion of homework and projects. Let them dive into your careers and workplace. As an educator of almost eleven years, Barnes adds that, “I can assure that not only can Black men lead and nurture in the education space, but our presence is also needed! I think if more Black men were told that we can be more than just corporate workers, and when we do show up in school settings, we can be more than just the P.E. or Sports Coach, we could surely help to make a nation-wide impact. As it stands, there are only 2% of Black, male educators occupying classroom spaces. I commend brave men like Rashiid Coleman and Vincent Cobb of Summer House Institute, who are helping to move that number!”
The Black male educator is needed and should always be valued.