- Black teachers are more successful in supporting the achievement and well-being of Black children.
- Black students who have even one Black teacher during elementary school are more likely to graduate high school and consider college.
- Black students with Black teachers experience less exclusionary discipline.
- Students of color (in general) feel teachers of the same race hold them to high expectations and are more culturally sensitive than their white counterparts.
At the end of Black History Month, I have reflected on how much more I have learned about Black excellence, Black joy and Black futures. It has been an inspiring month that continues.
A particular piece of information that made me pause was the studied impact of Black educators on students. Here are some of those empirically evidenced statistics that I saw:
I am fortunate to work with two Black professionals who are in local Oakland schools. Rose Triest is a first-year Special Education teacher and Lauren Williams is a mental health counselor who is looking to enter the teacher track. They are intuitively connected to their students, acutely aware of identity impacting school experiences, and are leaders to the folks around them in bringing intention, gravity, and joy to the work. I spoke with both Rose and Lauren recently about their work and was struck how their own thoughts and experiences echo the evidence-based outcomes about Black educators.
We reflected on why being a Black educator should not be a big deal, but the truth is they are important figures in this age and context. Rose could not remember having any Black teachers growing up, and Lauren clearly recalls the three Black educators who made an impact on her and her school experience. Now that both are in the education field, they find themselves called to the profession by having witnessed how students are often mistreated and overlooked in schools through exclusionary practices. Lauren says, “if not me, then who” leads her to show up for students at school with a driving desire to never give up. The phrase, “Actions are stronger than words” leads Rose to think about all the seemingly “small things,” can support students to feel safe to do the hard work in front of them. Things like having visual cues, cultural references, utilizing different forms of learning, and holding mutual respect. Both Rose and Lauren know that kids are intuitive and can read when leaders are avoidant or aloof. “It’s a vibe!” says Lauren and echoes that students respond well to familial spaces and places where self-expression is accepted in different forms.
Lauren noted that open communication and being receptive to feedback are key elements that help her remain engaged in the work in a diverse school setting with cross racial teams. Rose identifies that “a balance” in education settings is crucial to not becoming too focused on test scores and pragmatic relationships. Incorporating life lessons, cultural exploration and tending to mental health are some ways that help Rose feel that she is caring for herself and upholding to the values that propelled her to become a teacher in the first place. She leans on the school community, including the principal and wider teams, to remind her to keep time for herself and to accept “planting seeds for the future” instead of chasing the elusive immediate solution.
Rose and Lauren note the ongoing work that needs to be done to create an equitable space in schools and the teaching profession. It starts with accepting that we hold biases from our own lived experiences in our homes, schools, and communities and scrutinizing our career training knowing that it doesn’t encompass all experiences. We all must put in the same work to be accountable for our own actions. Their leadership and voice give me hope that the statistics that I laid out earlier, can be forever changed with meaningful work from all.
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