To be clear, not every black child comes from a broken home, nor readily associate with the deadbeat dad trope that is so often laid upon African Americans. Various studies and a number of publications have dismantled that theory, showing that, in comparison, black fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than other ethnicities. Still, it’s important to acknowledge that, despite those stats, single parent homes do exist, and it is often the responsibility of the mother to raise the child. That doesn’t mean said child is any less loved or will be less successful (our current president, Barack Obama, has done pretty well for himself), but there is a level of importance in children being exposed to positive male role models in daily life.
Men Teach is a nonprofit dedicated to providing content and resources for men in the classroom. In one of its blogs, a teacher discussed the dynamics of a male educational figure with his students, under the aforementioned circumstances–dual parent and single parent households. He postulates that for both boys and girls, a male teacher can be the role model and base of support necessary to bridge the gap for broken homes, and create more comfortable learning environments by exhibiting qualities of the father that other children have at home.
As a teacher, I have a keen understanding of this concept and do my best to be there for my students to assist them with problems in school, and to encourage them to make the right decisions and succeed, upon leaving. However, I am one of few, in terms of the demographic breakdown of educators around the country. Despite initiatives to change it, the population of American teachers remains overwhelmingly female and white. In fact, less than a decade ago, just 23 percent of males with a degree in education were actively teaching. Subsequently, the number of black males in the classroom is just under 7.5 percent compared to almost 2 percent of those in the front, teaching.
To understand the importance of this representation, a recent Harvard University study shows measurable improvement in academic achievement, not just a father figure, for students of color who learn from teachers of color. Furthermore, Gloria Ladson-Billings, speaking in Education Week’s blog for teachers, suggested that yes, it’s important for even white students to have black teachers, because it provides a foundation for instruction to be received from black people, and dismantles a racially exclusive view of hierarchy.
The challenge for schools around the country has not so much been the recruiting, but keeping these men who will have an impact on and likely enhance students’ lives. Travis Bristol stated that, to turn the tide, “…districts must ensure that black male teachers are not concentrated in the worst-performing schools…[and] think of more expansive roles for [them] to serve besides policing the hallways and the front of the building…” I completely agree. It’s time for the country to use its understanding of representation to highlight the value of black men in the classroom, starting now.