Therapeutic Tuesday: Alabama Schools Struggle with Diversity

First, here is the article:

Secondly, my thoughts:

I don’t really know how to address this topic, honestly. I’m a Southerner in spirit. I know that diversity can be a problem. Mississippi and Alabama share dual billing in many of the worst top ten lists in existence! Education is one of the worst. What stands out to me most about this article are two things:

-More than half of the black teachers in Alabama teach in school districts where 90% of the students are in poverty.

-There are 58 districts in the state where black teachers only make up less than 10% of the faculty.

Here is what I believe at my core. I believe that any teacher worth their salt should have a fierce determination to believe that every child can learn, regardless of background. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t believe that any student should be treated differently. If you have teachers who believe differently, they need their contracts revoked. Strong language? Maybe, but for the war we are fighting for the future of our youth, we need teachers in classrooms who are willing to fight with information and education. There is no room for “just taking a paycheck” type attitudes.

However, if I were to drill down, there are some convictions that I also hold dear personally. I teach in a district where I’m one of only a few (read FEW) black faculty. What I love about my district is that I have never felt like I got any rewards or consequences because of the color of my skin, but I have had to work for any accolades, and I have certainly earned any reprimands.  This is as it should be. I look around in opening ceremonies and don’t see anyone who looks like me, but I look in my classes and sometimes see students who look exactly like me. I remember during my first couple of years I had black male students who were very sports-centric. Before long, I realized that I was riding them hard. Harder than their white counterparts. I discovered an intrinsic bias that these males, above all, would succeed. That I would force into them all of the pride that I have as a black man, and help them carry that mantle into their own lives. I felt that by being someone that looked like them, a natural synergy would be created that would have positive effects on their lives.

I don’t know if it worked.

How does this fit into the article? While I really believe that black students benefit from seeing black teachers in action, this generation of students is different. It doesn’t matter so much how the teacher looks. Students want to know that they are believed in, but even in those situations, it is still a toss up to see whether anything takes. The students that I KNOW I’ve made an impact on?

White students. Hispanic students. Male and female. They have told me. Their parents have told me. And I could see it over the course of their lives after they left my class.

None of this is to say that Alabama should be satisfied with their status as far as diversity goes. They need to hire more Black teachers and Hispanic teachers and Asian teachers. They need to make inroads to have the best teachers available in every situation, from poverty to rich areas. Students need to see diversity, even if they don’t necessarily respond to it. A wider palette before our eyes can widen our appetites to the world.

Some of the most impactful teachers I had early on in life were white. Many of the most impactful teachers I had later in life were black. I am an amalgamation of mixed racial instruction across my life, and it has all served to help me relate to the entirety of the world, and not simply the color of my skin.

2 thoughts on “Therapeutic Tuesday: Alabama Schools Struggle with Diversity

  1. The overwhelming majority of my teachers throughout my life have been white. A good teacher is a good teacher. However, I also had the benefit of a mother who is an extraordinary educator herself. Not everyone has that to come home to. I am open to more radical solutions for addressing our failing educational system and no I don’t think charter schools are the answer. The PEOPLE have lost faith in our public schools. There are a lot of reasons that can be thrown out to explain why but in the end the why isn’t nearly as important as the “what’s next”? Thank you for your words, Justin. You’ve really got this thing rolling fast and hard right out of the gate!


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