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Power of a Black Teacher — Why Should We Invest in Black Teachers?

Photo by Katerina Holmes:

A child’s future is determined to a large extent by their education. Unfortunately, the Canadian school system has continually left Black students at a disadvantage.

From outright racism to inappropriate school assignments, Black kids face unique challenges that distort their psyche. They are constantly othered and forced to question their worth, leading to lower self-esteem than their White and non-black peers. These added burdens affect the speed with which they progress toward their goals.

Although this is an issue that needs urgent attention, action has been slow since race has always been a tough conversation in Canada.

How Do Black Teachers Improve Education for Black Students?

Photo by Yan Krukov:

First of all, Black teachers help provide sensitivity awareness for Black students. They also make sure to pay attention to the finer details of race-related education. For example, Black teachers would be more careful than non-Black teachers in pointing out how distinct Caribbean culture is from Black Canadian culture, and why the distinction matters.

Cassandra Hart, an associate professor of education policy at the University of California, USA, has extensively researched this topic. Hart and her colleagues discovered that assigning Black pupils to Black teachers was linked to improved long-term outcomes for Black students.

By third grade, Black pupils who were exposed to Black teachers were 13% more likely to enroll in college. Hart claims that if children had two Black teachers by third grade, their chances of enrolling in college increased to 32%. This is referred to as the role-model effect by Hart and her colleagues, which we firmly believe will also benefit Canadian students.

Black Teachers Improve Black Students’ Behaviour

Aside from academic advantages, Black students taught by Black teachers demonstrated improved behavioural outcomes. Behavioural assessments of Black pupils in the classroom increase dramatically when they have a Black instructor rather than a White teacher. These conclusions are based on research published in 2015 by Adam C. Wright, a professor of economics at Western Washington University.

Wright discovered that as the number of Black teachers increases, the likelihood of suspension reduces. In another 2017 study, Wright and his colleagues discovered that children of colour who were assigned to a teacher of colour were less likely to fight or act out than minority kids who were assigned to White teachers.

Black Teachers Benefit Students of All Races

Photo by Yan Krukov:

Finally, Black teachers matter to Black and White kids alike. Non-Black students, especially White ones, have a lot to gain from cultural intelligence. University scholars Alice Quiocho and Francisco Rios conducted a study on the impact of minority instructors in the classroom, where they found that having a teacher of colour benefits pupils of all races.

Because of their lived experience as people of colour, minority instructors can identify and deconstruct the racial and cultural prejudices that exist in school institutions. This increases the likelihood that classroom discussions will contain a social justice component.

The reduced number of Black teachers also deprives White pupils of the opportunity to build key relationships that could stop racism from being passed down to the next generation. If White children do not have anyone to challenge racist beliefs from a young age, they will grow up with them. Black teachers can help disrupt cycles of hatred because they are the most effective CRT educators.

The Future of Education Is With Black Teachers

Black teachers are an asset to the Canadian education system. If we want an education system in Canada that can compete with the standards in other developed nations, we must invest in Black teachers. Not just because they create a culture of inclusivity for Black kids, but because they set an example of Black excellence for all kids and help raise socially conscious students for a more unified Canada.

Hiring Black teachers is even better for educational stability. Urban schools with a higher minority and low-income population experience a higher rate of teachers quitting. According to studies headed by Betty Achinstein, promoting diversity in teaching is particularly crucial since instructors of colour are more likely to teach and stay in schools that are considered "hard to staff."

So, instead of trying to raise teacher expectations and getting repeatedly disappointed, we should invest in teachers who want to be in urban schools. Teachers who are from these communities are more willing to help.

Overall, Black teachers:

  • Improve the likelihood that a Black student will attend college. More college graduates mean more individuals with higher than average income, thus stronger economies.

  • Decrease time spent by Black kids in punishment by helping improve their behaviour.

  • Act as culturally aware buffer to avoid exposing children to racism.

  • Help break cycles of inherited racial prejudice among non-Black students.

  • Act as good role models for all kids.

  • Provide consistency for minority students in “hard-to-staff” schools.

We need to invest more in Black teachers. They are our best bet at ensuring the Canadian education system truly becomes diverse, equitable and inclusive.

If you are having trouble figuring out how to add an inclusive culture as one of your organizational values or teaching principles, let's set up a call where we can unpack your concerns and discuss the unique perspectives and value of Black teachers.


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