Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Teacher Like Me?

image inspired by my pro-teacher
friends at www.teachlikeme.org
Homework...please begin by reading this Washington Post article from May 21st: Why We Should Diversify the Overwhelmingly White U.S. Teaching Force--and How

I have often found myself reflecting on the issues of race and gender within education, probably more so race since there are more male teachers within secondary education where I work.

Working within a suburban community...and in all honestly, a suburban community which had its major growth boom within the late 1960s through early 1980s as a by-product of the "white flight" linked with the era of "busing"...I have often wondered why there aren't currently more teachers of an ethnic minority background teaching within our community. I've asked myself a variety of questions on this topic:

  • Why don't the proportions of ethnic minorities teaching within my district's schools resemble the overall proportions within the community itself?
  • Are teachers of an ethnic minority background less interested in working within my district? If so, why?
  • Is my district (intentionally or latently) less interested in hiring ethnic minorities?--this is a tough question because if I know like the answer is "yes" then I need to wrestle with what would compel me to continue working for such a district
  • Do other teachers notice the disproportional representation? Do administrators notice it? Do students and families notice it?
  • Does the community within my district truly care about this issue? If not, why?
  • Is there some significant value in a student being able to look across a campus and see a teacher who looks like him or herself?
  • Could seeing an increased quantity of teachers from various ethnic backgrounds inspire more of our own minority students to think that a career in education could be something they should explore?
I've also often wondered why there are not more students of ethnic minority backgrounds (especially black and Hispanic) who enroll within the Advanced Placement courses that I love and teach. The proportional enrollment of black and Hispanic students within our AP program is no where near the proportional divisions within our whole student population. I'm convinced the answer is NOT due to any lack of ability. And more questions arise:

  • How can we change this? How can we get more black and Hispanic students to take AP level course work?--and this is not and should not be simply to develop a magic quota of representation within the program
  • To what extent am I best suited to be a leading voice to help spark change? Will black and Hispanic students see merit in some white guy's efforts to get them to enroll in such programs? Is some form of outreach effort better suited to be lead by a teacher from an ethnic background similar to the students?
  • Would having more teachers of ethnic minority backgrounds teaching AP level courses help improve the enrollment of students from these backgrounds?
The motto used by my school is "Creating Avenues to Success" (inspired by our mascot: SaberCats). While we do truly strive to explore and provide many paths to help our students succeed, I do wonder if seeking greater ethnic diversity among our faculty and administration would help to inspire even more students to explore paths that might not have otherwise considered.

A greater diversity in the backgrounds of our teachers inspires a new richness of conversations within our classrooms and educational experiences for ALL of our students. Additionally, having a greater diversity of teachers helps to reiterate that the diversity of our student population is valued and that we do, in fact, care about Creating Avenues to Success for ALL of our students.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your insight...both in response to the article and what I've shared here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Idealism v. Realism

I have no idea of the directions this blog will go nor the issues it will address.

As of now I see addressing lots of political issues, especially those global in scope since I do have a Masters in Political Science: International Affairs. I will also address a variety of educational topics since my career is high school education and my undergraduate degree is Secondary Social Studies Education. I'm pretty sure that history, religion, culture, geography, and music will also become important themes.

But I do know that a central theme throughout all of what I envision for this blog space is the conflicts between idealism and realism. There are a whole variety of ways that each of us think the world "should" be. You and I will probably agree on some of these points and disagree on others. But there are a whole host of reasons for why things are the way that they are. We have all kinds of institutional processes and expectations for why we do what we do and, unless we formally change these, we must morph our idealistic goals so that they legitimately fit within what is allowed.

For example: in an ideal world (at least from my perspective) I should be able to drive from Oklahoma City, OK to Dallas, TX in an hour-and-a-half or less. However, the reality is 1) there are firmly established speed limits along I-35 and these change while going through highly urban areas and 2) I'm not on the road alone so my driving "skills" must be balanced against the safety of others.

But through this forum, perhaps my idealism can spark some brainstorming into ways of overcoming those institutionalized barriers or convincing others for the need to eradicate such barriers.