By: Rann Miller

The teaching profession can be very exciting. The opportunity to help shape young people to be fruitful and empowered members of society is a fulfilling task. But it is also daunting for that very reason, in addition to the fear of not having the respect and cooperation of students, colleagues and parents.

Many teachers wrestle with these emotions, particularly teachers new to the profession or new to a district and/or school. Therefore, it is imperative that when onboarding new teachers to a school and/or district, it is a smooth process.

Does onboarding look different for teachers of color? It should.

Certainly, there are general items that all teachers need to know and access irrespective of racial demographics and identification. For example, all teachers need IT access and must sign an IT agreement for use of any technology or wi-fi. Another example is that all teachers must be made aware of payroll procedures: clocking-in and out, timesheet submissions, callout procedures, etc.

But schools, whether public, private, or charter, are white institutional spaces: institutional (as well as social) spaces where policies, procedures, postures, and cultural norms privilege were established by white people for their benefit so long as the institutional space exists. The same is true for other institutions in our society, but I digress.

An example of how schools as white institutional spaces impact the work of teachers of color are racial biased institutional norms, wrongly labeled race neutral and only a character of the organization (e.g. zero-tolerance policy designed to enforce “the appropriate way to act in school”). A teacher of color, working with students of color, may be forced—by the policy in place—to suspend a student of color for an action or response deemed “inappropriate;” further perpetuating the disproportionate disciplining of students of color.

Explanation of policies, like zero-tolerance disciplining, happen during the onboarding process and for teachers of color—who enter the profession feeling responsible to challenge the status quo and promote social justice through their teaching and instructions in classrooms—it’s disconcerting.

It’s not enough to recruit and hire teachers of color. Onboarding must reflect their needs and represent the diversity of our society in how we relate to students and how educate them. District and school building leadership must recognize that policies and procedures expressed during onboarding may impede the work of teachers of color and relations with their colleagues.

Therefore, in light of schools being white institutional spaces, the structure and programming for onboarding must include teachers of color, as well as administrators of color, during the strategic planning and implementation. This is so that teachers of color entering a school and/or district are in mind to help make their transition a smooth one.