By: Rann Miller
It is one thing to hire teachers of color. It is another thing to retain teachers of color. As a Black educator, I know this truth all too well.
I’ve worked places where my expertise and skill set were not valued by my peers or superiors. I was viewed as the Black teacher in the building for disciplinary support and community buy-in. I met conflict in those spaces and was often forced out. This is one example to explain the inability of schools and/or districts to retain teachers of color. But this is not necessarily the norm.
I’ve worked in other districts where my expertise and skill set were valued by my peers and superiors; so much so that I was considered a leader. In those spaces, I was utilized as an example of what Black teachers can do in the classroom and I was rewarded for my efforts—monetarily and otherwise. But it was because of my efforts that I was recruited from those districts to work elsewhere.
This is to say that retaining teachers of color isn’t a matter of simply treating those teachers better. Because treating teachers of color well is no guarantee that they’ll remain in a district. I didn’t. While I am a sample size of one, I am aware—as are other teachers of color—we’re sought after and have options.
Retaining us isn’t just about treating us well. That’s part of it. We want to feel welcome when we enter your halls. Definitely compensate us. Don’t tax us by making us de-facto disciplinarian over students of color. Don’t expect us to handle all things concern cultural events or to educate white people on matters of race.
But retaining teachers of color is also about providing us with something that other schools and/or districts cannot or will not. Certainly, take heart those things mentioned above. But there’s more to retaining teachers of color than compensation and smiling faces.
A recent study from the RAND Corporation attempted to gain helpful insight from teachers of color and contrast that with the thoughts of policymakers around the subject of recruiting and retaining teachers of color. Those recommendations include expanding student loan forgiveness and/or service scholarships, working in schools with other teachers of color and creating teacher residencies to support rookie teacher training as well as expanding teacher prep programs at minority serving higher education institutions; namely Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions.
It’s understandable if school districts are unsure of how to establish such initiatives or achieve these goals. However, organizations of color, like DIVERSITY in Ed can support your efforts to do so. It is imperative that district leaders’ partner with such organizations if retaining teachers of color is a priority.
In today’s climate of uncertainty, where teacher shortages are an ever-greater challenge, districts mustn’t do the work of retaining teachers of color alone.