Last time I wrote about the lack of black men teaching in America.
I learned in my research that the trouble with the lack of diversity isn't just that we view teaching as women's work. When black men are in teaching jobs, they report feeling underappreciated for their pedagogical knowledge, and overappreciated for their disciplinary skills. The Secretary of Education, John King, Jr., identifies a “invisible tax” on minority teachers. They are expected to spend more time disciplining and building relationships with their students than white teachers are. Many black male teachers report being asked to help take care of problem students more often than any of their colleagues. They also felt like they had to counter stereotypes about how black men act—often by themselves.
This was a part of the story I had never heard before, and it really got me thinking. If I were a teacher, would I reach out to a male colleague to help with a “problem” child? Probably. Disciplining students sounds like it would be the hardest part of teaching. I can imagine having trouble with a boy in class and asking a male colleague for help, thinking he would have insight.
I think the situation that men, and black men in particular, face when they do try to break stereotypes is a great example of how we all need to constantly assess our own biases. Consulting a co-worker on a difficult situation is not wrong, but only ever consulting that co-worker when you want help with disciplining children might be.
As we face down a new year with new uncertainties about social policy, it's important to remember that we can only truly control ourselves. I encourage us all to be open to learning that some of our habits have unintended and harmful consequences. Let's be kind to each other.