When discussing race in education, we must answer the following questions: How can teachers better address diversity in their classrooms? When teachers are underprepared to address diversity, how does that affect the way in which students learn? How can white preservice teachers better connect with diverse classrooms? How can we aid teachers in developing cultural awareness in the classroom to foster stronger support systems for their students of various backgrounds? These questions serve as a guide for teachers, especially white teachers, to question whether they are connecting with students, and if there’s more that they or the administration can do to better address diversity in the classroom.
Teacher-student matching affects student achievement. We must get more teachers of color, but there must also be diversity training for teachers so that they are better equipped to engage with and understand their students culturally. White pre-service teachers must be more aware of their white privilege and be willing to engage in conversations about race. They need to be accepting of feedback and realize that they do not know everything about their students’ experiences. “The declining number of black teachers has become an increasing concern among education policy makers. It is a particularly troublesome development in light of the growing black student population in many urban school systems” (Perkins, L.). One possibility that Black teachers do not want to be teachers is problems they face passing examinations and other standards. Or, it could be that there are more opportunities in prestigious professions. This may also make students feel alienated, i.e. Black students in PWIs may not feel that they connect with their teachers and peers.
With increasingly diverse school classrooms, teachers must be prepared to address their students’ needs and concerns. The teaching population is often far less diverse than the population of their students. Connecting with students on a deeper level requires an inclusive classroom environment, as well as a deep understanding of cultural differences. Teacher-student relationships are vital in the classroom, and forcing conformity can make students feel alienated. Providing teachers with comprehensive and accessible resources to help build cultural sensitivity in their practice to help bridge the gaps between the lives of the teachers and the lives of their students. Furthermore, “West Indian teachers sometimes identify strongly as West Indian in opposition to negative stereotypes of African Americans, possibly to the detriment of their African American students. Hence, although recruiting teachers of color to serve our increasingly diverse school population is important, teacher training must also spend time on diversity training and developing intercultural understandings.” (Warikoo, N.). Teachers must be exposed to diversity training in order to connect with students and not perpetuate stereotypes.
“With a rationale informed by the demographic imperative, the resegregation of public schools, and our positionalities as researchers, we understand both the high stakes and the complexity of capacitating White preservice and in-service teachers capable of anti-racist praxis and race-visible teaching and learning in public school classrooms.” (Jupp, J., et. al.). This quote illustrates how white teachers must be aware of race and be able to discuss it, rather than ignoring it. This is where training will come into play: when teachers have access to comprehensive training and resources, they will be better equipped to engage in these conversations.
Perkins, L. M. (1989). The history of Blacks in teaching: Growth and decline within the profession. American teachers: Histories of a profession at work, 344-369.
Warikoo, N. (2004). Race and the teacher–student relationship: Interpersonal connections between West Indian students and their teachers in a New York City high school. Race Ethnicity and Education, 7(2), 135-147.
Jupp, J. C., Leckie, A., Cabrera, N., & Utt, J. (2019). Race-evasive white teacher identity studies 1990-2015: what can we learn from 25 years of research?. Teachers College Record, 121(2), n2