In recruiting the next generation of teachers, Teach for America (TFA) has evaluated the need for a more diverse group of teachers as imperative, considering its mission of educating under-represented communities. Yet, in increasing the amount of minority teachers, the main challenge has been in its efforts to lure black males. As a result, the alternative teaching program has relied heavily on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to seek talented, black, male teachers who can impact the secondary education community.
“We do a lot of our recruiting at Morehouse College since it harbors the most black males than any other institution in the nation,” commented Chante Chambers, Managing Director of HBCU Recruitment at Teach for America.
Among Morehouse College, schools such as Howard University, Hampton University and North Carolina Agriculture and Technological University have seen an increasing TFA presence as the national organization struggles alongside the teaching profession in general, to supplement the lacking amount of black males in secondary schools. Comprising merely 2 percent of America’s teachers and more than 3 percent of the individuals participating in TFA, black males have been most present at HBCUs where a larger pool of black students is more accessible and available for organizations like TFA that strive for a rise in diversity.
Of the 13 percent of black graduates that are part of Teach For America’s current group of first-year teachers, one third are black males students deriving from HBCUs. According to Chambers, many of the students recruited on HBCU campuses are either from a lower-income community or can “truly identify with the students of participating TFA schools on a personal level.”
“We (TFA) are seeing time and time again through stories, through data, and through experiences that oftentimes when you have a diverse group of teachers, many students find a shared background and a shared understanding, which provides a mirror for our students of what is possible for them in their own futures,” explained Chambers.
However, for Chambers, the disconnect in black males in both Teach for America and the teaching profession among the nation resonates largely with disparities of black men in general, as they tend to lack adequate education preparation and thus, suffer from limited opportunities.
“If we can impact that directly through education and recruit more black male graduates to teach black, male students, we can reshape the educational story of black men in America,” Chambers remarked.
Charles Jones, a 2012 TFA corps member and graduate of North Carolina A&T, echoed Chambers’ idea of the lacking demographic of black males in the teaching profession as problematic because of its impact on students.
“After getting to know many of my students, a lot of my students lacked guidance from a male perspective,” Jones said.
After a semester of teaching at a Kipp charter school in Charlotte, NC, one of the largest chains of charter schools nationwide, Jones found the ingredient to reaching his black students by providing a tangible experience and outlook on the world. In his classroom, which holds a large majority of black students emanating from lower-income families, the challenge is identifying a common ground of which to “relate” to them while also educating them.
“Through my experience, I’ve learned as a teacher that the best way to properly serve and to provide the best outlook on America for these kids is to be realistic with any question that they may have.”
Jones explained, “The advantage of targeting HBCUs in order to get more black, male teachers in the classroom is that many of them (HBCU graduates) will be able to actually relate to their students, as I find myself being able to do. And this will certainly help students, like those in my classroom, to learn and to excel.”