Over the holiday break, several news articles kept popping up, explaining how many teachers of color are frustrated and, ultimately, leaving the classroom. This is concerning, considering the number of students of color in public schools is steadily increasing. Those students need role models whose very presence proves that people of color can graduate college and lead successful careers. My recognition of that fact is one reason I stay in the classroom, but it is not the only one. Here's why this teacher of color sticks around:
First, I love teaching. I enjoy getting students excited about learning. It's a challenge, especially when working with high school students. I feel gratified the moment struggling students understand the lesson at hand. I know that every day I'm making a difference. Not only am I teaching them Spanish but I take advantage of opportunities to teach them essential character and life skills. I love seeing students year after year go from not caring about school and not thinking about college to suddenly being diligent to do well and succeed. I like to look back and say I was a part of that change.
Secondly, I feel supported by my administration. When I ask former teachers of color why they left the classroom, nine times out of ten it was because of the administration. Rarely do they blame the kids for their decision. Their principal didn't back them up when they disciplined students. Administrators didn't coach new teachers or provide them with meaningful resources. They failed to share professional development opportunities with them. It's depressing how often I hear this story. At my school, I feel like my school leaders and I are on the same team. We put are egos aside because we are here for the students. It's truly a shame that isn't a universal truth in schools across the country.
Third, I take advantage of professional development opportunities. Each year, my school gives generous grants for teachers to go to conferences and workshops. The school leaders understand the value of professional development. I've been teaching for a while and I know that, if I didn't have these opportunities to grow, I might have grown bored and tried a new career. Every time I go to a conference or workshop I feel rejuvenated and leave with fresh ideas and perspectives I can immediately apply to my class. Just last November I went to a world language conference that blew my mind and made me completely re-think what it meant to be a Spanish teacher. My teaching improved as a consequence. All teachers should have access to these opportunities but it's hard to travel to these events on a teacher salary.
Lastly, I get paid pretty well at my school. Teaching is a difficult profession and teachers should be compensated for their hard work. Like many of my peers, I'm a first-generation college graduate. My mom didn't struggle from paycheck to paycheck only for me to grow up and do the same. Paying teachers more keeps them happy in the classroom. I'm thankful there are a number of schools that understand this and prioritize high salaries for teachers.
I'm not writing this to brag. Not at all. I'm writing to point out that if we want more teachers of color then we need to treat them like we value and respect them. The benefits I listed above should be true for all teachers nationwide. Until teachers feel supported by their school leaders, get access to professional development and get paid higher salaries, we may continue to see a drop in teachers of color. And our country would be poorer for it.