June 3, 2021

Jose Luis Vilson: Our Collective Lesson Plan [On Teachers of Color in This Moment]

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Jose Luis Vilson is a writer, teacher, activist and scholar. In his latest post, he takes a deeper look at the attack on critical race theory.

What people may not know is that teachers of color comprise at least half of all teachers in each of the four largest school districts in the country, but their surrounding communities – yes, suburbs – usually don’t reach even 10%. The benefits of having more teachers of color have been researched and enumerated. If the temptation is to simply discuss outcomes through narrow forms of assessment, then we miss a larger function of schooling in our country: our schools are generally the headquarters for societies’ passing down rituals and traditions it wishes to impart on the future. Humans don’t come to these buildings neutrally by any means. Generally, teachers not only believe they can make a difference in students’ lives, but also that they’d be good at their jobs. Of course, this gets more complicated when society asks teachers to both impart society’s standards while adjusting to an ever-changing world. We layer race, class, gender, and other identities into this and we get even more barriers where there should be more and better pathways into teaching.

Where we lose our way when it comes to the recruitment and retention of teachers of color isn’t in the test scores, but in the way that our society focuses strictly on these narrow measures and “outcomes” to the detriment of students’ individual and collective humanity. How do we propose attracting teachers to a human-driven profession when we refuse to see these teachers? What’s more, how do we ask teachers to both interpret racial uprisings and white supremacy that our students consistently ask about without directly addressing it? What’s more, who’s more likely to diversify their book collections for their students, to help interpret racial dynamics within a text? Who’s more likely to ask their students to introduce concepts of numeracy from Mayans, Incans, Persians, and Africans across the continent side by side with Greco-Roman nomenclature for popular theorems?

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