A DonorsChoose survey found that Black male educators take on a disproportionate amount of work to support their students inside and outside the classroom. This is the largest-ever survey examining the Black male educator experience from their decision to teach to the impact they make in communities.
The Unique Impact, Unique Burdens: Insight into the Black Male Educator Experience survey found a direct correlation between student success and their access to Black teachers. Per the survey, Black men make up only 2 percent of public school educators. DonorsChoose cited a study that found Black students graduate at a 33 percent higher rate if they have at least one Black teacher by elementary school.
DonorsChoose CEO Alix Guerrier, former educator himself, said years ago he was lucky to participate in his city’s talented and gifted program led by a Black teacher, Mr. Moore. “This meant that I had the chance to be in class with him for several years in a row. To have him as a teacher, especially within the context of his leading a “high achieving” program, was so key. I looked up to him (then, and still now) and loved being in that program,” said Guerrier.
More from the DonorsChoose survey:
Black male teachers are most likely to have entered the profession because they wanted to teach a curriculum that affirms the identities of students of color. 50% of all respondents were inspired to become a teacher by a teacher.
“When a student sees a teacher who looks like them standing at the front of their classroom, it is a powerful, life-changing experience. A diverse workforce of educators supports both the academic and social growth of our students, and educators who are deeply rooted in the communities they serve often go above and beyond to support young people,” said David C. Banks, Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.
Not only did the survey provide a reason behind why Black male educators are important but also why they decide to become educators in the first place. DonorsChoose found 61 percent of Black male educators see teaching as social justice work. Sharif El-Mekki, CEO of Center for Black Educator Development, said he was motivated to teach as a form of activism.
“James Baldwin said this years ago that teaching is revolutionary and teaching Black children is a revolutionary thing. We’re at this moment, in the past couple of decades, where people have a heightened understanding that we don’t just need to teach children content, we need to teach children content and about life and help them connect the dots,” said El-Mekki via the DonorsChoose virtual discussion.
Though, the work costs a significant amount of time and energy that takes a toll on our Black male teachers.
More from the DonorsChoose Survey:
Black male teachers actually reported the lowest burnout rate at 39%, compared to, for example, 55%
of Black female teachers. However, racial identity does influence some of the reasons cited for burnout, with Black male teachers more likely to cite “stresses related to teaching during this heightened racial climate” as a top 3 reason for burnout (25% did so). In a separate question about whether “Racial and ethnic differences between students and teachers create tensions at this school,” Black male teachers were the most likely of any group to agree or strongly agree, at 26%.
Dr. Travis J. Bristol, Associate Professor at University of California, Berkley, said these findings are due to a lack of Black men reporting their burnout.
“Here is what I would say is the power and persistence of toxic masculinity manifesting itself in these data. Outside of schools, men are socialized to not talk about or share how challenging something might be. We believe that we have to be super people,” said Bristol via the DonorsChoose virtual discussion.
DonorsChoose helps those teachers stay in the classroom.
Upon the release of the survey, they vowed to donate $300 in DonorsChoose funding credits for the teachers of color who participated in the survey. Guerrier said the survey is also a part of their Equity Focus initiative to fight systemic racial and socioeconomic inequity. Per their website, teachers are 22 percent more likely to stay in their classroom having one funded DonorsChoose project.
“This support reached teachers like Mr. Griffin in Florissant, Missouri who will soon have 3 bass xylophones for his music class, and Mr. Richardson in Selma, Alabama, who asked for a book binding machine, printer, and other materials to help students write their own books and bring their own histories and stories to life,” said Guerrier.
“However, to be sure, our bigger hope is that by sharing these survey findings and working to elevate the voices of Black male teachers, we can encourage more work focused on recruiting, supporting, and retaining them.”