The Importance of a Diverse Teaching Force
Girls are consistently out-performing boys in school. There are many factors that may cause this, but one that research has proven is that students generally perform better when they have a teacher of their same race or gender. Of course, there are educators of all races and genders, but studies show that the majority of teachers are white women.
This means that students who are similar to their teachers tend to be more academically successful, and are even more likely to go on to pursue careers in education, and the cycle continues. Studies show that attendance, academic performance, and disruptive behaviors all correlate to the demographic match between students and teachers. This article explores a few of the reasons why it is so important for students to have a diverse teaching force.
Teachers of color have higher expectations for students of color
Although it is their responsibility to check their prejudices and not stereotype, teachers, just like everyone else, have conscious and subconscious prejudices that can affect how they work. Because of stereotypes or prejudice, white teachers may have lower expectations of students of color, which leads to these students under-performing. Teachers of color have higher expectations of students of color, and these students benefit from this treatment.
Students need to have a role model they can relate to
For students of any race or background, it is beneficial for them to see someone like them in a position of authority. If a student is oppressed by society and made to believe they will never be successful, then this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a student sees someone similar to them (from the same country of origin, the same race, speaks the same language, same gender identity, etc.) it gives them someone to look up to that they perceive as similar to them.
It is very meaningful and impactful for students to have an authority figure that they can relate to, and students (particularly once they are past the elementary level) generally perform better for teachers who are similar to them.
Teachers draw on their own cultural contexts to handle students differently
Teachers who may have had similar cultural experiences to their students are likely to handle their students more effectively. A teacher of color is more likely to know and understand the societal barriers students of color face, and therefore are more likely to take this cultural context into consideration when handling students.
This can extend to academic approaches, discipline, communication with family members, and more. For example, one harmful stereotype in education is that all Asians are naturally good at math. An Asian math teacher may better understand this stereotype and the impact it has on Asian students, so they are able to treat their Asian students more fairly and give them the academic support they need instead of assuming that these students do not need extra help or attention in math class.
Having a diverse teaching force is so important for all students. What works well within the current model is that in elementary school students often learn multiple subjects from the same teacher. Research shows that similarities between students and teachers are less important at the elementary level, possibly because students of this age are not socially or culturally aware enough to be conscious of differential treatment yet.
In middle school and beyond, students often have different teachers for different subjects. This allows schools to create a diverse teaching force that reflects the student body so that there is a relatable teacher for every student. Students can only benefit from having at least one teacher at school that is similar to them, and it is the responsibility of administrators within the education system to actively create a diverse teaching force.