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Black Male Educators: Prepared to Teach

In this article aimed at black male teacher candidates, the author offers tips for articulating what you bring to the table as a black male educator.

Curious about what percentage of U.S. K-12 school teachers are black men?  The answer may surprise you.  Despite a diverse public school population of students from all backgrounds and races, only about 2% of public school teachers are black men.  Research shows that this statistic is important when it comes to black students, who benefit from having in their lives a person in a position of leadership who resembles them.  But black male teachers in public schools benefit students for many reasons. In this diverse world we live in, it is important for all students to understand different perspectives and ideas.

While President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are making strong advancements in increasing the number of black male teachers, we need to consider whether these teachers will be ready for the challenge. Black male teachers make up exactly 1.9% of all teachers in the public school system; however, they have the highest rate of turnover. Essentially, black male teachers are leaving their teaching jobs and finding other careers. The challenges for black male teachers include feeling disconnected in a predominantly white school, working at a lower- performing school and dealing with a lack of respect from colleagues.

So, how can black male teachers better prepare themselves for such challenges? Read on for advice on how to respond to common interview questions so you can land that teaching job you’re looking for, excel on the job and help increase the alarmingly low rate of black male teachers.

What can you bring to the table?
Although this question could be asked in a variety of ways, it will almost always be asked in a teacher interview. Therefore, as a candidate for a teaching position, prepare yourself to answer this question in a way that will make you stand out from the other interviewees. Beforehand, research the school you are interviewing with, and use the fact that you are a black male to your advantage. Explain to the interviewer all the resources you will bring to the table as a black male teacher. For example, if you are interviewing at a low-performing school that does not have a high percentage of black male teachers, you could elaborate on how you could help students not only socially but academically by serving as an effective role model. Furthermore, your presence could encourage minority students by instilling hope and showing them that there is a place for them in education. Conversely, if you are interviewing a predominantly white institution, you could talk about how your background could enrich the curriculum with diversity.

Can you describe your experiences working in an urban setting?
This question very well may be asked if you are interviewing for a school that is located in an urban setting or is considered low performing. In that case, use this time to illustrate any opportunities that arose while working in an urban setting. Describe what this experience was like and how it nurtured your professional development. Talk about your experiences working for any other urban organizations (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs, after-school programs, summer programs) and elaborate on how these experiences have helped you build your leadership skills and relate to students in urban settings. Furthermore, do not just recite a list of your experiences; talk about how successful you were while working in these settings. It is important to paint a picture of your experiences. Give relevant examples that reflect your pedagogical and practical teaching skills.

How can you serve as an effective role model for students?

This question may be asked differently, but do not be surprised when you hear it. This should be another opportunity to talk about your past experiences and how you, as a black male, were able to inspire and encourage students. You can elaborate on how, as a black male teacher, you could offer a different perspective on life. And research shows that students gravitate toward teachers with whom they identify. Furthermore, students are more likely to respond to positively to and engage with someone they resemble. Therefore, during the interview talk about your ability to relate to and engage with students of color. Give real-life examples of how you positively affected the lives of minority students. Lastly, discuss how you can affect the lives of all students, no matter their race, values or beliefs.

These interview questions and sample responses are just a short guide to help you successfully navigate an interview for a teaching position. Remember, there is a vast need for black male teachers in the United States. It is up to you to show why you will be an effective teacher and how you can help change the lives of students in today’s society.


Author: Daniel O. Wilson, Ph.D.


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