GHS needs more teachers of color

DARCY MULLER, Staff Writer

Many factors go into creating a successful student including hard work, determination, and punctuality, but these qualities start with the teachers themselves. 

It is no surprise that the highest achieving students in the United States are white, and teachers who are white make up 80 percent of the teacher population.  White students have a significant number of teachers who support them and who they can connect with. Fortunately, they are set are set up for success – unlike their black counterparts. 

At Gloucester High School, there is a lack of diversity in the teacher population. 

A study by Johns Hopkins University shows if a low income, black student has just one black teacher introduced between kindergarten and third grade, they are up to 39 percent more likely to graduate from high school.  More than one third of potential black high school dropouts could be saved if they have just one teacher that represented them.

Often, subconscious, predetermined ideas of how students of color will act and who they are determine the expectations a teacher has for them.  These expectations have a profound influence on students’ success. 

Research shows, white teachers systematically expect less academic achievement from black students.    

In my personal experience, I have needed to prove myself more than other students in order to get encouraging recognition from my teachers.  Often, I need to be extra nice to teachers, and develop a closer relationship with them to make sure they know that I am “good” enough to be in their class.  

It is discouraging to encounter teachers that don’t know me and yet seem to have already made an assumption about who I am. There have been instances when I have been questioned for doing my work because it was viewed as suspicious. 

Microaggressions like this make it hard for students of color to succeed because like all other students, we want to be positively recognized for the effort we are putting into our work, especially by our teachers. 

Master Sergeant Carcel DuBose is the head of the JROTC program at Gloucester High School. DuBose is the only black teacher, and one of only two teachers of color at GHS. Although it is relieving to have a black male role model for students to look up to, it is not nearly sufficient enough to have just one. 

Black students get the highest assurance from black teachers because black teachers have the highest expectations for their black students.

“It is important to have the staff mirror the student population because the kids need to be able to see that there are people teaching them that have gone through the same experiences,” said DuBose.  

There are many students of color that participate in JROTC, especially black and hispanic males. When students have a teacher that represents them, it helps them become more motivated, and, provides someone that they can relate to and understand their everyday lives more effectively. 

“I wasn’t going to teach, but once I started, I saw the good I could do. I can tell a difference because white teachers say ‘work hard, do well in school, go to college’.  But it’s not as powerful because they didn’t go through it. They didn’t go through the same struggles that the student went through and continues to go through,” said DuBose. “Some don’t know its okay to be successful.” 

The student body at GHS consists of 13.1 percent of black and hispanic students, and the teacher population only consists of 0.3 percent. 

These statistics show disproportionate representation of teachers of color and compared to students. 

This lack of diversity may also contribute to the absence of students of color in high level classes. The majority of my honors and AP level classes have less than two students of color, the exception being my Spanish class where we have four students who are not white. 

Administration needs to become more aware of the staff that they hire and who they choose to represent our school. Being more aware of this issue will benefit the overall well-being of the school environment and help students of color feel valued. 

A more direct solution to this issue is for teachers to become more aware of the influence that they have on their students. Intentional or not, their actions can affect different students in different ways. A teacher’s influence will reflect and can change the way that students view their own academic success. Thus, it is important that teachers at GHS are aware of the way they present their expectations for each student.