The classroom is a naturally diverse place. The students who share it will come from different walks of life, with different identities, races, socioeconomic statuses, and family backgrounds. It’s an opportunity for students to develop empathy for others, but it also carries the risk of making marginalized students feel “othered” or isolated.
That’s why it’s important for your teaching staff to be as diverse as the students themselves. But even in schools where the student body is more monolithic, students benefit learning from—and learning to respect—someone who is different from themselves. It’s essential for those responsible for hiring teachers to challenge their own biases and consider diversity when looking for new teachers.
The Importance of Hiring Teachers From Diverse Backgrounds
Hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds benefits everyone at your school, both students and teachers.
Benefits to Students
For those who work in education, it’s clear that there is a distinct achievement gap when it comes to students of color and students from lower income households. While these students are no less intelligent on average than their peers, they often test more poorly and have fewer academic achievements. For example, fewer students of color graduate high school and fewer go on to attend college, which can lead to limited options in their adult lives.
So what’s one way school leaders can help close the achievement gap? Research has shown that when exposed to teachers of color, students of color often show improved test scores and academic achievements, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to plan to attend college.
This phenomenon largely comes down to students having teachers who are able to connect with them and understand them, as well as understand and challenge the barriers that might be holding them back. They can provide a role model to struggling students of color. In addition, both students of color and white students have reported feeling cared for and academically challenged by their teachers of color.
It can also be beneficial for white students to be exposed to teachers of color. A webinar hosted by Stanford University has spoken to the way teachers from diverse backgrounds help to prepare students to be “global citizens.” Students are still developing their sense of empathy and can often struggle to see beyond their own world.
If students only interact with authority figures who are roughly in their same socioeconomic class, they will go into the world with very little understanding of those who are different from themselves. However, exposure to authority figures who might look or think differently than they do will help them to experience other perspectives during their formative years.
Benefits to Other Teachers
Having more diverse hiring practices will help the teachers of color who are already on your staff. As we see a decline in Black and Indigenous teachers throughout the country, it’s clear that a key factor in this is feelings of isolation. When a teacher of color is the only one at a particular institution, they often feel frustrated with the burden of being the example of diversity, as well as isolated and more likely to burn out.
When multiple teachers of color are on staff, it offers a sense of community and takes some of that burden off the shoulders of individual teachers. Seeing diverse teachers may also encourage students of color to become teachers. In essence, schools must hire diversely now, or they may find it more difficult to retain teachers from diverse backgrounds in the future.
9 Strategies for Hiring a Diverse Faculty
It’s one thing to recognize that hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds is important. But many schools still struggle to find people who are the best fit for their school. It’s not enough to be open to hiring teachers from different backgrounds. You have to make an active effort to hire diversely, especially in the current education system where Black and Indigenous teachers are becoming less common. The Institution of Education Sciences (IES) has laid out nine strategies for hiring a diverse faculty. These include:
- Data use: Research data and statistics when it comes to diversity in education. What groups are underrepresented in education? You can use marketing tactics to target teachers in that group as well as focus on what you can offer them.
- Institutional partnerships: Alternative teacher preparation programs tend to focus more on people of color. Encourage school districts to partner with these programs.
- Relationship-based recruitment: Recruitment should be based on building relationships with students of color earning their teaching degree. In doing so, you can find potential candidates before you even post the job.
- Early hiring: The earlier you hire, the larger the pool of applicants, and the larger the applicant pool, the better chances of finding and hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds. The IES recommends hiring all teachers for the new school year a month before the current school year ends.
- Implicit bias: We’ve all learned implicit biases, whether we recognize them or not. Train everyone responsible for hiring to challenge their own implicit biases.
- Multiple measures: Sometimes test scores are not the truest indicator of a teacher’s classroom performance. In fact, those indicators can sometimes serve as gatekeeping for teachers of color who think or perform in different ways. Make sure to offer performance-based tasks in the hiring process, as well.
- Intentional placement: One reason that teachers of color often burn out is because they’re more likely to be placed in schools with poor organizational skills. Be thoughtful in your placement and the fit of new teachers when hiring.
- Professional learning: In any profession, the right support is essential. Offer teachers of color collaborative opportunities with fellow educators, support groups for new teachers, and mentoring — especially mentoring by other teachers of color.
- Leadership opportunities: Hire diverse teachers today and help facilitate diverse teachers tomorrow. You can do so by improving the working conditions in your school, supporting current teachers of color so that you gain a reputation as a great place for diverse hiring, and supporting students of color who hope to become teachers.