"I Don't Think Black Men Teach Because How They Get Treated as Students": High-Achieving African American Boys' Perceptions of Teaching as a Career Option

Article excerpt

This phenomenological investigation examines the perceptions of the teaching profession as a viable career option by high-achieving high school-aged African American boys. Researchers used random sampling to identify high schools in one large urban school district and criterion sampling to examine the perceptions of 63 African American 11th-grade boys. Participants completed a perceptual analysis inventory, constructed a circle map, stetched an artistic drawing of a classroom teacher, and participated in focus group sessions. Using an explicitation analysis process, three themes emerged as factors that dissuaded participants from considering teaching as a career option: (a) Negative Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching, (b) Schools as Oppressive Institutions, and (c) African American Males as Nonconformists. Recommendations for practice and future research are offered.

Keywords: Teacher education, Race, ethnicity, and class, African American studies

INTRODUCTION

African American male teachers are disproportionately represented in K-12 public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2010, African American men teachers compose approximately 7.5 percent of all male teachers nationwide and make up approximately 2 percent of all teachers. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2010) called attention to this issue at a historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) symposium at North Carolina Central University when he stated,

It is especially troubling that less than 2 percent of our nation's 3.2 million teachers are AfricanAmerican males. On average, roughly 300,000 new teachers are hired a year in America - and just 4,500 of them are Black males. It is not good for any of our country's children that only one in 50 teachers is a Black man.

In June 2009, the White House Initiative on HBCUs and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards hosted the HBCU Teaching and Teacher Education Forum where Irvine and Fenwick (2009) presented recommendations focused on the recruitment, preparation, induction, retention, and professional development of African American teachers in the new millennium. One critical recommendation focused on the need to recruit more African American men into the teaching profession. Few institutions of higher education currently offer financial incentives specifically for African American males to pursue teaching as a career. However, several innovative programs are engaged in this endeavor, including the "Real Men Teach" program at Winston-Salem State University, the "Call Me Mister" program, a collaborative effort between Clemson University and three historically Black universities, and the "Ready to Teach" program at Howard University.

Scholars (Brown & Butty, 1999; Irvine & Fenwick, 2009; Vegas, Murnane, & Willett, 2001) have asserted that the number of African American males who enter the teaching profession is impacted by die decreasing number of African American males who complete high school requirements to attend coUege. They contended that African American students are not taking rigorous coursework in high school that would prepare tiiem to become teachers. A report from the Schott Foundation for PubUc Education titled, Black Boys: The Litmus Test for Public School Education (2004), substantiates diese claims as it concluded, "Up to 70 percent of black boys who enter 9tii grade do not graduate four years later with their peers" (p. 2). Further analysis of high school graduation rates of tiie 2005-06 cohort by this Foundation found a 28% gap between Black males (47%) and White males (75%). Witti a smaller number of Black males entering coUege, the pool of potential future classroom teachers dwindles substantiaUy.

However, there are tiiose African American boys who perform weU academicaUy and who Ulustrate their abtiity to handle higher-order dunking skills in rigorous coursework eitiier in Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate programs, or early coUege programs. …