Teaching: Unfolds Numerous Career Options for African-American College Graduates

Article excerpt

Changing demographic patterns contribute to African-American college graduates being strategically positioned to rapidly enter the K-12 teaching profession in the next millennium. Veteran teachers (25-30 years of instructional experience) will be retiring from the teaching profession in greater numbers in the next millennium. Disproportionately, African-American teachers will be leaving the teaching profession. What factors are driving this trend? Many of the African-American teachers entered the profession during an era when African-American graduates had fewer career options than their counterparts today. Graduates discovered career options as K-12 teachers in de facto (in reality) and de jure (by law) school systems. Also some graduates thought of teaching as a natural career to position them for collaborating with young people and using education as a social escalator to improve their life stations. Consequently, the combined impact of the two factors contributes to school districts facing major challenges trying to recruit and retain outstanding African-American educators.

Next, the changing K-12 student demographics from predominately white to more students of color (Hispanics, Asians, and African Africans) contrast sharply with the increasing white female composition of the teaching profession. A homogenous teaching cadre can result in one voice shaping the curriculum and developing pedagogy (teaching styles) for an emerging, racially-diverse K-12 student population. Expanding the pool of African-American (females and males) teachers will include more voices into shaping the curriculum and incorporating holistic pedagogical styles for a racially-diverse student population.

For those of you graduating with degrees in education and those without education degrees interested in teaching, the future is promising. Because of current teachers' retirements, an increasing student population and a demand for teachers in specialized areas, some foresee a national shortage of teachers in the next few years. Teachers of color will be in particular demand because of the changing racial and ethnic demographics of the country. "By employing highly successful and capable people of color, schools destroy prejudicial attitudes on the part of white students and parents and establish a standard to which African-American students can aspire," said Dr. H. Douglas Williams, superintendent of Schools of Perry Township in central Indiana. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the United States will need 20% more K-elementary schoolteachers and 5% more secondary education schoolteachers by the year 2005. This increase comes at a time when more African-American students and fewer white students are entering elementary school. What does this increase mean for you now? It means you should schedule an appointment with your advisor and make sure you are on track for graduation with the type of license or certificate you expect to receive, or it means you should consider a career in the teaching profession. "We need more teachers of color because of their passion for students of color. Because educators of color often possess a special passion for African-American students, they provide a desperately needed support base in schools for those students. In addition, when their perspective is shared with white educators, it enables those white educators to become more effective in working with African-American students," Dr. Williams said. This article will help you prepare for life after graduation, and it will also make you think about why more people of color must consider careers in teaching.

Why is it important for you to clarify the type of license or certificate you will have when you graduate? The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has recently distinguished licensure and certification. "Educators argue that states license (e.g. architects, nurses, etc.) and that specialized boards in the respective fields certify. …