(ThyBlackMan.com) I do not know of a single African-American Professor who does not possess the desire to recreate themselves. Simply put, one of the major by-products of Black graduate students working their way through the snares and traps of academia is a severe desire to make the path more accessible and passable for those that follow. By the time we earn our Ph.D. s, no one in the world can impress upon us that there are enough Black academics and intellectuals to mentor us through the tough times.
When one considers that the rough terrain that Black Ph.D.’s must cross is often made more difficult by Professors who detest our presence for a host of reasons directly tied to white supremacist thought, engagement with one of “us” while in graduate school can serve as a much-needed gust of wind propelling us toward our lofty goal.
Trust me when I say that the pride I experience when yet another of my students crosses the threshold of earning their Doctorate degree is not one of euphoria but rather an occasion to pause for several moments to celebrate the achievement but, more importantly, to bow my head in honor and respect to the ancestors who aided this process in one way or another.
In light of the above, I hope that you can understand my unending pride when several of my students, most recently Ms. Coiette P. Gaston, who now is a colleague working in the same department as myself, cross that final threshold in their chosen field.
Suppose I have achieved nothing else in the academy. In that case, I can proudly state that I have contributed to more than capable Black Professors being available to mentor and teach precocious Black students researching issues of importance to Black America. I took the job of ensuring that the pipeline of Black thinkers continued flowing with the utmost seriousness.
Manufacturing excellent Black students begins well before arriving on a college campus. Those I reference have undergone a K-12 curriculum that has prepared them for higher education. My contemporaries’ dedication to reproducing ourselves will never blind us to the heavy lifting in K-12.
Only a fool fails to see the interconnectedness between teachers and professors—an overstanding of the interconnectedness between educators’ mandates that I closely monitor the matter of teacher shortage.
According to a recent Learning Policy Institute survey, droves of full-time teachers choose to exit the profession via early retirement or more attractive employment opportunities. The most cited catalyst for the above changes is the twin evils of psychological stress and low pay. American teachers have historically been abused, misused, and devalued by the very society they have nobly served for centuries. Data states that one-third of those exiting the classroom report a typical work week of over “56 hours or more.” One-third of current teachers report working a second job to “make ends meet.” According to the Learning Policy Institute survey, “64 percent of respondents said their pay wasn’t sufficient to merit the risk or stress.”
The fleeing of the teacher ranks is so common that many of those I have aided on the path to participating in this noble profession have exited the classroom. The past five years have been ferocious for the brilliant youth whose minds I helped mold in my History courses. So many of these young Black teachers that Charles Hamilton Houston would have considered “levers for social justice” have exited the teaching profession for the same reasons highlighted by the Learning Policy Institute study. The teacher shortage crisis has gotten so bad that the Houston Independent School District that many of my students vacated was marred by over seven-hundred vacant teaching positions during a recent summer, according to the Texas Tribune.
It is past time that the U.S. Government (local, state, and federal) makes a decisive move on behalf of American educators. When you think about it, they are the foundation for this nation’s prosperity; however, they are much like laborers who have been left out of profits. The time for shucking and jiving educators has been over for decades; it is now time for the entire nation not only to agree to pay teachers a livable wage but also allow them a seat at the table when substantive issues impacting their lives are being discussed.
One more thing. If you were able to read this, thank your favorite teacher.
Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III
One may also connect with this brother via Twitter; DrJamestJones.