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‘Guys With Ties’: Mentoring Men of Color for the Teacher Workforce

When considering the trends in college degree attainment among students of color, there appears to be a tale of two genders, and something must be done about it. In April, I was part of a group of educators from across the country that convened in New Jersey at William Paterson University’s College of Education to consider the issue. The attendees have been working together over the past 2 years as members of AACTE’s Black and Hispanic/Latino Male Initiative Networked Improved Community (NIC), drawing upon the collective expertise of the member institutions to increase representation of Black and Hispanic/Latino males in the teacher workforce.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black student college-going and bachelor’s degree attainment rose by 49% between 2002 and 2012, and Latino attainment grew 91% during the same period. However, hidden in these hopeful numbers are differences in degree attainment by gender. Among both Black and Latino male students, bachelor’s degree attainment remained virtually unchanged during that period. These gender disparities represent a significant challenge to overcome if the teacher workforce is to be diversified to better match student demographics.

Our meeting in New Jersey was convened to examine the potential of formal mentoring to increase the number of males of color completing teacher preparation programs. A 2014 Gallup-Purdue poll found that students who felt supported and encouraged by a professor who made them excited about learning were much more likely to report thriving post-college, but only 14% of recent graduates reported having these types of support. In a national study of Black male college students, influential teachers were cited frequently as contributing to student academic success, although these relationships developed absent a formal mentoring program. What we wanted to examine was whether a more formal mentoring approach would improve completion rates among Black and Latino men in education programs.

As part of its work through the AACTE NIC, William Paterson has implemented such a program. The T.I.E. (Teach-Inspire-Educate) Scholars program pairs Black and Latino male faculty facilitators with Black and Latino male students enrolled in the College of Education. In addition to these one-to-one “shepherd” pairings, students are also part of a campus-wide mentorship network that provides them access to information, advising, and advocacy for a wide range of needs. At our April NIC meeting, we heard from T.I.E. students who cited the positive impact of having people who “understood where [the students] were coming from,” and who “looked like [them].”

Reflective conversations followed throughout the day as we learned about the foundations of T.I.E. in research around culturally relevant pedagogy and student development theory. For example, the program views students’ culture as an asset and utilizes other concepts grounded in the work of Gloria Ladson-Billings, and the development of students’ ethnic identity and racial identity is also central to its approach. Finally, the program maintains high expectations. As promoted by Lisa Delpit, the program aims to enable its students to navigate systems and institutions at the highest levels, bringing out their gifts to work as teachers in a system that may not always realize them.

The next steps for the NIC team are to examine how these concepts exist and work at our individual campuses, and if they do not yet exist, to look at how they can be implemented using a thoughtful and rigorous approach.

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Francisco X. Gaytán

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Director, ENLACE Leadership Institute, Northeastern Illinois University