By Eli Hearne (Op-Ed Editor).
Sharon High School prides itself on its diverse student body, yet the teaching force is woefully lacking in this respect.
While walking down the busy hallways in between classes, take a moment to observe your peers as they pass. They’re Indian, Korean, Muslim, Jewish, Hispanic, White, Black. The hallways at Sharon are the melting pot that America claims to be.
Unfortunately, the teaching force does not represent this wide range of ethnicities, nor even its balanced gender distribution.
On the riveting day schedules are released to students to inform them of their classes for the semester, the majority of students will have a list full of white female teachers.
According to School and District Profiles conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there are 90 full time female educators at the high school, and only 41 males. That gives students at Sharon High approximately a 69% chance of having of having a female teacher.
As our student body has 586 males and only 553 females, it is unlikely that all male students will have at least one male teacher every year.
Yet the issue with an imbalance in female and male teachers is prevalent across the nation.
Additionally, Sharon really struggles with representing students’ range of races and ethnicities within the teaching force.
For instance, Asian students make up 20% of our school population, but we only have four Asian teachers.
Another major demographic that feels under represented by the lack of diversity is our Black contingency. While our student body is made up of 7.6% Black students, we have zero full-time Black teachers. There is not a single teacher representing the 8% of our school.
“We need more Black teachers. It’s as simple as that,” one African American senior said.
Another Black student added that hiring a Black teacher would have positive results: “It would motivate you to learn because even if you don’t have that much of a connection with the subject, you will have a connection with a teacher.”
Many say the high school years are essential for finding one’s self, so students should have a teacher that they can identify with and trust during this time in their lives.
“Having a teacher that you can identify with makes it easier to interact with them, and overall easier to break through the awkward barrier that is often there,” said one sophomore.
When a student can identify with a teacher, it removes one more obstacle to their successful learning.
There is one good piece of news: the school understands this problem, and intends to make change.
Superintendent Mr. Timothy J. Farmer says that the district is a member of the Massachusetts Partnership for Diversity in Education (MPDE). The district attends MPDE’s job fair for minority candidates every year.
Mr. Farmer also says that the district advertises in El Mondo and The Bay State Banner, two minority publications in the Greater Boston area, as well as in the magazine Teachers of Color every year, in hopes of attracting potential job applicants who would represent Sharon’s diverse student body.
The Sharon School system has even created a Diversity Task Force consisting of teachers, administrators, and parents who weigh potential strategies for increasing the hiring of diverse personnel.
Thankfully, over the years Sharon High has done a great job of hiring and retaining many LBGTQ teachers who bring different perspectives to the classroom and better our school for everyone.
Yet representing this demographic is not enough. Our school needs to stress hiring teachers that will bring more diversity to our teaching force, and overall make our school environment a more positive place for all members of our student body.