Research supports that students of color tend to achieve more when they have teachers who mirror their culture and background. A March 2017 study by the Institute of Labor Economics found that when Black male students have at least one Black male teacher in grades three through five, high school dropout rates decrease significantly.

Having a teacher who looks like you and who you can relate to, can help students feel more comfortable, confident and enthusiastic. This is not to disparage the work of teachers who are not of color. It’s simply to acknowledge the unfortunate truth of racial bias within our educational system and propose that part of the solution is to draw more black males to the profession.

The solution seems simple: Recruit more Black male teachers. However, Black male teachers make up only two percent of the teaching force in America. This is due to a myriad circumstances. So how can we widen the funnel for Black men to consider teaching? This is a simple answer: Recruit more Black men first as volunteers and mentors.

Recently, the staff at a local school endeavored to increase the presence of Black men by inviting community members to volunteer. Black men from every walk of life and profession answered the call. Each man who volunteered was asked if they would consider becoming an educator full-time, and it lifted my soul to hear the responses.

Through this experience, I learned something powerful: Black men do not lack desire to become educators. Rather, complex barriers may be holding them back. To solve this we must provide a clear path for Black men to volunteer across school and community. Then, those who pursue education must be supported through mentorship.

In Demand is a movement that seeks to connect Black men to opportunities to become volunteers, mentors and educators.

Quan Neloms Educator/Counselor