Diversity Matters!

I didn’t always want to be a teacher.  In fact, I remember being told in high school that I should be a teacher and I almost spit out the water I was drinking. At the time, I didn’t think teaching was for me; being a teacher didn’t seem that glamorous.

Every teacher I had growing up didn’t look like they had any more money than my parents and we were pretty poor. Even in high school, some teachers drove newer model cars had a couple more rings on their fingers and carried a designer purse or two, but they weren’t “balling” and my high school was 13th in the nation.

Let’s be honest; teachers aren’t rich.  When you’re growing up, you tend to choose professions you think will lead to you living a comfortable life – the white picket fence and the three car garage with vacations and shopping sprees galore.  That “glamorous” life isn’t the life of a teacher.

Why isn’t there more diversity in the teaching profession?

It’s important for children to see reflections of themselves teaching in their classroom.  Diversity in education, specifically for teachers is not just a buzz phrase, but a necessity as research has proven it to have favorable outcomes for students.

Tennessee believes that diversity in teaching is a necessary priority.  They allocated $200,000 in grants to improve diversity in our schools.

Metro Nashville Public Schools recognizes the importance of hiring more teachers of color and has taken steps to create and maintain a pipeline for more diversity in its schools. A report for Nashville concluded 68 percent of students identify as a minority (African American, Hispanic or Asian) while less than 26% if its teachers are.

A pipeline for teachers of color is necessary within the school system, not just for Nashville or Tennessee, but also nationally. As research indicates, a lack of diversity in the classroom hinders the long-term change in the school and the community. We can’t afford to not have diversity in the classroom.

One of the action we can take is to establish teachers as professionals – those who are just as important as the major league players or the NBA’s MVPs.

Maybe glamorizing the teaching profession as one where you can actually live comfortably and enjoy all of life’s pleasures would also bring more diversity to the profession.

Teachers aren’t rich in dollars; that’s not why we do it.  But we have riches unmeasured – because we enrich our students’ lives each day and have priceless moments of pride, joy and sometimes exhaustion knowing we are committed to providing a child – your child – a foundation for which they can choose the life they want to live.

 

Marlena Little

Educator, visionary and leader.

Marlena Little grew up in the inner-city of Chicago in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city. Yet the contrast of her home and school life provided evidence to the statement, “it’s not where you’ve been but where you are going”. Having attended one of the best elementary and high-schools in the country, she was determined to live beyond the poverty and violence of her neighborhood, knowing education was the escape.

Marlena Little, a Memphian by choice, relocated to Memphis to fight for educational equity. As a teacher, it was important for Marlena’s students to see her as an example of that escape. As an administrator, Marlena challenged teachers and staff to illuminate education as the way out, yet as a visionary, Marlena has created paths of escape.

As Founder of Life Prep Academy Schools, Marlena Little has seamlessly merged her childhood with the standard of excellence imbedded in her educational experiences to provide students, regardless of any “label”, the limitless opportunities a high-quality education affords.  Her philosophical beliefs about education are the guiding principles of Life Prep.

In addition to her many roles, Marlena Little is also a mother and forever learner.  She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and has the pleasure of raising a nine-year-old daughter.