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We Got Next

Urban Education and the Next Generation of Black Teachers


Lynnette Mawhinney

Developing a more culturally diverse teaching force is one of the most important tasks facing the education system in the United States. Yet, in the midst of this challenge, little is known about who these teachers might be or where they might come from. We Got Next: Urban Education and the Next Generation of Black Teachers illustrates the journeys that Black pre-service teachers travel in their attempts to become educators. By looking at their educational life histories – their schooling experiences, teaching philosophies, and personal motivation – this book discovers what compels them to become teachers and the struggles and successes they encounter along the way. With texture and care, We Got Next helps professionals, policymakers, and teacher educators to understand what draws young African Americans toward the teaching profession and how to help them get there.
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Chapter 1. Introduction

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Back in the late 1990s, I was one of two Black1 preservice teachers in my class at a major Big Ten university with 40,000 students. It was evident then, as an African American, that I was part of a rare group of teachers. In all of my education courses, I remember looking around and not seeing a reflection of myself within my peers. Yet, this was often the norm throughout all of my educational experiences, and the experience of being the “token student” became normative quite quickly.

It was not until junior year that I had a class with another Black student. She was an older woman, in her mid-40s, named Brenda,2 and we instantly gravitated to each other. In class, we partnered to create an adolescent literature teaching unit on American Indian life on reservations. While working together, we bonded over the concept of how important it was for us, as Black teachers, to be a role model for our future Black students. Sadly, Brenda, like many of the prospective Black teachers today, was unable to successfully pass the basic skills portion of the teacher certification exam. At our large university’s graduation, I was the only Black face among the secondary education majors.

Brenda’s struggle with teacher certification is not atypical in the education field. Since 2011, it has become increasingly harder for African Americans to ← 1 | 2 → enter the teaching field. For example, the “basic skills” portion of the teacher certification exams...

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