Where is the diversity in BPS?
I want to see diversity in all BPS factors
“I like that we have the same language; she understands me,” said a 7 years old girl who is Haitian-American. What questions run through your head when you read that? Who is the adult she is referring to? Or what made an adult give this little girl a sense of comfort? This was a phrase from the article “Boston’s teacher diversity has barely budged in 10 years. District leaders hope the next decade will look different” by Naomi Martin, in her writing she talked about the diversity of teachers within the Boston Public School system. This caught attention when from 2020 until 2021, the ratio between Black:Asian:Hispanic: White, remained at 24:6:11:59, clearly telling us that there wasn’t much done from when the article was written in 2020 until now.
So what makes diversity important in BPS? You may ask. Well, there are several reasons why such as we want the young to understand the diversity outside of school, we want the young to feel comfortable sharing their feelings, and cultures without thinking that there might be some source discrimination around, and lastly diversity in teaching would bring several experiences for students.
An example would be Izzy Pham, a freshman at the John D. O’Bryant, who was an immigrant from Vietnam. She came to the US when she was 8 years, doesn’t know a single English word except for ‘Hi’. She retells her story of when she first went to BPS, which was Mather Elementary School. When she was there, she was put into an ELS classroom which fulled of Vietnamese students and there she meet Ms. Nguyen. She was surprised because she never thought of having her whole community in a single classroom in the US. She was being taught in both languages so she and others can understand the English language. And just like that ELS classroom was her partner until she graduated from Elementary.
Walking into Middle School, she was stunned by the actual real reality of a BPS, she went to Boston Green Academy which is located in Brighton, and there she was the only Asian student from 6th to 12th grade. The most memorable moment was when it was Lunar New Year. Izzy didn’t dare to ask for a day off because none of her teachers would understand, she assumed. Even though, she didn’t get to express much of her culture; one thing that she remembers the most was how supportive the teachers were to her even with her limited English.
Izzy story speaks alot to me because I’m also an immigrant with limited English; this is something that a lot of BPS students have been experienced. I have created a google form that gathers O’Bryant students’ thoughts on BPS diversity. The form asks about how many Asian, White, Black, and Hispanic teachers you have had in your life. Four questions letting them put down how many teachers they’ve had;and here is the result in terms of diversity in BPS teachers: 55% white, 26% black 12% Hispanic, and 7% Asian. An example of what students have submitted was Emily with 12 Whites, 8 Blacks, 1 Hispanic, and 1 Asian.
Another side question (and this one was optional) “Was there a time when sharing personal life with your teacher was difficult because of racial barrier?” here is some of the one that stood out to me out of 31 responses.
“Yes, I still experienced that”
“No, because I’m really comfortable sharing with anyone”
“Yes there was one time when I was the only Indian in the classroom so when my teacher asks what is my favorite food, I said “Pizza” because I know that none of my friends should know what’s Pani Puri is”
“Yes and no, maybe it was because I didn’t know any words in English so I really can’t share anything.”
“No for me but my cousin told me that when she came to the US, she didn’t know any words and no one know Chinese in her school to help her out, her teachers did try but as time went by she was being treated like a robot where hand languages are using more than verbal language”
Even though it’s just a survey from one of a hundred in BPS but it can tell us about student perspective on what is going on within the BPS hiring. Since John D. O’Bryant is a middle plus high school, it means that almost 80% of students that took the survey grew up with BPS so their answers pretty much reflect the overall BPS system.
You might think that students should learn how to adapt and get comfortable around teachers because that’s a skill they should need in life, because you won’t get to choose who you want to work with. Yes, it’s true that when we as students grow up, we won’t be able to choose who we will work with but being stuck with the same race for the rest of your life would bring up many consequences. One of the consequences is you might be stuck with the mindset that there are only Black or White and that other races won’t be suitable. My last point, and this is huge, it’s not just students but teachers as well. If you are a white person and for your whole life, you have been stuck with mainly white and all of your favorite teachers and friends are also white then would you have a perspective that white is the best and the other race are trash because you never had a good experience or you just know that you don’t fit it. These thoughts could be led to racist acts in the future or something closer to racial supremacy.
So then how can BPS always seek diversity in school when teachers and staffs were never the centers of their focus?