Everyone faces stereotypes in life. Nobody gets a free pass. Women are viewed typically as the caregiver in the family and men are considered the disciplinarian and the breadwinner. Anytime you take a race or a group of individuals and make a broad statement about them, it is a stereotype. There are several stereotypes about races that are hurtful and wrong, but they have been around forever. It’s difficult to deal with stereotypes in your personal life, but when it transfers over to your professional life it can be tough to change people’s minds when they are already made up.
As a male primary school teacher, I have faced several stereotypes in my career. Principals have placed the behaviour problem students in my class on a consistent basis because I am the lone male teacher in the district and they feel I will be able to relate better to them. I am also tasked with being the main disciplinarian in our hallway because I can be a bit of a scary figure.
Working Around Stereotypes
A teaching staff can be comprised of several different races. While some of the stereotypes about the races can be true, when the individuals are looked at more closely, each person’s strengths and weaknesses will vary. However, in the meantime, some teachers are having a tough time handling the stereotypes placed upon them.
Many African American teachers have stated that they feel they are hired only to teach black students. They are generally not asked to teach the advanced classes. They are put in charge of black students that are at risk. The African American teachers are also the unofficial disciplinarians of these students as well. With this happening, not only does it put those teachers in a difficult situation, but it is saying to the students that the white teachers are not there as much to help them out. Handing the black students off to strictly African American teachers and vice versa are doing a disservice to everyone involved.
Asian teachers can be facing dissimilar stereotypes, but at the same time be pigeonholed in their own school district. They are often asked to teach advanced classes. Asian teachers are generally viewed as very intelligent, but their communication skills are less than perfect. They are thought to be quiet, hardworking, and non-confrontational members of society.
Although many languages are spoken in Asia and it is the biggest continent, Asian students are generally paired with Asian teachers if there is one on staff. People assume that they will have similar backgrounds just because they came from the same continent.
White teachers face their own stereotypes in schools. They can be viewed as teachers that strictly follow the rules. People assume since they are white, that they are unsympathetic to minorities and their issues. If teaching in an inner city school, they do not receive the respect that other teachers do.
Best Way to Stop the Cycle
Placing stereotypes on whole races is just a simple way to classify people without ever getting to know the individual. It keeps us apart more than brings us together. I am not going to pretend that I can come up with an answer to end racism and common stereotypes. People much smarter than I have tried and failed.
Segregation is not the correct way to end it, though. And placing only certain teachers to be in charge of students that are from the same race as they are is a type of segregation. Sometimes it can be for the best, giving a student a role model of some sort. But who is to say a role model cannot be someone of a different race.
If you as a teacher feel that you are being stereotyped in any way, and you are wanting a change, then approach administration with your concerns. They are only human, and they may not even realise they are doing these things that could be offending you. It can be a slippery slope when trying to determine the best path for students to follow, and unless concerns are brought to the table, things will never change. Once again, the thing to remember is everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has something to learn. Sharing your thoughts with administration is a proactive step in ending stereotypes.