I Loved Teaching, but I Had to Leave: A Tale of the 2%

Being a teacher is one thing, but being a Black male teacher is a completely different experience

Arssante Malone
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readJan 15, 2020

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Photo: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

“Mr. Malone, do you know what education means in Spanish?”

One of my students asked me this question after reading my copies of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani’s Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbers. As was our tradition when he’d read one of my books, we were ready to talk about his experience. He was already an outspoken, even rebellious student, but something in these titles in particular resonated with his disdain for school and his search to find his purpose.

Educación means to bring out from within, or to help bring out what’s inside… something like that,” he said. “And to be honest, most of y’all teachers don’t do that. Y’all don’t care about what’s inside. Y’all just pour and pour, and we forget and forget, and y’all never seem to wonder what we wanna do, or be, and then help us achieve that. Y’all just get us ready for the test. That’s why we hate it here.”

The proverbial Strong Black Man had arrived to become the much-needed pillar of stability for children who had been educated mostly by women, either in a single-parent setting or a formal school setting.

I felt his point, and at that moment, we bonded. I don’t regret becoming a teacher, but the current nature of the education system has driven a wedge between my passions and my purpose.

Statistically speaking, Black men only make up 2% of teachers for students in the prekindergarten to 12th-grade range. For nine years, I was among the significantly underrepresented few. I’d see teachers leaving in droves after such long stints in the classroom. I ultimately chose to leave myself for a laundry list of reasons: being underpaid, overworked, overlooked, under-appreciated, dismissed, and used; paradigm shifts; and a lack of diversity and culturally relevant curricula.

But as a “2%-er,” I found that decision more challenging than others might — and certainly more challenging…

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