Back to School: A Survival Guide For Teachers Of Color

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A recent study found that students of all racial backgrounds . Another found that Black educators are . Yet another showed that Black teachers and teaching them to excel.

Clearly, representation in teaching matters. Teachers of color are an to the education system and our impact on student outcomes is indisputable. And considering that while the majority of students are now , you would think the well-being and retention of teachers of color would be a high priority.

But you would be wrong.

Unfortunately, educators of color — especially Black and Latinx teachers — are . Between 2003 and 2011, . Some left due to massive budget cuts, many of which . Other Black teachers have left because of . Many other teachers of color . Still others, lacking the familial assets and generational economic privilege of white teachers, .

And now with white-supremacist-Trump-Train-torch-wielding Nazis and the KKK parading around the country, teachers are coping with an in schools. We’re not only subjected to this racial violence, but must also deal with the added stress of processing it in workplaces surrounded by whiteness. This “” on teachers of color also appoints us solely responsible for the academic AND emotional well-being of our minority students, including to deal with both inside and outside the classroom. The depth of responsibility we carry for our students of color means that we take on additional — and uncompensated — work within our schools and organizations. Because many of us are seen by our white peers as the “token minority” or “expert” on cultural diversity, we are expected to sacrifice our emotional and intellectual labor to lead inclusion initiatives, engage in anti-racism work, and be the primary support systems for students of color at school.

We are committed to our work, but the toll is high and often paid from fading reserves — literally and figuratively. For those of us who persevere despite these obstacles, how can we survive and help our students thrive in today’s toxic environment?

Welcome to our Starter Survival Kit for Teachers of Color.

1) Find your village

It really does take a village to raise a child. And although we are only one part of that support system, our impact as teachers is life changing. However, teachers of color often lack the support needed to thrive. When teaching is overwhelming, don’t wait until you reach the tipping point for support. It’s essential to recognize when we need help and find resources to provide what we can’t (both inside and outside the classroom). Here are some resources and opportunities to connect with and build a support network of other teachers like you:

For all teachers of color:

  • Check out these 5 action steps from to help prevent burnout and cope with the added tolls on our time and emotional/intellectual labor. Enter your email address to keep up-to-date on their blog and follow UrbanEdMixTape on , , and/or .
  • by getting involved with EduColor, a POC-founded collective of educators that started as a support group for advocates of color and now seeks to elevate the voices of educators of color on equity and justice in education. Sign up for their and connect with other teachers and activists of color by following them on and .
  • Follow and/or join these other groups led by and for teachers of color to collectively support one another and help address issues of educational justice in their students’ lives:
  1. Badass Teachers of Color (BTC) on and (connect with other educators addressing race issues)
  2. and Facebook groups (connect with other teachers of color)
  3. on and (connect with a collective of educators countering the oppressiveness of miseducation)
  4. on (connect with a community of educators who are working toward education as a tool of liberation for students, especially low-income youth and youth of color)

For Black teachers:

For Latinx teachers:

For Asian-American and Pacific Islander teachers:

  • Since Asian-American teachers are among K-12 public school educators, consider joining the Philadelphia-based which hosts networking and socializing events throughout the year.
  • Follow the Minnesota-based , which is dedicated to advocacy for Asian students and teachers.
  • Sign up for ’ mailing list to be a part of an organization dedicated to affirmative action, bilingual education, and equity.
  • Follow the , a California-based networking group for AAPI teachers.
  • Become a member of the Filipino American Educators of Washington, a Seattle-based professional organization of Filipino American educators that empower, support, and promote each other’s growth, recruitment, development, advancement, and contributions in the schools and communities they serve. You can follow FAEW on and find their membership information .

For Native/Indigenous teachers:

For non-native English speaker teachers (NNEST) and ESL teachers:

2) Create a climate that sustains both teachers and students of color

Lacking resources, minimal support, and cultural incompetency in majority-white spaces means that teaching takes more of an emotional, physical, and mental toll on educators of color. There is often a disconnect with other white educators regarding our experiences and ideas about education, especially when speaking about students of color. Consequently, we feel alienated and sometimes resentful of white colleagues when we are consistently required to be the “token minority” voice for our communities. It’s a fine balancing act for teachers of color: we want to show up for our studentsespecially students of colorwhile taking care of ourselves. Here are some tips to sustain that balance:

You can’t give from an empty cup so incorporate self-care into your daily routine:

  • Review our guide on how people of color can foster mental health and practice restorative healing .
  • Check out these tips on . Read how other educators of color are defining, processing, and attending to self-care on this chat moderated by #EduColor. Remind yourself that teaching is an act of resistance with , bell hooks’s collection of essays about “education as the practice of freedom.”
  • Take time to celebrate your victories in the classroom and your professional achievements. But don’t forget you have a life outside of school! Stay connected with family and friends and make time to pursue your non-work related passions.

Create a classroom environment and culture that is decolonized, anti-racist, and harassment-free (for yourself and students of color):

  1. underscores the importance of engaging with your students and your own preparation.
  2. Read and this from Colorlines to how to talk to kids of color about white supremacy.
  3. Access free resources to help you prepare classroom activities such as the for elementary and secondary level students.
  4. Teaching Tolerance’s searchable database by topic and grade level for , free for K-12, and about police violence. For high school students, SPLC offers about systemic racism and this lesson plan, .

3) Seek financial support

It’s no secret that teachers are grossly underpaid and classroom resources are lacking. Teachers of color in particular are leaving at much higher rates than their white counterparts, in part, due to the financial hit. When school resources are scarce, get creative! Find non-traditional ways to receive funding and offset personal costs. Start with these suggestions:

  • Get funding for your ideas and teaching projects: For tech-savvy K-12 teachers interested in technology-based learning projects, stay up-to-date with this of grants and sign up for The Journal’s . Apply for an Educator Grant from Teaching Tolerance for at the K-12 school, district, or classroom level.
  • Get funding for your classroom: Here are a few listings of a wide variety of grants and funding resources: from Edutopia; grants; and . Check out , a Facebook page where people of color request financial assistance from white people. Create your own request for classroom funds on , a free site for teachers.
  • Tell us your needs: There are people who want to support teachers of color, so don’t be shy! If you have created a fundraiser for your classroom for school supplies, computers, or other things you need, drop us a line at and we’ll get the word out.


Support organizations and initiatives led by people of color who are dedicated to closing the teacher-student diversity gap and helping teachers of color thrive inside the classroom.

  • is an organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia. AATF supports the training, hiring, and retention of Black teachers in Charlottesville and the surrounding county. In this area of the country, the need for teachers who share a cultural understanding with African-American students is significant. There is only one African-American teacher for every 122 students, and Black students are three times more likely to drop out of school than white students. In response, AATF has created a program that provides financial assistance for aspiring teachers and ensures that fellows in the program make critical professional connections, work with mentors, and create a durable network of their peers. Follow AATF on and . Donate .
  • believes that Black teachers have a unique understanding of American institutions and social norms. This understanding has the potential to benefit all students as “every student deserves a Black teacher.” This organization is recruits, develops, and sustains Black teachers through strategic recruitment, research and community discussion forums, as well as ongoing support through professional and social events. In addition to a fellowship program, BTP has a range of offerings for Black teachers including workshops, drop-in centers, and events. Follow BTP on and . Donate .
  • is POC-led coalition of teachers, activists, researchers, parents, and students who believe that education should teach young low-income students and students of color how to challenge the injustices of their communities and work toward liberation. They host the conference “,” provide an interactive database of liberatory educational materials called , and help local educators stay connected in their communities through . Follow EdLiberation on . Donate .

This is Action Call #18 in a series. Read past calls to action from Threads of Solidarity . You can support our work financially here:




A collective voice for women of color solidarity and liberation. Warding against the sunken place. Not here for delusional Becky or Chad the Explainer.

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Threads of Solidarity: WOC Against Racism

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A collective voice for women of color solidarity and liberation. Warding against the sunken place. Not here for delusional Becky or Chad the Explainer.

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