Questions from #EdcampMN 2014 Opening Keynote Steve Hoffman

At yesterday’s EdcampMN opening keynote speaker Steve Hoffman posed some pretty tough questions that he views as things that hinder collaboration in schools.  We only had a few minutes that morning to discuss these questions and they really are questions that deserve more time. In case you missed it, or if you just want to revisit it, here is a very shaky video of the keynote speech “rigorous conversation.”

Part 1

Question 1: How come the men aren’t here?

Part 2

Question 2: Where are our colleagues who are not here (African American, Hmong, American Indian, Latino, etc.) represented?

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

So, why are there so few men and non-white minorities in the teaching profession? Is this a problem for our profession? And, what can be done to help bring a more representative cross-section of our population to the table?



7 thoughts on “Questions from #EdcampMN 2014 Opening Keynote Steve Hoffman

  1. Where are the men in teaching? Where are the ethnic minorities?

    Let’s start with the men. At EdcampMN 2014, my table-mate and I discussed a couple of factors. One factor is that teaching typically begins as a lower-paying profession. Men may feel the need to bring home the big bucks, thus, driving them towards other professions. The motive may be to support their family. Or, perhaps men view teaching as a “womens’ profession”. Teaching involves nurturing. Whether working with elementary-age kids or at the secondary level, children thrive best in a nurturing environment. Not all men (and not all women, for that matter) possess this quality.

    How do we encourage more men to become teachers? Begin at an elementary level to encourage boys to pursue a career in teaching. Help boys to realize that, whatever their passion is, they can teach it to others. If sports is their passion, they may choose to pursue physical education. If music and the arts is their passion, they may choose to become a choir, band, or theater teacher. In terms of money, there is so much room for growth! If a teacher stays with their district, financial compensation blooms. Administration is another possibility with high-paying outcomes. And, let’s not forget, teachers typically get summers off which may allow an individual to pursue a different occupation in the off-season.

    Now, where are the ethnic minorities? Well, for starters, according to the US Census Bureau, the population in Minnesota is 86.2% white. Therefore, it makes sense that there would be a higher number of caucasian teachers in Minnesota based on their representation in our population as a whole. Other contributing factors may include: socioeconomic patterns, language barriers, the value of education, or the lack of minority role models.

    According to the JRLC on MN Poverty,
    -Minnesota’s overall poverty rate is below the national average and is relatively low compared to that of other states. However, Minnesota’s poverty rates for minorities are consistently higher than the national averages.
    -Minnesota’s poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites is 8.2% while its poverty rate for all people of color is 26.2%.
    -Minnesota has the highest poverty rate in the nation among Asian American children (22%).
    -Minnesota has the fifth highest poverty rate in the nation among African American children (47%).
    It is difficult for students coming from these backgrounds to find support and role models at home when it comes to being successful in school.

    In regards to language barriers, according to Mike Zillow, MPR News, “Minnesota stands alone in its region, with a population of English learners exceeding all of its neighboring states. The reason, experts say, is that Minnesota has long been an attractive environment for immigrants.”

    According to the Huffington Post article “Few Minority Teachers In Classrooms, Gap Attributed To Bias And Low Graduation Rates, “This is a problem for students, schools, and the public at large. Teachers of color serve as role models for students, giving them a clear and concrete sense of what diversity in education–and in our society–looks like. A recent review of empirical studies also shows that students of color do better on a variety of academic outcomes if they’re taught by teachers of color.”

    Minority students will likely outnumber white students in the next decade or two, but the failure of the national teacher demographic to keep up with that trend is hurting minority students who tend to benefit from teachers with similar backgrounds.

    So, what can we, as teachers, do to combat this growing problem? Suggest, suggest, suggest. Suggest to students of minority that they pursue a career in teaching. Provide statistics to these students so that they can see the need for teachers of their ethnic backgrounds. Provide resources to these students to help them become successful in school. Talk to parents and families of minority students to encourage their educational track. Bring in minority teachers to speak with students about their experience.

    Be a resource!

    from Jennifer Klecatsky, Brainerd Schools

    APA Citations:
    MN Poverty: Helpful Facts. (n.d.). MN Poverty: Helpful Facts. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
    Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth and Asset Choices. (n.d.). Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth and Asset Choices. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
    Ranks of English learners swelling in Minnesota schools. (n.d.). Minnesota Public Radio News. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
    United States Census Bureau. (n.d.).Minnesota QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from
    Zhao, E. (2011, November 11). Few Minority Teachers In Classrooms, Gap Attributed To Bias And Low Graduation Rates. The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from

    • Jennifer, a well-written and researched post. You cite some interesting statistics on Minnesota’s poverty and minority numbers. Because Minnesota is relatively attractive for immigrant families (for a variety of reasons, although I can’t imagine the winters being one of them) it would be thought-provoking to examine more closely the cultural values of leading immigrant populations to determine the importance placed on education versus the cultural viewpoint of teaching as a profession. Could it be that some emerging populations and cultures, although they may value education, do not see the relative respectable merits of the teaching profession? Perhaps, it also comes down to defaulting toward traditional gender roles with deep roots of culturally acceptable roles within the family unit. I haven’t researched these theories as of yet, rather bring them up for further discussion.

      • I agree with your theories, Deb. However, I do not think that these populations are specifically down on the teaching profession. I think, as you say, that they may have deep-rooted roles within the family that they tend to follow. Also, finances may not allow for the pursuing of higher education (at least in their eyes). According to the MN website, Immigration Overview, “By country of origin, the 15 largest groups of foreign-born residents in Minnesota are (in descending order): Mexico, Laos (including Hmong), India, Somalia, Vietnam, Thailand (including Hmong), Korea, China, Liberia, Ethiopia, Canada, El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, and Germany. In general, immigrant workers are concentrated at the high skill and low skill ends of the workforce spectrum. As of 2012, roughly 35 percent of foreign-born residents hold a 4-year college degree or higher (that share is 33 percent for the native-born population). Twenty-six percent of Minnesota’s foreign-born adults lack a high school degree or GED, compared to six percent of the state’s native-born adults. Many of these adults work in meat packing, poultry processing, and other large-scale agricultural operations.” It could be a language barrier thing too.

  2. “How come the men aren’t here?” I struggle with this question a little. My husband and I are both in the education profession. We have both worked in classroom roles and have both transitioned into more administrative roles. I come from a family with a background in education and my husband has a mix of agriculture, education, and health care in his family roots. Perhaps, therein lies part of the answer. Our upbringing, what we are used to, what our fathers did for a living, may greatly impact our future professional choices.

    My father spent his entire career in one Minnesota school district – 41 years dedicated to teaching and educational leadership. Yes, he was always a minority when it came to male-female staff ratios, but he was not alone by any means. All but about 3 years of his career were spent at the elementary level which, again, may seem atypical for men in education.

    When I consider my husband’s career path, all but 2 years of his 19 year career so far have also been at the elementary level. Rather than focusing on statistical data in regards to male teachers, I chose to gather anecdotal information from these two Minnesota male educators to shed a personal perspective on the subject.

    Why did you go into the teaching profession?
    My husband chose to pursue the education field because his mom and older brothers worked in schools. He also wanted to coach athletics. (His father was a dairy farmer – save that thought for later.) My father replied to this question, “I went into the teaching profession because it was a career that I thought that I could make a difference in peoples lives, particularly young people.” (It could be noted that his mother also was a teacher.)

    Was there any particular person who influenced your career choices? Who and why?
    An older brother was my husband’s biggest influence on his decision to teach. His brother was an elementary physical education teacher at the time that he was pursuing college major options. My father stated, “There was no one person that had a great influence on me as I chose the field of education. I do remember being influenced by three or four of my best teachers because they took an interest in all their students and made education and learning interesting and enjoyable.”

    Why did/do you choose to stay in the education field?
    My husband’s response to this question was that, “It is what I know.” There is comfort and security in the familiar, as well as a sense that one can continually grow and contribute more to the profession with more and diverse experiences. Here is my father’s answer: “I chose to stay in the field of education because it was a rewarding career for me.”

    If you could do it all over, would you again choose a career in education? Why or why not?
    My husband would indeed choose an educational career path again if given the chance. He had also considered a career as a veterinarian (not surprising as he grew up on a dairy farm) but said that struggles in biology would have made that more difficult. And here is the way my father replied, “Yes, my career gave me many opportunities both in and out of the classroom and I enjoyed both teaching and administrative work.”

    I realize that this brief anecdotal evidence does not relate directly to cause for more or less men in the field of education, but it would be interesting to do a little more research in this area to see if there is a strong correlation between parent career paths and those chosen by teachers in the area. A next step in research could also include documenting the previous and current professions of family members who immigrate to Minnesota. Perhaps those escaping economic strife did not have opportunities to pursue higher education or academic careers. Encouraging higher education among immigrant families, and then the teaching profession, may make the most sense.

    • Deb,

      I loved reading this. It was very insightful to learn about your father’s and husband’s paths in education. I felt like I was reading a novel. It is interesting that both men have worked extensively at the elementary level. Sounds like you’ve got some good men in your life!

      In regards to your final points, I would say there is definitely a strong correlation between parent and child career paths. People know and feel comfortable and empowered by what they see growing up. This is probably true not only in education, but in many fields.

      I also agree that encouraging immigrant families to pursue higher education is important. Kids with language, cultural, or financial barriers may not even consider further education as a possibly. We can show them that there are ways to make this happen.

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