A recent Minneapolis Spokseman-Recorder article detailed how It's city early childhood family education program has been struggling to recruit and keep minority teachers. At least half of the families that utilize these programs are minority families, so a question often looms, why the need for minority teachers? If a White teacher is sincerely caring, nurturing, positive, consistent, reciprocal, and interactive, why does color make a difference? The answer often depends on the age of the children.
WestEd out of California created a program from infants and toddlers called...er...well...The Program for Infant/Toddler Care (formerly Caregivers) or PITC. Split into four modules, the final Module (on cultural issues), touches on this question. Fours and fives and older children may not need a teacher of color. Not only have they mostly developed an identify for themselves complimentary to their racial environment but also, they at this stage need the socialization of other cultures. Infants and toddlers, on the other hand, have not gotten this far.
Very young children like this have not yet developed their identity, and caregivers must be careful to ensure that this identity is as closely aligned with their family--not our families--as possible. The best way to perpetuate this unfolding is for a person of similar background and culture (i.e. race) to be responsible for the care of the infant. A Black teacher, for example, best knows how to acknowledge, understand, be responsive, and flex the unspoken rules about taking care of a Black child. The same goes for the white child, Latino child, Asian child, or any other race.
Hiring minority teachers, for example, should be a concern for Minneapolis and other settings that may serve a high precentage of infants and toddlers. To have less than 10% of one's staff represented by minorities (like Minnesota ECFE) is big blow to this identity formation.