Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Black Male Teacher: An Endangered Species

Greetings, this is my first posting on Peoplegogy and I'm excited about it. I have many stories to share about my teaching experience and my views on educational reform. I just completed my first year of teaching for DC Public Schools and starting in August, I will be teaching at a charter school in Southeast DC. My first post came from a conversation I had with a group for other Black males about a month ago. Feel free to follow the adventures I have in the classroom on twitter at @Brownbomber87

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine included me in a discussion. The question; how do we get more Black male teachers in our public schools? The background for this discussion stemmed from dialogue among Black congressional members commenting on the scare number of Black male teachers. As a Black male teacher I felt that I would shed some light to the reason why I became a teacher. Here is my response:

Teaching is a very passionate topic to me since I have embarked on the journey of teaching the youth of the District of Columbia. There is no doubt, there is a deficiency of Black male teachers everywhere. It is not to say that Black males do not exist within the educational system, but their role is not in the classroom instructing its either administrative or coaching, and even in those position we are still underrepresented. The power of the presence of Black males in urban classrooms can make a world of difference in my opinion. Time and time again we hear about the achievement gap and how wide it is spreading. Our Black and Hispanic children are the ones who are suffering due to ineffective teachers and administrators who do not create a culture of achievement or set rigorous academic goals due to stereotypes or negative past interactions. But also there is no mirror image of them standing in front of the classroom.

One of my most memorable K-12 experiences was in the 7th grade. My language arts teacher was a Black male and was the first Black teacher I had ever had. The next time I would have a Black teacher again would be in 11th grade and then in undergrad. My 7th grade language arts teacher made a huge impact on me because he turned my whole attitude around about learning. He provided me with a different outlook on success than what I was familiar with. Fast forward to 2009 and its an amazing feeling to hear a child say hey you are my first Black science teacher and actually one of my favorite teachers as well. Just knowing I had that same impact as Mr. Anthony did on me, makes me feel incredible and makes the valleys of teaching seem incredibly small.

As educated Black men sometimes we forget the struggles we had to overcome in order to get where we are, especially in the classroom. Now am I not going to lie, teaching is not easy. A teacher is more than a teacher. We wear many hats such as, a counselor, social worker, a shoulder to cry on, a cheering squad, sometimes even a parent. And we have to balance all of that while trying to create rigorous, engaging, standard-based lessons, follow the protocol of school bureaucracy and deal with our own personal lives. However, teaching is rewarding and most rewarding for our Black males when they can see another Black male spitting knowledge other than the hottest rap song and modeling a culture of professionalism and achievement.

So why become a teacher? One reason is to train the future's next critical thinkers who are committed to life-long learning; who embrace multiculturalism and tolerance for all individuals not matter what socioeconomic, educational, or geographic background they may come from or encounter. Another reason is to be a positive consistent force in a student's life especially for many of our inner city Black students who have very little consistency. But more importantly, there is nothing greater than feeling like you are needed, that you have made a difference in the lives of not just 1 but dozens and maybe even hundreds of dozens in some way. We have the ability to mold another productive son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, father, mother and citizen of the United States.

There are programs who are recruiting highly qualified men to teach. Currently, I am a DC Teaching Fellow which provides me with a network of resources ranging from professional development to earning a masters degree and even paying off some of my debts. There are teaching programs like that everywhere in your major U.S. cities. Many schools of education across the country are paying for teachers to increase their credentials and earn degrees at little to no cost. There are award/reward programs, incentives, great discounts, and resources for teachers. Teaching is one of the world's most oldest and most noble professions. I encourage you seriously think about it; you never know what you capable of doing and how successful you will be. Time and chance come to us all, the time is now to make a difference. The classroom is the foreground in which chance and change meet, all that remains is one question; are you willing to accept the challenge? My answer with steadfast confidence is yes, I have accepted the challenge and will continue to face the challenge.



  1. @brownbomber87, what are some of the books you've read that keep you feeling inspired about the potential, rather than the reality of teaching?

  2. @RaQ Great question!! When I have the time to pick up a book I read a lot of biographies or autobiographies of men and women who have overcome adversity in some way, shape, or form. Currently I am reading The Other Wes Moore and during the school year I read Long Walk to Freedom. I am always open to new selections as well. But I think the more motivating action for me to continue teaching is the ahhhh moments when students finally get it and the smiles. I continue to do for the smiles!

  3. Thanks for a relevant and heartfelt post. I have been teaching in West Philadelphia in an elementary school that is 99% African American. This year we had more male teachers than any other year. However, we still only have 2 teachers who are black males.

    Many of our students don't have a strong male figure in their lives. Some of them are hostile toward men because they don't know how to interact with them except in a 'street' kind of way. It is vital that children in poor, urban areas have a positive male role model in their lives, and teachers often fill those kinds of roles, as you described.

    There are a couple of things I do worry about. Often, schools hire a person of color to meet a racial balance among staff (yes, Philly did that for years until last year!) rather than for their caliber as a teacher.

    In addition, I wonder if you feel extra pressure to be the best teacher you can be because you know how rare you are as a role model in your students' lives.

    Your students are lucky to have you!

  4. I feel your concern. I have been there. And no one understands what we deal with in the schools. I once had a supervisor tell me how to talk to the kids. She told me "I was too rough and to lower my voice", because they did not have fathers at home. I walked away wondering why she would try to school me, a Black man, on how to communicate with the Black males in the school. It's a different game for us, and I am glad you have taken on the responsibility or inspiring young brothers.... and sisters.