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Social media can show the reverberation effect of our efforts, as well as the work that needs to be done, for those of us who have been educators for decades. Witnessing classmates who are now professionals and parents is inspirational and emotional, but reading about losses and difficulties may be heartbreaking. These linkages sometimes confirm what I’ve learned as a Black male student and Black man educator: it’s important for kids to see themselves reflected in the faculty.
“Do you recall Antwuan Kouadio?” Gary, a coworker, recently sent me a note.
Gary is an excellent instructor who establishes deep bonds with his pupils. He then revealed that he is Antwuan’s uncle. In my first year as an elementary administrator, Antwuan had been a pupil. That year is a blur, but when he stated, “Antwuan used to get in trouble,” Antwuan’s face sprang to memory. I grinned because I remembered Antwuan’s expression at the time. It was the expression that told you not to question, “What were you thinking?” since the child was actually wondering the same thing.
“How are you?” I inquired, cautiously.
“Nothing. He’s on his way to university. When we discovered we knew one other, he remarked, “Pinkard was my man.” When my mother died, he accompanied me to the hospital. He was on the lookout for me.’
It was that sort of environment, and any number of our instructors would have done the same. But, even in countries where love is a habit, we forget how much it remains with the children. A model of someone who looked like him might have provided the support he needed at the moment.
The significance of this link is shown through research: Students in grades K-3 who are taught by at least one black teacher are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than their similar-school, same-race classmates. On standardized reading exams, Black pupils of both sexes who had a Black instructor scored three to six percentile points better than those who did not.
I recently participated in a virtual conference on the recruitment of Black male teachers. The majority of the interviewees admitted that they had few or no Black male instructors in school.
One of my former pupils, coincidentally, made a post about the same conference: “Growing up in DC, I had advantages, such as Black male instructors, that I took for granted,” he said. “I had no notion such a large number of individuals didn’t have them. In high school, I had nine Black male teachers.”
His administrator had recruited me, enthusiastic and inexperienced, to join a staff of nine Black male instructors. It was an honor for me to develop as a teacher in the company of my colleagues. Instead of being pigeonholed into a single typology, these instructors from various subject areas, administrators, counselors, and coaches may each choose their own career path. It meant that when I formed a club for the school’s Black guys, it wasn’t about “trouble,” and I wasn’t alone.
According to the comments to that post, our students hold it in high regard. One response stated, “Thanks for letting me wander into that warm, loving memory for a while.”
For Black males with a passion for teaching or leadership, we have narrowed the pipeline. Only 2% of the teaching force in the United States is made up of Black men. Isolation as a Black educator is taxing emotionally, particularly when you’re simultaneously mentoring and disciplining all kids of color while also trying to establish your value against stereotypes.
It’s no surprise that Black teachers’ turnover is particularly high when they are racially separated from their peers. To support and retain Black male teachers, it is essential to build a community of Black educators to alleviate the invisible cost on teachers of color. The Black Teacher Project (BTP), for example, discovered in a 2018 pilot research that racial affinity-based professional development reduces isolation and improves retention among Black teachers.
These instances highlight the untapped potential of what might happen if we purposefully create these experiences rather than leaving them to chance in the face of structural injustice. The Center for Black Educator Development’s suggestion that K-12 children be introduced to postsecondary teacher preparation programs so they may understand their own professional potential might be a good place to start. More systems may benefit from the Male Educators of Color Collaborative in DC Public Schools, which was created to provide a supportive professional learning environment for Black male teachers. Dr. Travis Bristol, a researcher, offers many suggestions, including investing in teacher preparation programs at minority-serving institutions as an investment in an untapped talent pool that may accelerate performance for all children.
I hooked up with Antwuan after that conversation and a few messages. This year, he will graduate from high school and attend a historically Black institution in Virginia. I questioned him about his choice. He stated, “It’s a top HBCU with a Fine Arts department I like.” “I also wanted to attend an HBCU, where I know people would value me as a young Black guy, you know? This is a place where people really care.”
“I understand, Antwuan.”
It’s no secret the world has a major problem with stereotypes. Everyone has one, whether it is about race, gender, sexuality, or how they dress. This problem is especially apparent in the media, where stereotypes are used to fit in with society’s prejudices.. Read more about white people stereotypes and let us know what you think.
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