Why aren’t there more black male teachers in the classroom?

So I recently read a few articles about how difficult it is to find black young black males to enter the teaching field. Black Male Teachers in Short Supply  and Where are the black male teachers?

Interestingly enough, neither one of the articles really spoke to reasons why I am a bit apprehensive to become a teacher. As a matter of fact Black Male Teachers in Short Supply  was the only article that actually gave reasons to why there is a shortage of black male teachers in the field. The article listed low pay, the notion that teaching is a feminine profession, and the fact that fewer black male students are pursuing education degrees [therefore resulting in less men qualified to enter the classroom.] Check out the extended article here for a video on the story.

I appreciate the spotlight on the topic, but these articles didn’t mention any of the important reasons why I am nervous about my future career.  Recently I’ve been feeling this weird omni-present pressure slowly growing in intensity around me. I think these articles finally helped me realize where this pressure was stemming from. I would be interested in seeing if other minorities felt the same way.

Before I go into my reasons, let’s all get on the same page for one second: Children that grow up in urban/inner city and rural environments have not been receiving an education adequate enough to keep them competitive with their suburban and private school peers.

Understanding the battle field:

As a black male looking to go into the field of education it is clear to me and many others that the current education system is not doing enough to help young children of color learn, dream, and achieve at the same rate as other children here in America. The education that children in urban areas receive is ill fitted to suit their unique needs. Quite frankly our children are not learning. This is a HUGE problem. Increasing the impact and understanding of education is a make or break issue that black families and communities MUST make their number one priority. Anyone thinking about entering the field has to be ready to fight a war in the classroom every day to ensure the development of our future generations. The pressure of feeling like I must educate MY people or continue to let many of them struggle is very real and unbelievably intimidating.

Where are the mentors and peers that I can look to for support as I journey through this work:

As I envision my participation in this fellowship I often imagine myself on a battle field flanked by my peers and mentors on either side as we valiantly fight off the evils of ignorance, and help bring enlightenment and knowledge to our people. (This is REALLY what I think about at night time yall, LoL)

However, the reality of the field of education is that there are very few faces that look like me in the battle. It’s disheartening to feel as though I’ll have to fight on the battle field alone. My excitedment about the fellowship is in part due to idea of having other people to lean on as thought partners and guides. Who will I be able to turn to to seek professional advice? Who will I be able to turn to for encouragement when I’m feeling defeated in the trenches? I have this vision that I can come out victorious in this war on education because I know that I will have my squad with me. But I’m slowly starting to come to the realization that it will just be me out there fighting the enemy. Imagine for a second how this fight from the movie 300 would be completely different if 90% of the Spartan Army vanished.

Superhero Syndrome:

I’m a firm believer that any person of color expecting to enter this field must be ready to live as a die-hard change agent. It will take nothing short of super powers to quickly turn this battle around. With urban education being in turmoil, I envision it will take someone with MLK’s likability, Malcolm’s knowledge and discipline, and Obama’s cross-over appeal to change the trajectory of our youths’ lives. I worry that I will not be able to bring about the change that I know is necessary so that my younger cousins and family members can live their lives according to their wildest dreams. However, someone has to spark the revolution. Is it in me to be that individual?

These are some of the reasons why I feel pressure to not only get into teaching, but to do my absolute best at it. There simply isn’t room or time to allow the system to continue to under-develop the prospects of any children in this country. I wonder if black teachers felt similar pressures 100 years ago, 300 years ago, 1000 years ago?

Elementary school teacher, Terris King II sums up my feelings nicely in the article Where are the black male teachers. When asked why he chose to become an elementary school teacher, Terris provided this as his answer,

“… In ‘The Talented Tenth,’ DuBois said educating our people is a responsibility. This created the framework for how I live my life. Teaching is more than a career path. It is a responsibility. It is an obligation to go back and teach.”

It is my obligation – Therefore I must teach

Designation Resignation

1:53 am – I’ve picked out my outfit for tomorrow, and now I’m lying in bed. I really don’t know how tomorrow, I mean , today, is gonna go. It could go smooth like a baby’s bottom, and I’ll be able to wind down my work over the next month. I would like June 1 to be my last day at work. Or it could be ridiculous with them kicking me out of the office, forbidding me from getting my vacation, personal, and holiday time. Time will tell. Until then I need to get some ZZz’s…

7:55 am – I’ve been up for about 30 minutes now. I’ve shaved, brushed my teeth, and all that good stuff. I’m gonna be GRINDING today at work. I have a lot I need get ready for before the 1 o’clock meeting with my boss. I’m still nervous, but I think telling him today is the only option that makes sense. All my coworkers think I’m telling him too early tho.

He deserves to know that I wont be around to help with all these new projects we have coming along. I’ll check in with you all later.

9:40 am – I actually got to work semi on time today. Around 9:15 after I got my usual Egg McMuffin and Naked Smoothie. At my job, its pretty common for people to work with their headphones on. Ok, so peep scene:

Imagine me sitting at my desk, loading up my computer and jamming to Elle Varner – Refill. All of a sudden I feel faint footsteps behind me track across the walkway, and then stop. I count one….two…three…. and then think to myself “OK someone is behind me staring a hole into my skull I should probably see what they want.”

I turn around to find my coworker Keema. She’s a west coast transplant that’s kind of a loose cannon. You can always count on her to ask the questions that expose the pink elephant in the room, or blurt out curse words throughout the office. And her jokes, while funny… always seem to teeter on the fine line of dark humor and just plain schitzo… Anywho, Keema is a tough cookie, and although she’s a bit socially awkward, she’s crazy smart and I’ve grown to love her.

Back to the story: I turn around and hear her say that she took her cat to the vet this morning. What ensued was a 5 minute conversation about her possessed cat that peed on the doctors table and scratched and clawed its way to an unsuccessful vet visit to the tune of $160. Oh, and she got word that her great-grandmother passed late last night… Me and another coworker suggested she go home and take the day off, there’s no reason to deal with all this stress on a Friday. Then she says she has 3 interviews to run today the first one starting in 30 minutes, and the last ending at 3:30pm

My inner monologue was like – DAMN GIRL… Shit… life’s got you fucked up right now…

Needless to say this did nothing for the butterflies in my stomach. * Whoo-saaaaaaaaah *. Lemme finish editing this resignation letter and figuring my life out b4 this 1 o’clock meeting. Deuces.

12:08 pm – T minus 52 minutes and counting. I’ve been having butterflies in my stomach all day. I REALLY hate this feeling. I don’t know what I’m so scared or nervous about. I mean it’s a letter of resignation… I’ve played my part here for three years. It’s unfortunately time to move forward. I think I’m less worried about the outcome of the meeting and more worried about what will happen to my coworkers and youth once I leave.

Have you ever talked about your goals and dreams with a friend or family member of yours. And  felt like you’ve wanted change to happen for them more than they’ve wanted it for themselves? That’s how I feel about my coworkers. They want to encounter new challenges… But always fall back into their comfortable and routine roles.

Regardless of how inspired they are for themselves… They’ve all inspired me. I’ve grown so much due to them over the three years I’ve been with YouthBuild. Leaving them seems…wrong. It seems spiteful in a way.  But, at the end of the day I have to remember that I HAVE TO FOCUS ON MY OWN DEVELOPMENT. I can’t expect others to do THIS for ME. And unfortunately staying here will only ensure that I wont receive the stimulus to grow like I need to.

*inhale- exhale*

I think I’m about to go into one of our private meeting rooms to get my thoughts. I wish I could get a shot of Goose right now….

1:53 pm – So…. I just got out of my meeting with my boss. He took the news pretty well.
Boss: “So how have things been going?”
Me: “Um…………. Well, That’s an interesting question”
Boss: “Is it now?”
Me: “I dont really know how to say this, but… [fumbles with papers, and finally finds resignation letter] I’ve accepted a Special Education Fellowship with NYCTF. I would like to resign effective June 1.”
Boss: “Uh… Ok. Thats a great opportunity. We’re going to be sorry to lose you.”

That was what I was so nervous about!?!?

We talked about what challenges led me to do resign. I don’t know what the hell I said. I spent so much time figuring out how to start the conversation about resigning, I didn’t take time to clarify my reasons why. I’ll draft a letter to submit during my exit interview. We also talked about  creating systems of transition for other members of the team over the next month.

I really wished I would have prepared my reasons a little better. But… my mind is too clogged right now with prep for the Teaching Fellows, prep for the move to NYC, and prep for my certification tests. Hell prepping for this meeting was pretty much the last thing on my mind. I’m happy it’s over tho. A huge load has been lifted off of my shoulders. Maybe this weekend I’ll take some time to think about how I will transition my work on to my colleagues once I leave. I feel so much better! Now – time to move on to the next pressing matter.

– Peace –

J

Introducing…

What’s up everyone? Welcome to Skool Haze, my blog where I document the next couple of years of my life as I transition from Boreston, Massachusetts to New York City.

Why the hell is that important? Well… A lot is going to happen in the next couple of years for me. I’ll be joining the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program as a Special Education Fellow. Being a teacher is something I’ve wanted to do for the past 3 years or so. I feel like this will be an amazing opportunity for me to grow professionally, and to be able to give back the best way I know how. IN YOUR FACE H@E! *BAM* I currently do youth development and policy work for YouthBuild USA, an alternative education organization that helps young adults ages 16 – 24 return to school to get their GEDs/high school diplomas and build them up into positive role models for their communities.

In the midst of the move and teaching at a public school in the Big Apple, I’ll be working toward my Masters of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Special Education. Oddly enough I can’t really gauge if I’m nervous, excited, or feeling a little bit of both with this move.

One of the resources that helped me when I first started thinking about applying for this program was a blog I found from a former NYCTF member, I’m a Cohort 14 NYC Teaching Fellow.

The blog follows Fourteen’s (I don’t think he ever gives his name) experience’s throughout his first year teaching in Brooklyn from the perspective of a young black male. Perhaps it’s because we’re both 20 something black males, but I immediately connected with Fourteen’s feelings and experiences that gave him joy and pain throughout his teaching experience.

Unfortunately the blog has been silent since May of 2009, but who is to say that I can’t pick up where my man Fourteen left off!? Nobody that’s who! So my plan is to document my experience in this great city. If my thoughts and experiences can help others find clarity in their own lives, then all of this was worth it.

So stick around for the ride, enjoy my awkwardness, and drop me a comment when you read something you hate or love!

– Peace –

J