(Photo via twitter.com/BMECFellowship)
The idea is simple enough — kids are often more inspired by the leaders in their lives who may look like them.
It’s why orgs like Coded by Kids is working to foster more diversity within Philly’s tech talent pipeline by bringing more people of color to serve as mentors for coding programs in schools. Heck, “leaders of color,” and making sure more of them are represented within the nonprofit world, is a big focus for us here.
But when it comes to the leaders that kids will most often see in their daily lives — the teachers at their schools — the nation is lacking when it comes to Black teachers, especially Black men who make up just two percent of the nation’s teachers throughout the country.
Sharif El-Mekki, a longtime educator in Philly and current principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker, wanted to change that number so back in 2014, he started a group called The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice.
The goal? Bring together Black male teachers, recruit more Black male teachers and help influence education policy altogether, in an attempt to double the number of Black male teachers in Philly by 2025. The group is having its inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening in the city this Friday through Sunday.
To answer some questions surrounding this topic, the Fellowship, national network Campaign for Black Male Achievement and nonprofit communications organization Education Post got together last night to have a conversation over the hashtag #BlackMaleEducators.
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Here are some of the highlights:
In response to a question of how many Black male educators he’s had, Raymond D. Roy-Pace, a cofounder of the Fellowship, said he had three all in high school and they were the ones he “could be myself and they affirmed who I was and becoming.”
A1 I’ve had 3 all in H.S. and they were the teachers I could be myself and they affirmed who I was and becoming. #BlackMaleEducators
— Raymond D. Roy-Pace (@RayRPa42) October 12, 2017
As for the barriers that exist in the recruitment and retention of Black male teachers, a big part of that is the personal experiences in schools kids experience at an early age which can make it “harder to envision themselves in the role,” the Fellowship tweeted.
often, potential #BlackMaleEducators arent asked early and often. They may have had horrendous exps in school, they dont see themselves so harder to envision themselves in the role https://t.co/b83J9WYQ8E
— Black Men in Education Convening #BMEC (@fellowshipbmec) October 12, 2017
The Fellowship added that more often than not, Black male educators are placed in disciplinary or adjacent roles, rather than actual leadership roles. Or …
…that and directed towards P.E. teachers or athletic department 👀 #shade
— Nehemiah D. Frank (@nehemiahdfrank) October 12, 2017
Athletics was a sticking point for part of the conversation. The Fellowship mentioned that Black men are often recruited to be athletes when colleges “should recruit for talented Black boys to become educators.” Dr. Daryl C. Howard, a public school teacher in Maryland, reiterated the importance of sharing with Black male students how teaching can impact others.
When it came to talking about challenges for Black male educators, there was plenty to go around. The Fellowship said one big challenge is just being alone and as J. Baker, a Los Angeles-based community activist, stated, “having it taken for granted that we will support Black male students.”
A5: One of the biggest challenges for #BlackMaleEducators? Having it taken for granted that we will support Black male students.
— Araya (@arayabaker) October 12, 2017
It’s why the Fellowship called out all teachers to step up to the role of being an educator, which involves building “your own capacity to build relationships and not use #Blackmaleeducators as your relationship proxy to black students.”
And as simple as it may sound, multiple voices in the conversation pointed to the need for schools and communities to ask Black male educators about what they think is needed in the school and include their voices in decision-making processes.
Hearing vs. Listening vs. Muting. Many #blackmaleeducators already "said it." But it is not a good idea [heard] until someone else says it.
— John Marshall D. Ed. (@jdm1906) October 12, 2017
Nominate #blackmaleeducators for awards, let them speak to school boards, reporters, congress & offer PD/resources to do what they do best!
— Chyrise Harris (@ChyriseH) October 12, 2017
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