My Quest To Teach

December 6, 2010

African American Men and Teaching

Filed under: Uncategorized — William Jackson @ 4:51 am

The recent news reports about the lack of African
American teachers has caused concern that men
are not choosing the profession of education.
As an African American teacher at
an elementary school and third generation educator.
I find that effectively teaching African American youth
does not rest in having more African American male
teachers present in the classroom as teachers and
administrators, male teachers must have a passion
to teach. Those men that accept the responsibility to
embark on a career that requires creativity,
patience, civic responsibility, morals, ethics and
value of education. Reading “The Education
of the Negro” (Carter G. Woodson) those of
African American heritage that could read and write
were missionary teacher among their people.
National and Local Data
Nationally in many school districts, there are
no minority teachers in schools. In Seattle, Washington;
“At most of the schools, there are no minority teachers
at all. There’s maybe a minority custodian.”
Black teachers are hard to Find, March 15, 2002.
Nationally, about 7 percent of the teaching force is
African American, compared with 40 percent of the
student body, according to the National Education
Association and the National Center for Education
Statistics. In my personal experience teaching
I have been the only African American male
teacher in a couple of the elementary schools
I have taught in.
Student Population
The educational system of many states especially
Florida are struggling with acquiring and keeping
African American male teachers. Respectively in
the DCPS system there are about 8500 teachers,
only about 323 are African American males
(Florida Times Union 2010). There can be a discussion
centered on many things about education with a student
population in the order of 134,000. The population of
African American youths at around 42%. There is
definitely a need for positive male role models of men
who will not only teach young men how to be responsible
adult men, but teach them to value education as a means
to success in life. There is more to creating success
in African American youth than just a male face.
Modeling and Mentoring
It goes beyond modeling and mentoring, direct
interaction and dialogue is needed. You cannot tell
African American males or other males to stay in
school and get a good education there must
be value added and examples that they can see,
interact and relate too. I have learned this
while teaching in Putnam County,  
Edward Waters College and Florida State College
as an Adjunct Professor in the education
department. “If a Black child during the
course of his school years has only one or two
Black teachers out of say 40, you can imagine the message
that child gets about academic achievement,”
The Disappearing Black Teacher, 13 Jan, 2010.
Identifying with Non-educators
The reasons why our youth identify with athletes,
rappers, musicians, and others in the entertainment,
sports and music industry is because they are
portrayed in the media with the same talents that
our youth wish to have and some do have. The
media projects these images in commercials,
sports drinks, music videos, cereal boxes, and on
television award shows.
They show the material “STUFF” these
entertainers have. Parents sometimes contribute
to their children’s academic demise by telling
their children that the way out of socioeconomic
challenges is through sports, music, dance, pole
swinging, club dancing, rapping, tricking,
baby making (welfare), but where is the importance
of education?
I say this from experience talking with students and parents.
The parent’s expectations are from their current
existence and life experiences. African American male
presence in the classroom has some effect, but if that
child or children does not respect the teacher no
matter the race, creed or color teaching
will be challenging. The effect of role models and
mentors is immeasurable. Raphael Moffett, a
student teacher at Garfield High in Seattle,
stated what teachers have always known,
“All students need a role model” no matter
what grade level.
Parents as Role Models and Teachers    
The known facts are parents should be teaching
their children first. A parent is the child’s first
teacher, and should be their first positive role
model. Many parents are working multiple jobs to
keep food in the home, utilities on, clothes to wear.
This creates a void where teaching and modeling
are not being provided because of the necessity to
provide for the family.
Challenging influences such as poverty, divorce,
the death of a father or a father being deployed in
military service for extended rotations causes
rifts in directions and choices that should
be directed at raising children especially young men.
This develops a serious fissure in the development of
young males both black, white and other nationalities.
Caucasian Women as Models
African American women outnumber African
American male teacher’s,and Caucasian women
outnumber African American  teachers altogether.  
The impact is seen in yearly disciplinary charts,
suspension records, attendance records, AYP
(Annual Yearly Progress) and graduation rates.
This does not mean that Caucasian women cannot teach
minority students, at my school alone Caucasian women
have been very successful and are very dedicated and
excellent, as well as the African American women
teachers and two African American males including myself.
Teachers are faced with verbal, physical,
psychological and emotional violent behavior
and discipline challenges which they overcome
on a weekly basis. This hostility
or projected harassment comes from parents
not just the students. There are disconnects by
students and parents, especially in dealing with classroom discipline.
Parents are too quick to accuse both African American
and Caucasian teachers of racism, bias and prejudice.
Parents need to lend their support to teachers more 
and trust in the teacher’s ability to teach their children
valuable life skills.
Racial Diversity Benefits
The benefits of a racially diverse teaching force are
clear, said Segun Eubanks, a teacher recruitment
specialist for the National Education Association
and Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.
based Community Teachers Institute. “The data
displays that teachers of color are less likely to
expel and suspend students of color, less likely
to assign them to (academic) lower tracks or tracks
too challenging and special education courses.”
It takes more than the presence
of African American male teachers to lower the
numbers of academic failure. The involvement of
African American male teachers that are trained
and experienced helps to defuse and redirect behavior
problems. Effective and relevant professional
development is needed.
Young males many times need a mature person
that they can trust, respect, and “straight” with them.
They do not need someone that is “green” trying
to connect with or be “down” with them. A teacher
should not show they know it all, but are willing to
learn from their students to understand their talents,
dreams and goals. At Raines and Ribault High Schools
respectively the administration is working
to connect with students not just at school, but in
some cases providing support at home, providing
a “Full Service” approach to families. “It would be
helpful to have more African American teachers
who understand the culture of the African American
child, as well as (to be) a wonderful role model, to
compensate and balance the classrooms they do
get into where they don’t have those role models
and they’re not treated with respect.”
Phyllis Beaumonte, Head of the education
committee of the Seattle NAACP.
Programs To Support Young Teachers  
Young males desire to establish a connection with
another male that is mature, respectful and responsible
to learn from and model behavior. The availability in many
classrooms is not there. Programs abound for males to enter
into education, but creating the excitement about a career in
education is a challenge; programs such as “Call Me Mister”
(South Carolina State Univ. Clemson Univ.), Future Teachers
of Color at Washington State University, Teach For America,
JABSE (Jacksonville Alliance of Black School Educators),
“A Teacher Like Me” (through JABSE & DCPS), and
NABSE (National Alliance of Black School Educators)
and the successful “Accuse Yourself of Success” by
Anthony Butler, Sr. of E3 Business Group. Highlight
education as a career for minority students.
To give back to their communities in a positive
and effective way.
Future Teachers
There will always be a need for quality teachers
with the changing academic requirements, national
and local standards, and diversity in the world economy.
Programs locally exist at UNF, Florida State College of
Jacksonville, and Teach for America. Traditionally
Edward Waters College has graduated many dedicated
and capable teachers. I have worked with many teachers
that have graduated from EWC and having taught there
for many years, these new professionals are highly skilled
and motivated to make a difference. Just as within any
educational institution there are challenges, no one school
or program is better at preparing students. In the final
analysis it is up to the student teacher to determine 
how best to apply what they have learned in the college
classroom to implement learned strategies and
methodologies to teaching.
Personal Experienc                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
I have been blessed by teaching many students at
various schools. The challenge and success is to make
a connection with students. To show them the values
and importance of life long learning. Minority students
need to see a familiar face in the classroom, but also
see that face in public outside the school. They need
to see that person involved in the community, working
in the neighborhoods, shopping and speaking with
parents. In the 21st century there are many challenges
for minority students, so male teachers must take
responsibility for improving their communities
daily by staying involved, connected and
integrated in the community they teach in.
When embarking in a career in education there
is already the understanding that we as professional
educators may not make a great deal of money,
but money is not the objective.
Making an impact in a child’s life, helping families growth
and community development is payment. Money cannot buy
a students desire to go to college, vocational school or change
in discipline because you as a teacher had a positive effect in
their growth and development..
Many times teachers do not see the fruits of their labors until
later in life. I have personally had students that I taught in
elementary school in the 90’s and early 2000 thank me for
encouraging, motivating, caring, and importantly teaching them.
More men of all races, creeds and nationalities should take the
step to be educators, but must have the passion to stay the course,
and understand that they are few, but with courage, prayer and
determination they can and do make a difference in children’s lives.

William Jackson, M.Ed. and Cheryl Williams
Vice President E3 Business Group North Florida Chapter
“Educate, Encourage, Empower”
E3 North Florida Chapter –
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