July 2, 2015
Author: Larry Irvin
Can you imagine if Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin taught 4th grade English or if Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) was a professor of business administration? We need this kind of talent in schools to overcome institutional racism.
In his latest column, It’s Easier to Remove a Confederate Flag, than a Racist Teacher, Andre Perry sees the recent call to remove the confederate flag following the death of nine black citizens in South Carolina as a limited first step.
Racism has no place in public education considering the profound impact schooling has on a student’s trajectory. Removing racist teachers is obvious. But what’s the next step? Are there viable barometers that can detect personal biases such as racism, sexism, and non-commitment? People get jobs everyday out of necessity as opposed to a genuine commitment to a profession, justice or to noble democratic aims. Why would teaching be any different?
So how do we detect negative characteristics of teachers given the shortage of viable candidates in relation to the demand?
We may not be able to see what motivates one to teach, but we can get a closer look at candidates when they train. Also, we must recruit more candidates from the communities that need justice.
A teacher’s preparation and ability to connect with students is paramount to a student’s success. Before and after Katrina, there was a clear need for teachers. Many of our current teacher recruitment programs are focused on recruiting talented prospects. But because of the feverish demand for good teachers in New Orleans, particularly men of color, recruitment often trumps thorough preparation.
I don’t believe our teacher preparation programs intentionally set out to create such a dynamic. But a focus on filling teaching jobs can deprioritize the training that maximizes the student-teacher relationship. When we rush people in, they will more than likely rush out. The push to fill positions create turnstile relationships between students and their teachers as well as teachers and their schools. The rush also places inexperienced teachers in high-stake environments.
In addition, teacher recruitment starts with students in the schools. Students won’t want to become teachers if they don’t bond with them. We need to make sure teachers see students as being future teachers and not as troublemakers. Moreover, if we want more students to value their own education, they need to see themselves in their teachers.
In New Orleans nearly 50% of young black men will drop out as early as the 8th grade. There are 14,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school or working. There’s an obvious lack of attachment in the classroom, and I contend we can find opportunities in black boys who can fill teacher voids. We can design and deliver teacher programs that not only create stellar teachers but also increase diversity in the classroom.
Everybody deserves the opportunity to see someone who looks like them lead a classroom. Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T) is a response to that right.
Brothers Empowered to Teach’s (BE2T) mission is to generate a pipeline of incredible teachers who mirror success for their students by recruiting men of color into classroom-based careers.
BE2T takes a longer-term approach to developing stellar teachers with a focus on black men. Starting sophomore year BE2T fellows will be placed with a local school partner to engage in tutoring and mentoring for one year as an introduction to working in education and with kids. Junior year fellows will participate in a lab component, which facilitates a supported teaching experien
ce in secondary schools. It also builds a myriad of capacities including administrative leadership. Finally, fellows’ senior year will continue to focus on pedagogy and professional development. They will also be paired with a veteran educator for personal mentorship and tutelage. BE2T also offers support to recent graduates and career-changers interested in teaching.
How does our model impact the learning and growing of students in classrooms? BE2T aims to place a firm emphasis on social and cultural responsiveness to counter the ‘deficit perspective’ that has plagued some of our classrooms. BE2T wants their teachers to focus on the strengths of their student and not weakness. This approach alone can combat the negative feelings many students develop over time in classrooms with teachers with clear biases.
We need more male teachers of color to combat institutional racism. We have a solution.
For more info on BE2T visit: www.be2t.org
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