I fell in love with education on January 19, 2010. It was a cold and blustery Tuesday, and I could feel the beads of sweat forming on the tip of my nose. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Kenwood Academy reviewing my notes on how to introduce Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship to high school students. It was my first day teaching an afterschool program. I didn’t have any teaching experience nor any experience with developing captivating lesson plans with engaging activities. I needed to figure out a way to break the ice with these students. It was when I walked into the classroom and overheard a couple students whisper something about the gym shoes I was wearing that I found common ground. I used my love for gym shoes and sports to help introduce entrepreneurship and how to use the stock market. This allowed the students and I to relate, and it set the foundation for the development of a transformative relationship between me and the students.
Once I got back in my car, I didn’t want to leave. I was changed that day. I was eager to return the following week to dig deeper into the lesson. When I returned the next week, with even more energy and knowledge to share, I noticed there were more students and all of my students from the previous week had returned.
Rapidly, I was registering the importance of relationships and the effects it had on learning. Every week that we met, I spent time talking about how unique my shoes were and how having a shoe collection could segue into business ventures. The enthusiasm that manifested in their eyes was a springboard for each lesson that followed. At that moment, I realized I found my passion and I knew that being competent, matched with relationship building could produce a lifetime of learners who actually walk away with skills to be successful but most importantly knowing that someone cares about them outside of the classroom. This is also when I realized that students needed mirrors and windows in which they could see themselves in and through.
As a black male educator, I know my role is deeper than just educating students. I am a mentor, a father figure, an example of hope, a coach, and the list goes on…
Research tells us that:
Black men make up only two percent (link is external) of the country’s teaching force, but their presence in the classroom is shown to improve outcomes for students. A 2017 study (link is external) by the Institute of Labor Economics found that low-income Black students who have a Black teacher—man or woman—for at least one year in elementary school are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to consider college.
As I continue in the field, I realize how important my role is within the field. I now look for ways to get more Black men involved in the field either through teaching or volunteering. Our kids, especially black boys need to see more successful examples of people who look like them. We serve as the light at the end of the tunnel and the only example of success for many of our boys.
I urge you to commit some time to mentoring, volunteering, and/or entering the field of education to help change the trajectory of our future. Our culture needs you and most importantly our kids need you!