My Black Teacher Manifesto

Black Male Teachers:

There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States. Currently, less than 2% of teachers nationwide are Black males.

There have been some credulous efforts to right this wrong (a lack of Black Male teachers), and I applaud the folks that are on the front lines with the intent of diversifying the teaching profession. TFA has done a remarkable job addressing the issue, so has the Fellowship, and NYC to name a few.

While I applaud the efforts that are being made to populate teaching with more Black Males, I want to use this space to discuss why I almost left education as a Black male.


What I am not:

1) Notwithstanding, I am not your security guard. My job is to fill the minds of my students with knowledge. It’s not to play referee or anything of the sort.

Of course, if kids are in danger or peril, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they are safe (even though my union contract explicitly states I should not intervene), I will. But that isn’t my primary goal in life, nor is it why I sought education as a career.

2) Consequently, I am not the translator of Black popular culture for you. If you would like to understand best the culture of the students that you educate, get to know them as people. Try to do it without judgment, and with high levels of authenticity. I mean, don’t just get to know them because you have to, get to know them because you want to make a difference in their lives.

3) Contrary to your beliefs, I will not serve as the liaison between you and black parents. Again, relationship building is critical. Call these parents and say something kind and non-judgmental about their students. You can find something nice to say about any kid if you get to know that kid. Treat parents as allies and not as adversaries.

4) Lastly, I am not your bodyguard when you do culturally offensive things that are offensive to the stakeholders that you provide service. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and the day that you overstep your boundaries, be prepared for what comes with that.


Accountability for Self:

Taking the necessary time to tell you what I am not is only half of the process. I must take some time to tell you who I am, so we’re clear, and we can move forward in harmony.

1) I am a professional with the same credentials as you. The same way you treat any other colleague is the same way that I expect you to treat me. If you don’t expect him/her to yield a superman cape because they can identify with students and families, please afford me the same courtesy.

2) I am a team player, but please don’t take advantage of that.

Teaching Is Everything:

Teaching isn’t a bare minimum job, and since I am super invested and rooting for my kids, do not think that you can bring anything less to the table for “our kids.” And if you don’t buy into the discourse of “our kids,” you should be somewhere that resonates better for you.

3) I am a thought-partner. I am always looking for ways to help my colleagues better engage in this work. If you have ideas, I want to hear your thoughts, and I will give you safe space advice. Accepting me as your thought-partner will ignite passion, that will benefit our students.

4) Treat me as your equal. It’s alarming that in 2019 we’re still talking about equality, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. If the kids are our goal, I can do this work forever.


Inspiration:

This manifesto was inspired partially by

the principal/scholar who is 86 years old, and just signed a 4-year contract renewal to lead into his 90’s. There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States.

C’Mon Son!: Ed Reform Edition

Ed Reform:

At some point, yesterday, I looked in my email inbox and saw this hellacious article attacking the philanthropy of the Walton foundation. The article quotes an ‘education policy expert’ Dr. Andre Perry. I don’t even know what that means. But what I do know is that this type of divisive anti-charter rhetoric isn’t helpful to (PoC) that are exhausted with a lack of educational options for their children.


Ed Reform Hypocrisy:

I’ll never understand the perils that one goes through when he/she repositions his/her stance on Ed reform. I could never one day wake up and say, “the system is no longer broken, nor is it in need of reform.” Folks that switch positions like that are dangerous operatives, not ‘experts.’ Also, I’m wondering if the journalist asked Dr. Perry if he ever accepted any Walton money?


Whitewashing in Ed Reform:

The most alarming part for me is how Dr. Perry eludes to the Walton Family’s philanthropy as whitewashing education. How are traditional public schools not whitewashed? With less than two percent African-American male teachers in the United States, inevitably our policy expert could refocus this energy on more poignant issues in our communities.

With an educational record like Dr. Perry’s, you’d think he’d need an escort as well.

Failing Schools:

Moreover, Dr. Perry is a former CEO of a network of charter schools in New Orleans. Under his supervision, the schools performed poorly. Below are the state grades of the schools that Dr. Perry was positioned to govern during his tenure as CEO in the Recovery School District in New Orleans in 2010-11. Based on these results, no experienced journalist should ever quote Dr. Perry on anything charter relating to charter schools.


Dr. Perry's results UNO/RSD 2010-11

To date, my school nor I have never received any Walton foundation funding. I take personal issue with these “Edu celebs” that feel they know what’s best for black families. Both of my kids have attended my charter school. I’m in tune with parent choice as both a parent who exercises that right and a school leader that provides (PoC) with a viable alternative to traditional public schools.

Most Still Missed the Mark on NJ High School Wrestler Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson:

Much to do has been made about Andrew Johnson, the young wrestler from NJ, who was made to cut his dreadlocks off to compete in a school-sanctioned wresting match. I’ve seen some opinions go so far as to say, the referee who asked Johnson to cut his hair deserves a lifetime ban, a punishment that I do not disagree. But did we miss the mark?

In today’s “cancel culture,” it’s easy for people to be canceled. But did the write folks get canceled in this scenario? We’ll take an in-depth look and determine that. We’ll examine the actions of the following people: the coaches; the teammates (white and teammates of color); the ref; and the bystanders; and the post remarks by the superintendent of schools.


Other Perspectives:

Firstly, the coaches. Sharif El-Mekki described this perfectly in his blog post. He talked about the duty of the coaches to protect student-athletes. Coaches spend a lot of time with student-athletes. As a former student-athlete, I have coaches that I still look at as father figures. These coaches and their inability to stand up for Johnson was a huge letdown. Should the coaches be canceled?

Next, Citizen Stewart touched on an angle that many of us missed. That was the performance of the school, and why we really should be mad. The school performs poorly academically when compared to other high schools in NJ. Citizen contends that not only has Johnson been failed by this act of discrimination, but he’s also been failed by a school system that does not adequately prepare its scholars. Should the school be canceled?

Moreover, I was able to zoom in on a picture that I found to be extraordinary. Many of Johnson’s white teammates gave him high-fives, and pumped him up for what they assumed was a selfless act.

I’m guessing they never took into account the more profound sacrifice that Johnson had to make, a sacrifice all too common for those that look like Johnson. However, sitting on the bench was a young student of color, who in my opinion looked paralyzed by what his teammate was being asked to do. Where were the other bystanders, why didn’t anyone intervene on behalf of this student? Should the bystanders be canceled?


Response from Superintendent

Superintendent’s Response:

Lastly, and probably one of the most important takeaways for me, was the response of the superintendent of schools from Johnson’s school district. In his attempt to (CYOB), he missed on an opportunity to use this occurrence as a valuable, teachable moment for his stakeholders. Instead, he insists Johnson made his own choice, distancing himself away from the matter. Should the superintendent be canceled?

Implicit Bias Against SoC

Implicit Bias in NJ:

When I first caught wind that, a young scholar-athlete was asked to cut off his hair to compete in a wrestling match; I know the implications. It’s almost 2019, and we have a student of color (SoC) ostracized and told he’s ineligible to compete because of his hairstyle. It is time for a great awakening amongst our people. This incident is another instance of why the Obama administration got it right by providing Civil Rights protection for students of color (SoC).

This act of discrimination is another instance where our emotions can get the best of us. My initial thoughts are everyone needs to be held accountable for this injustice. However, after further analyzing the situation, I want more than accountability. How can we use this racist occurrence to spurn policy change in education?


I want us (people capable of seeing things objectively) to look at this incident objectively (while still being pissed off). This act could be the act that highlights the type of discrimination SoC face daily. We need to focus on change.


Other instances of discrimination Amongst PoC.

Whether its the young lady in Philly not being allowed to play basketball due to wearing her hijab or the young lady in New Orleans being sent home because of her hairstyle, black popular culture is under attack. We must defend our students in all circumstances.

So yes, you have every right to be passionate about the injustice that continues to happen to SoC. The question is, what are you going to do to keep fighting for their rights. We know the current administration does not care about the civil rights of SoC or other disenfranchised groups. It’s up to us.

School Choice Matters Most for Poc (People of Color)

School Choice:

One of the main concerns that I hear from school choice pundits is “charter schools and other choice type schools take away valuable resources from school districts.” To those pundits, I ask these simple questions: What should parents do if traditional public schools do not work for their children? Should they allow for their children to be sacrificial lambs in failing schools while educators work toward fixing the problem? How long should they wait? How will they be viewed if they decide not to wait?

Many parents that exercise school choice are products of traditional public schools. They speak rather candidly about the failures of said schools. These schools have left parents with animous based on their own experiences. Even with this expert knowledge, we still have folks questioning the rights of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their children. There’s nothing more offensive than reading parents are choosing to send their students to charter schools because they are uninformed. That couldn’t be more from the truth.


School Choice Matters to PoC:

As educators, we should never question or second guess a parent’s choice. Why? Because parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their kids. We can have conversations with parents to ascertain why they made their choice, but we are in no position to make that choice for parents. Parents are experts when it comes to their children. While educators also have a level of expertness, its more broad view expertise, while the parental knowledge allows parents to be laser-focused on the needs of their children. The goal should be to support a parent’s choice, not to question it or undermine it.

School Reform:

I think we are all school reformist in one way or another. Currently, “reform” is such a dirty word that when its heard, it immediately forces some to take offense. For those offended by the word ‘reform,’ I ask if the district schools are failing, what are parents supposed to do? I’m an idealist. I don’t ever want to call someone anti-school reform. I hope that we can all agree that all schools can improve and that its the job of educators to ensure that improvement. If we can agree to look at it from that perspective, then we can all agree that in theory, we want the best for children. I don’t expect for us to agree on what “best” looks like, and that’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to agree, because it is the parent’s choice to determine the best fit.


Animus towards School Choice:

Moreover, if you have hatred towards those that exhibit their right for choice, I ask why? Affluent parents exercise school choice all of the time. When politicians in Washington, DC decide that they want to send their children to Sidwell Friends, or other elite private schools throughout Maryland and DC, they are exercising their choice. When families on NY’s upper east side decide they’d instead send their kids to private schools with 50k yearly tuition, again it is their choice. No one unfairly persecutes these parents. I’ve never read any literature recommending these parents send their children to district schools. However, when people of color exercise their options, they become bad parents?

I have heard enough about blaming parents. We provide parents with a product. If parents are unhappy with the product, they have every right to go after the best product that will work for them. We are in no place to judge them for that. We should all support their right to choose. In my opinion, those that exercise their right to choose & stand out is because they aren’t afraid to stand up.