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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

What Schools Need to Know About the Black Male Teacher Experience. Part 1 

Dr. David McGuire is an educator and education reporter. He attended school in Indianapolis, K-12, and is a graduate of Central State University and holds advanced degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University and Marian University. In addition to his work as an educator, he also navigates the education system as a parent.

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Mr. Davis is a little late today but still makes it to his room on time to greet his students at the door. Mr. Davis is a 4th-grade teacher in his 5th year and 3rd year at his current school. As he is waiting for his students to arrive, he is standing outside his door with his tall cart and his computer, adding songs to the playlist that will play while his students do their morning work. While working on his playlist, his principal accompanies him and the rest of the team members to pass out the split. There is an absent teacher, and they still need to get a sub. When Mr. Davis looked at the list, he noticed he was given all the challenging students from the class and has eight scholars, while his other three grade-level teachers only had 6. This is a common occurrence for Mr. Davis, who is the only Black male classroom teacher in his building. Again instead of speaking up, Mr. Davis says nothing and prepares to welcome his now 38 students to the room for the day.  

Mr. Davis’s experience is one shared by many Black male teachers. Far too often, the Black male teachers are the only ones in their building, and they are always given the most challenging and the most students. There is so much pressure put on Black males’ backs to carry the building’s behavioral and discipline load. In many schools, these Black men are seen as disciplinarians first and teachers seconds. 

This treatment year after year is why many Black men either leave the teaching profession or stay in the profession and quickly move out of the classroom and into administration. Whatever the Black man decides to do creates a void in the school of their presence. Their absence in the classroom robs countless students of the benefits of having a Black male teacher. Many black boys in school do not get representation and are often cast aside because their teachers do not understand what it means to be a Black boy. Our Black girls are robbed of what could have been the only positive image of the Black male as they do not have that example at home. Students of different races are robbed of the opportunity to see an image of a Black male that does not consist of them with a ball or mic in their hand.  

With all the conversation happening in education on how to improve outcomes for students, I believe the increase of Black males in the classroom is one to change things. I know Black men alone cannot change the teaching landscape independently; however, they can have a major impact.   

Schools must be proactive and recruit more Black male teachers to the classroom. The school that already have Black male teachers need to do a better job of retaining their Black male teachers.  

I believe schools should do three things to recruit more Black male teachers. The first thing schools should do is ensure their current Black male students have a positive school experience. Schools must improve the experience and the treatment of Black boys in schools to have a chance at seeing these Black boys become men who become teachers. The second is schools must understand the motivation behind why Black men teach. For many Black men, the attraction to teaching is the chance to make an impact in their community and the lives of their students. The third is to change the narrative that Black men are needed in school to be just disciplinarians and role models. The need for more Black male teachers in school is due to what they offer from pedagogy and an ability to reach and connect with students to unlock a genius inside them.  

Once schools can get Black males in their schools, they have to prioritize ensuring those Black men stay. One way they can do that is by ensuring that if Black men do have a goal of moving into administration, they have a pathway that does not just mean they go into discipline. Next, schools need to help Black men find a community for themselves. Schools should help connect Black men to a community of Black men to ensure they have that outlet and support system. Finally, schools need to ensure that Black man feels valued. They need to feel the value of their thoughts and opinions and be respected in a sense they are not just a dumping group for all the students that other teachers do not want.  

I advise Black teachers, especially Mr. Davis, that the profession needs you, your students need you, your future students need you, and other Black teachers need too. You need to make sure you are in a place where you feel valued. If you are not being valued or do not feel valued, then you need to speak up. Taking on the entire burden of the building differs from how you last. Speaking up does not make you weak or seem like you cannot handle what they throw your way.  

Contact Indy Kids Winning reporter David McGuire at davidm@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidMMcGuire Facebook at David McGuire and Instagram @dr.davidmcguire 

David’s work is supported through a partnership between Indy Kids Winning and the Indianapolis Recorder. Visit indykidswinning.com to learn more. 

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