Cuts in education funding have influenced a shift in our focal points regarding the quality of education in the public sector. While the No Child Left Behind Act implications are based upon that of every school in the nation accounting for 100 percent in terms of Adequate Yearly Progress, the achievement gap between majority and minority students remains and is continuously widening.
In particular, our black male students are being left behind more than any other subgroup.
Where are the role models for our young black men? I ask this not because I am a black female educator, but because it cannot continue to go unnoticed.
I predicted to a couple of my colleagues a few years back that the demand for more black male teachers will be at the forefront on the path to improvement of educational success in the black communities. With constant increases in federal and state education mandates, school systems are pressured to ensure the quantity of instructional practices exist, while the quality of those practices are lacking.
Moreover, with school discipline being a major concern for many educators, it proves to be difficult to deliver quality instruction with so many disruptions.
Contrary to what is often said in the media, all of our black males are not currently or destined to be incarcerated, on the streets, or in the graveyard. They are waiting for a role model to emerge.
The presence of the black male teacher is not needed in our schools simply for disciplinary purposes, but for the equality and balance that the stature brings to the education setting. Equality of gender greatly impacts student achievement in all subjects of the curriculum.
So the question remains: “Why are there fewer black male teachers in comparison to other races and gender?”
While beliefs about gender-specific roles continue to influence the ambitions and academic performance of our boys and girls, these factors still do not account as conclusive reasons for the lack of educational equality in terms of race.
My thoughts about the increasing need for more black male teachers in the public sector most correlate with those of author William L. Jenkins. Black males must understand the dire need to accept ownership and value for each other. More must be done on the behalf of the individual black man to convey the meaning of black leadership and how it begins in the schools.
To quote one of Montgomery Public School’s best principals, “Not only did I desire to be a principal to assure academic excellence in general, but more important, I wanted to be an example and make a difference in the lives of black children, especially our young, black males.”
Having worked under the administration of this principal, I can honestly attest to his philosophy of giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of those who follow us. Those who work closest to the children are the most knowledgeable about how they learn and what they need.
More black male teachers must show our young black males that there are avenues to achievement beyond athletics. They need to understand that rap music is specifically for entertainment. They must be taught that a low-socioeconomic status is only a temporary setback, because with determination, anything is possible. They must value themselves and the responsibility they have to learn.
They need to see more black men in suits, nice shirts, ties, and dress shoes and not so many black men dressed in white tee-shirts and saggy pants.
Instructional approaches geared toward the improvement of the child must reflect concerns of the whole child, in aspects of his educational, physical, mental, and social well-being. Therefore, it is important that young black boys have a black male educator who can model how important it is to be engaged in school and instruction in the classroom. This will also help them develop a sense of relation and ownership for the teaching.
In many instances, a black male educator is the only positive black male figure many of our young black males encounter.
Many of the students are in single-parent homes, and the majority with mom being the sole provider. Being a single mother myself, I can confirm that it takes a black man to show a young black boy how to do many things.
Young blacks need to be able to witness first hand that there is a place that they must take in this world.
Once the value of the black male role model is accepted, it will take collaboration between education policy makers, higher education officials and the community to ensure that programs are implemented to attract adolescent black males to an educational career.
I am not saying that the success of our young black male population lies solely at the responsibility of the education system; however, being an advocate for all children and their academic success, I do support the theory that black male educators contribute positively to the academic success of the black male youth.
The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” extends past just having a group of concerned individuals to help in raising the child; it will take someone who the child can most identify with in order to rear the child successfully.
If education policy makers remain faithful to the principles of the teaching profession, more must be done to develop educational equality for all. With a growing population of black male teachers, our young black males will be encouraged to write statistics rather than be one.
Courtney S. Giles,cEd.S., is a reading specialist at Brewbaker Primary School.