Anytime I tell people that I am majoring in social studies education, they ask one of two questions: “Where do you want to teach?” or “Why do you want to teach?” Those especially curious ask both. My answer is consistent: I would like to teach in a secondary school serving predominantly low-income, African American students. And I am entering the profession as an intentional form of activism. My goal is to actively break down inequities that negatively impact my students, in schools and in life.
A more critical question, however, is “How will I teach?” or “How do I plan to turn my teaching into activism?” On this, I am also clear.
I will have high expectations for students who are often dismissed as being unable to achieve high standards. And I will be the high-quality teacher for students who oftentimes lack access to them.
My classroom will be a space of critical thinking that uses history lessons to instill within students a sense of agency to positively impact the world today. My students will engage in projects and assignments that prepare them for civic engagement and active resistance to social injustices and inequities, planting a seed for future activism.
As a Black male teacher, I will be a role model, mentor, and father figure to my students. Men of color are rare in the teaching profession: I will be among the only 2 percent of teachers nationwide who are Black males. This rarity amplifies the importance of my presence in classrooms with Black male students specifically, far too many of whom go through primary and secondary school having never been taught a core subject by someone who looks like them — an experience that, when reversed, has many long-term benefits, including increased likelihood of graduation.
I will show my Black male students that the teaching profession is for them, creating a pipeline for Black students toward the profession and other careers and inspiring them to succeed beyond their expectations and beyond society’s expectations.
I will continue an important tradition within the Black community, where Black teachers in segregated schools dedicate themselves to preparing Black students to be their best. I will do the same — empowering, preparing, and supporting all of my students as best I can.
I will face many challenges as a Black teacher. But I’m ready. This profession is just as much a choice as it is an obligation — a call to action that I am excited to fulfill.
My passion for my people, belief in my students, and vigilance to dismantle inequities in the classroom will influence students and, in turn, foster more champions of educational equity.
Mansur Buffins, a senior at the University of Georgia, is a P-12 research intern at Ed Trust.