I found an article today in the Washington Times that describes a mentoring program for black males in Maryland Schools. I’m writing about this for two reasons. First off, the need for males as teachers within the education sphere is constant. I’m not in any way trying to knock the teaching ability of females, quite to the contrary. But the balance in teaching right now leans heavily to the females, and I’ve seen the effects that a balanced teaching staff can have.
The second, and more important issue of this article, is the issue of black males in teaching (or at least in this case mentoring) roles. I’m a caucasian male teaching in a mostly minority school. There is no friction between me and my students, there are no racial issues within my middle school. BUT, whenever we have all school staff meetings, I look around and see 6 or so black teachers out of our staff of 30 or 35. Considering that our student body is almost 90% minority (largely black), I feel like an oportunity is being missed. The unofficial mission that is passed among the teachers at my school is to prepare these students for life after they leave us, and yet they’re being taught to do so by people that have no real connection to their ethnic or cultural heritige. I’m a big believer in our planet as one people and all, and I’m in no way insinuating that there is some sort of racial prejudice at our school. I just feel a slight twinge for these students and the disconnect I see between what we want to be doing as a school and the unintentional message our staff composition is sending. I worry that the minority students in our school are getting the message that they need education to be successful, but that the truly educated people are white. Maybe I’m making that up, maybe that’s only in my head…but I haven’t been able to shake that concern. A program like this one provides some male students with positive role models that are their own gender and are culturally and ethnically relatable.
One more thing before I go: in this article the mentor, a gentleman by the name of Will Trice, is confronted with something that I myself have heard on occasion…the dreams of a young student to grow up to be a pro-athlete. As teachers and adults (who may or may not have had this dream ourselves) we often approach this situation as either amusing, or a reason for a scolding. We want the best for them, and as a result end up imposing adult-style realism on a young mind that doesn’t deserve it. I love that Mr. Trice treats these kids dreams as something that is real and possible…because it is. It is reality and it is possible to those boys, and Mr. Trice treats their dream with the respect it deserves. And yet he craftily steers the conversation to accomplish what he wants. He helps them see that flexibility is important, as it is with any career ambition, not just athletic ambitions. The education and teaching world needs more programs like this, and more individuals like Mr. Trice. Hopefully a program like this will create an mind-set where minority students will believe that their influence on the education system is important, and they will in-turn pass that on later in life.