Side by Side: The Power of Reading & Relationships for Latino Boys

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In a hushed tone, I heard “Mr. Ryan, can I read this book again?” The junior from Montgomery Blair high school showed me a white hardcover book titled Guatemala. He had selected it from our elementary school library. The week before, he and his second grade mentee read it together.I noticed then the curiosity and questions coming from two male students of color while they read an informational text they had selected together. “Of course, learning about history is pretty cool,” I said. The high school junior sat next to his mentee, who was reading a different book this week, and they commenced reading silently, side by side in our media center.

Five years ago, a colleague presented an idea to me. She knew I was already running a mentoring program for our second grade boys. Her idea was to partner our students with high school mentors who looked like our students. The idea took off. I reached out to our neighborhood high school, Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring, Maryland. The NHE-Blair Mentoring Program was successful that year and in subsequent years has grown. The core of the program has stayed the same: Male students (mostly of color) reading together and learning through play.

Our student body at New Hampshire Estates elementary school is about 75% Latino with a Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) rate of 85%. We are an immigrant community where we are busy preparing our young scholars to be successful global citizens. Our student’s literacy data leads their peers in multiple measures around Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). However, our students are not always afforded favorable expectations from society due to what they look like or what zip code they come from. False assumptions are easily placed upon them such as ”This text may be too challenging for them,” or later in life when they are just walking home from the store wearing a hoodie.

MCPS superintendent, Dr. Jack Smith, is fond of saying “access precedes achievement”. Culturally responsive educators know this to be true. There has also been documented research that male students do not typically want to read for pleasure. Dr. Paula Schwanenflugel and Dr. Nancy Flanagan wrote in the April 2018 edition of Psychology Today

On Scholastic’s 2016 survey of over 2000 U.S. children, ages 6-17, only 52% of boys (versus 72% of girls) said they liked reading books over the summer, while only 27% of boys (versus 37% of girls) said they read books for fun at least 5 days a week.  Forty-five percent of boys (versus only 36% of girls) said they often have trouble finding books they like”. Both authors also cite the 2016 Pew Research Center survey of adult reading habits. This study concluded that “women are more likely to read books than men,” and noted that 32% of men (versus only 23% of women) surveyed said that they hadn’t read a single book in the past year. (Psychology Today, Schwanenflugel and Flanagan Knapp, April 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-minds/201803/what-is-it-boys-and-reading)

The NHE-Blair Mentoring Program has two parts. The first part attempted to address the findings from Schwanenflugel and Flanagan’s research: getting our boys to want to read and to find pleasure in self-selecting what we call a just right book that is of interest to them. It does not matter if they wanted to read about ninjas, Batman, Cinderella or sharks. It did not matter if they read picture books, comic books or chapter books. We wanted our boys to find enjoyment in reading. The high school students would either read to their mentees or with them, side by side. Our thought was if our young male students saw high school male students who looked like them, reading with them or to them, reading overall might just secure a space in the childhood hall of fame. The high school students were not parents or teachers, they existed in that elementary stratosphere of older kid “coolness” that was bestowed upon them the minute you said “high school” to an eight year old. Even Christian, a second grader who had one of the toughest home lives I have seen in twenty three years in education, would eagerly await his high school mentor each week with a book he had already picked out for them to read together.

The second part of the NHE-Blair Mentoring Program centers on learning through play. It is not physical education class, a recreation league team or even a sports skills program. This part is more akin to playing in the park or backyard with an older brother or cousin. We usually play soccer or basketball. We start with practicing various skills with their mentor in a loose setting, then we usually run a backyard style pickup game with the mentors and mentees learning through play. As the adage goes,“You can learn more about a person’s character in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation”. Sportsmanship, teamwork and persistence are the common threads we emphasize during the athletic portion of our program.

Most of the male students in my program come recommended by staff as students who would benefit socially and/or academically from working with a positive male role model. This program also affords a positive school-based experience to our high school male students as well. Many of them have been or still are newcomers, an ESOL student or just a male student of color who needed positive school-based experiences. I smile every time I see the high school “cool” slip away as soon as a second grader runs up to them and they engage in their own special handshake. Phones rarely make an appearance.  

The high school student who had read Guatemala the previous week later told me he learned some new things about his country from that book. He even showed me a new book he picked out from the library on his own. It was another book about Guatemala. I remembered seeing the book full of maps. It struck me that the young man may have been born there, may have even been back, but he still wanted to learn about the landscape of his home country. The high schooler asked me if he could read that book with his mentee, even if it wasn’t from NHE’s media center. I smiled broadly recognizing that through reading and relationships we are deconstructing  a narrative that some may have for these young Latino scholars.

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Thomas N. Ryan serves as an assistant principal in Montgomery County Public Schools and is a member of the BOND Leadership Team. He believes in equitable access for all students and fostering a culture of curiosity and respect. He is also a life-long learner. You can follow him on Twitter @ThomasNRyan

 

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Pushed over The Edge: Maintaining One’s Motivation in the Craft of Teaching.

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I’ve been in the classroom for 20 plus years and for much of that time I’ve been drowning in a sea of safety, comfort and familiarity.  Let me be clear, I’m passionate about education. Teaching is not just what I do but it’s who I am – to my core. However, this enduring love for my craft has led me to become complacent and quite frankly a little bored.  It’s like being in a long term relationship with someone you care for deeply, but you allow the fire and passion to die and begin taking that person for granted. This is never a good look for any type of relationship – particularly for an educator because so much depends on what we do. When we become stuck in our ways or unmotivated to innovate our pedagogy as the times and our students change, everyone pays the price. Our students disengage from the learning process because what and how we teach no longer applies to the way they live and learn outside of the classroom.  For us, contentment within the four walls of the classroom becomes tantamount to a slow and quiet professional death.

Within the last few years I’ve been gently nudged to expand my teaching and learning experiences beyond the classroom by a close network of my colleagues.  But it’s primarily my students that finally snuck up behind me and pushed me over the edge of complacency and out of my comfort zone. It was their boldness to challenge me to grow in ways that I had not imagined.   

It has always been important to me that students are able to apply the information that we learn in class to their lives outside of it.  Whenever possible, I try to make education “functional” for them. I’m cognizant that what we do in class should not always be an abstract intellectual exercise, prompting them to ask questions like, “why do I need to know this?” or “when will I ever use this stuff?” I’m not always successful, but the attempt is there.  I’ve worked hard over the years to strengthen my skills in developing a classroom culture where academic rigor, strong relationships and reflection are the norm. I encourage my students to find their voice and become agents in their lives in an effort to change society for the better, but more importantly, to not be afraid to change themselves.  The flip side of creating this type of environment is that students have become comfortable enough to ask me questions and challenge me about how I’m being a change agent outside of the four walls of my classroom. Their challenges are never hostile or confrontational, rather they’re more akin to encouragement and support, empowering me to share with the world what we do in the classroom. The practice of moving from theory to practical application, or like W.E.B Du Bois frames it – the theory of praxis, is so important in being an effective and accomplished educator.

As part of “escaping” the comfort of my classroom and taking on the challenges from my colleagues and students, I’ve delved into teacher leadership roles outside of the classroom and as a result I’ve not only deepened my understanding of the educational system but have had to reflect on my practices inside the classroom. For example, being a member of BOND to help recruit, develop and retain men of color in the classroom allows me to witness the systemic challenges institutions face to enhance their workforce.  Within the classroom I’ve designed and proposed new and innovative class offerings for our jurisdiction that is forcing me to reevaluate my pedagogy and the needs/interests of my students. Taking on these responsibilities in addition to my full-time teaching duties sounds like a heavy lift and it is. But I’ve never felt more alive in my professional life!

Teacher burnout is real and all the things that I’ve taken on sound like a recipe for disaster, but it’s the exact opposite.  These teacher leadership endeavors have ignited a renewed purpose as a professional educator and also provided me with an expanded vision of the possibilities that exist when I finally leave the classroom. I didn’t jump into these roles overnight.  I was thoughtful, intentional and patient as I entered each phase. I also connected with competent, passionate and supportive colleagues as I journeyed through each step. I can’t stress this enough, but finding and building your tribe is essential.    

Being a part of the leadership team of BOND is not only a part of my teacher leadership roles but they have also become part of my support network, my tribe.  There are other communities that I connect with that not only support my professional vision but that continue to challenge me to live beyond my comfort zone. Whenever I see signs of burnout in my talented colleagues, I encourage them to keep one foot in the classroom because our students deserve good teachers.  I also motivate them to become active members in the professional community and share their skills and experiences as teacher leaders in ways that will not only rejuvenate them but ultimately benefit their students.

For those of you that desire to remain in the classroom yet feel “stuck”, I challenge you to step to the outer limits of your comfort zone.  If someone from your tribe pushes you over the edge, trust that the net will appear. You will be all the better for it.

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Kenneth M. Smith  is a National Board Certified Teacher and a member of the BOND Project Leadership Team. Kenneth is passionate about inspiring students to become independent, lifelong learners as well as encouraging his fellow colleagues to engage in teacher leadership endeavors to impact change outside of the classroom. Follow Kenneth on Twitter @MrSmithInspires.

Back to the Fold: Re-engaging our most marginalized students.

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Back to the Fold: Re-engaging our most marginalized students with culturally responsive and universally designed instruction.

“Mr. Culver, we like your class. You respect us. There’s really no excuse for failing your class. As long as you do the work, it’s easy.”

In a moment of uncharacteristic candor, one of my students — on this otherwise uneventful morning — took it upon herself to speak for her peers offering me some of the most insightful feedback of my teaching career. This particular student (while incredibly intelligent) has not demonstrated her academic prowess through the typical conventional measures. She is a student of color. Her attendance is inconsistent. She has repeated several courses due to failures. And let’s just say some staff in the building have not had the opportunity to experience the most pleasant aspects of her personality. All of these anecdotes paint a clear picture: she is one of the most promising students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching.

Our Students on the Margins

My time in the classroom has revealed several incontrovertible truths that I try to cherish as guiding principles. The one I that keep on the forefront of my mind the most? A student’s marginalization is neither a measure of his or her intelligence nor academic capability.  Further, for students who feel marginalized, we cannot help them unlock their full potential to achieve until we provide appropriate supports to address these feelings of alienation.

So what do we as teachers do to address this monumental challenge? How do we cut through all of the chatter regarding the supposed failure of public schools (and teachers) to equitably help all of our students? The data is clear. Students of color disproportionately perform lower on standardized measures of academic achievement. They also represent an uneven share of the chronic truancy, disciplinary interventions, and special education designations on record throughout public school systems across the nation. All of this data, of course, doesn’t reflect some innate difference in academic capability across different student demographic groups. Rather, these statistics reveal the results of decades of disenfranchisement and marginalization. Ultimately, it is an inconvenient truth that students of color comprise a disproportionate share of our most marginalized youth within our social institutions. Nonetheless, like my aforementioned student, when properly engaged these young prospects have the potential to display unique insight and leadership.

Our Role as Instructors and School Staff

While we as teachers, counselors, and administrators cannot single-handedly address the countless social conditions that sometimes drive our students to feel detached, there are certainly steps we can take within our classrooms and buildings to help our students feel less marginalized. For students to excel academically, they have to receive instruction and experiences that help them: (1) feel like they matter and (2) feel like they have tangible, sustained evidence of success. At a bare minimum, both of these needs must be sufficiently addressed to begin resolving our students’ feelings of estrangement. Culturally responsive teaching and universally designed instruction offer effective tools to address these student needs.

Creating a Culturally Relevant and Responsive Environment

I find that while the concept of culturally responsive teaching is one the most-circulated philosophies within urban public school settings in the past several years, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Undoubtedly, we need to create environments where our students feel seen and validated. However, our efforts at helping our students feel they are visible must extend beyond having ethnically diverse posters displayed in the classroom and non-Eurocentric names interspersed throughout our class assignments.

A truly culturally relevant and responsive classroom requires genuine fluency not just in the ethnic backgrounds of our students, but in youth culture more broadly. What topics are trending on Twitter this week? Who are the five top-charting musical artists this month? What movie trailers for upcoming releases are getting the most views? What YouTube personalities are receiving the most followers? While the thought of keeping up with such information — in addition to the ethnic practices, values, and cultural ways of our students’ families — may feel unnecessary to some of our colleagues, it is interest in these very details and their integration on a daily basis into the classroom that communicate “respect” to our students (and it is what drove my earlier mentioned student to feel comfortable sharing her impressions in class). Students who feel respected and validated will feel less withdrawn and take increased ownership in their learning.

Delivering Universally Designed Instruction

In all honesty, when we think about demonstrating mastery of state-mandated curricula on standardized assessments and understanding of core academic content, simply helping our students feel respected — in and of itself — isn’t going to get the job done. This is where universally designed instruction does the heavy lifting for motivating and engaging students. The philosophy of universal design has increasingly become a focus of specialized education pedagogy over the past two decades. However, it’s application is truly intended to apply to every classroom, regardless of student learning ability. In essence, every classroom should be universally designed so that any student, regardless of learning difference, may set foot in the room and receive all of the instructional differentiation, supports, and accommodations necessary to be successful. This approach not only allows students to receive instruction at a level where they can more readily see their own progress, but eliminates the need for tracking, which is one of the most transparent, marginalizing practices leaving our most vulnerable students feeling isolated. Students who receive instruction at a level that is individualized — and provides them with opportunities to demonstrate their learning in way that is tangible — will feel like there is a meaningful point to exerting effort in the classroom (and like my earlier mentioned student, will feel like as long as they apply themselves and “do the work” they will be successful).

Professional Development and Educational Leadership for the Future

So, yes let’s say for a moment that some of these interventions make sense and seem desirable in the classroom. How do teachers, who already feel like we have too much to do, actually go about infusing these practices in every classroom? Resources, professional development, and the space to experiment with these practices — backed by administrators and policymakers — offer a way forward. Teachers need sufficient professional development opportunities focused on culturally responsive teaching and universal design to master these new approaches. Additionally, instructional staff need opportunities to experiment with these practices without fear of criticism for not sufficiently delivering on learning objectives, progress checks, common writing/assessment tasks and the increasing myriad of evaluative tools mandated in the classroom. Such an approach will require a re-examination of priorities at the policy level that strikes a better balance between demonstrating effectiveness and building capacity. In the meantime, resources such as the Center for Applied Special Technology and the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning offer great supports for teachers looking for guidance. With the right priorities, we can transform our school buildings into places that pull our students back from the margins and help them see themselves as their own agents for change in their journeys toward success. I long for the day when all of our students feel the support and ownership to affirm that, when it comes to their success, there is “no excuse.”

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Rahman A. Culver is a dual certified special education and secondary social studies teacher who also serves as a department chair at Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County, MD. Culver has also worked as a teacher in Prince George’s County and as a manager in the DC nonprofit sector. Culver attended Montgomery County public schools for his entire childhood and is a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School.

Boss’d Up! Leading a Brotherhood of Super Stars.

20181211_181301A great education gives our youth the opportunity to achieve goals that can only be imagined. I want students to know that education is used as a stepping stone to propel yourself to the next level of success. As an educator for 10 years in the capacity of school counselor, my goals have always been student-centered. Students should be placed in a position to learn from one another while receiving first hand, relevant information. Yes, we can have them sit in classrooms and hear about the great things that our community leaders are accomplishing. At some point in adolescence, this information has to be tangible. Throughout my career, I’ve attempted to go above and beyond by placing community leaders directly in front of my students.

Currently, I’m coordinator of a program called Brotherhood of Super Stars or BOSS. BOSS is a voluntary mentoring program designed to encourage our black male students to connect achievement with career choices. We want students to begin thinking about lifelong goals, and prepare them to participate in the community as productive citizens. Currently, there are over 100 student participants in the BOSS program in grades 6-8. Without placing these goals in front of our students, we leave our black male students exposed to the inequities in a broken system. Although we are closing the achievement gap, there is still much work that has to be performed beyond the classroom. BOSS gives our students the opportunity to hear first-hand information from community leaders in our speaker series. These community leaders, in turn expose our students to positive male role-models, the challenges of being a black man in our society, as well as ways to overcome those challenges. Speakers promote excellence in academics, instill leadership characteristics, and develop problem-solving and decision making skills. We also aim to increase self-esteem and independence. BOSS is designed to help our students realize the unlimited options available as they think about their future goals. Beyond the speaker series, BOSS members also participate in college tours, community service, student empowerment conferences, and the history of Kwanzaa celebration.

To run a successful mentoring program in the school setting, complete buy-in is a must. Administrators, teachers, PTSA, Instructional Leadership Team, and community stakeholders must have a clear vision of the goals and procedures of the program. In the summer months, it is important to work with administrators to have a collaborative vision of the school and district goals around creating equity. Moving into the school year, teachers, parents, and community members should also know the focus of the program and how it impacts student learning and achievement.

My time in Montgomery County Public Schools has been a daily learning experience. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to learn while collaborating and being a part of a great leadership team at Julius West Middle School. My success in MCPS thus far has been attributed to the great leadership of my current principal, Craig Staton and the BOND Project Leadership Team.  Beyond these leadership experiences, I am currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education Leadership. At this time, there’s no dissertation topic in stone, but based on my experiences with this Brotherhood of Super Stars, “The impact that a culturally proficient learning environment has on the success of African American males.” is a topic that has peaked my interest.

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Rodney A. Harrison Jr, M.Ed. is a School Counselor, BOND Project Leadership Team member, and aspiring Administrator in Montgomery County, Maryland. Rodney is a firm believer in being a lifelong learner to meet the needs and challenges of all students. He has strong beliefs in building positive relationships and keeping students safe in a stable and welcoming environment. Follow him on Twitter @CoachHarrison2 or email harrison422312@yahoo.com

For Male Educators of Color, Retention Model is Key to Job Satisfaction.

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Recently, Julius Davis and I wrote an article about the experiences of African teachers who came to the U.S. to become teachers. We wanted to find out, in part, why they remained in their current school districts. Our conceptual lens was Palmer, Wood, and Arroyo’s retention model for Black men at HBCUs. Palmer et al.’s model centered on four keys to retention: academic validation, interpersonal validation, development of meaningful relationships, and a culture of engagement.

Each of the men we interviewed described how their current district provided each of the four supports in an effective fashion, and the men planned to remain with the district for the foreseeable future. Palmer et al.’s model certainly aligned with their personal stories. Reflecting on the teachers’ stories sparked my thinking about why I stay in my own district. Do I feel the academic and interpersonal validation? Do I experience a culture of engagement and meaningful relationships?

I definitely experience academic validation in Montgomery County Public Schools. People in my building, school community, central office, and BOND brotherhood express confidence in my knowledge and skills as an emerging school leader. MCPS places all school leaders in a leadership development program, which provides differentiated professional learning opportunities for all administrators. In some districts, people might scoff at my desire to one day lead a school district. Here, I am allowed to attend meetings designed to develop district leaders.

I receive multiple layers of interpersonal validation. For instance, I have mentors in other schools, central office, my building, and BOND. I have a whole team of people who are committed to my personal and professional growth.

Having held multiple building and district-level positions over the years, I have cultivated meaningful relationships with scores of colleagues. There are 23,000 employees in MCPS, but, sometimes, it feels like a small village. Everywhere I go in the district, I come across somebody that I hug or embrace with a handshake.

The fourth support in Palmer et al.’s model is targeted programming toward male educators of color (MEOCs). We did not have that in MCPS, so some of us created the BOND Project. We rely on each other to help each of us navigate the visible and invisible aspects of the district, irrespective of the aspects’ connections to race. We are growing our goals, membership, and alliances. Still, BOND feels like family. I cannot wait to see it scale up.

Upon reflection, Palmer et al.’s model of retention explains what undergirds my level of satisfaction in MCPS. I plan to be here for a while. Now, I have a greater sense about why.

References:

Palmer, R.T., Wood, J., L. and Arroyo, A. (2015), “Toward a model of retention and persistence for black men at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs”), Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 5-20.

Author Biography:

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Daman Harris, Ph.D. is a BOND Project Leadership Team member and an assistant principal in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Dr. Harris is also an adjunct instructor for McDaniel College and University of Maryland at College Park, where he teaches courses related to effective teaching methods, conducting research, and cultural proficiency. Follow him on twitter @daman_harris.

 

The BOND White Paper

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Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Male Educators of Color by Bolstering Teacher Efficacy and Creating Culturally Engaging Networks.

Daryl C. Howard, Ph.D.

It is often hypothesized that male teachers of color have a special way of connecting with students of color. With that being said, it would seem that having more men in the classroom may be a way to help reduce the achievement gap. Black and Hispanic boys are often at the bottom of the achievement gap and that could be in part due to the fact that “nationally, Black and Hispanic boys will spend the majority of their school experiences under cross-gender and cross-cultural supervision” (Chance & Toldson, 2013, p.18).  Highlighting the concern more specifically, Chance and Toldson (2013) share the alarming statistic that, on a national level, Black male teachers only comprise 1.81% of the teaching population. If there’s a true belief that increasing the presence of Black and Hispanic male teachers can improve student achievement, then it’s obvious that districts must do more to diversify their workforce with more male educators of color.

Additionally, consider the following:

“Research indicates that minority students do better contemporaneously in school – and likely in the long run as well – when they are exposed to teachers of their same race or ethnicity” (Figlio, 2017, p.3).

Gersheson, Hart, Lindsay & Papageorge (2017) reveal to us that if a black male student has at least one black teacher in grades 3-5, he is not only significantly less likely to drop out of school but more likely to pursue higher education in the future.

“All students benefit from being educated by teachers from a variety of different backgrounds, races and ethnic groups, as this experience better prepares them to succeed in an increasingly diverse society” (Albert Shanker Institute, 2015, p.1).

These trends and data points tell us the facts of what is, and what could be. It also leads one to ask, what efforts are helpful in recruiting and retaining male educators of color?

With the goal of addressing such trends, The Building Our Network of Diversity (BOND) Project was developed in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Montgomery County, Maryland.   MCPS prides itself on equity and excellence in education and this initiative developed organically on the heels of the district’s Strategic Plan for Teacher Workforce Diversity that was released in 2014.  A small group of MCPS staff, primarily men and women of color, organized the BOND Project as a grassroots initiative to help MCPS continue to diversify its workforce.

The mission of the BOND Project is to advance the efforts to recruit, develop, support, and retain male educators of color at all grade levels within MCPS. The BOND Project demonstrates this commitment through mentoring, professional enrichment, academic scholarship, and social fellowship in Montgomery County.

The three core goals of the initiative are:

I.Recruitment

To advocate for increased hiring of male educators of color in MCPS and the field of education on a national level.

II.Development

To increase educator capacity via professional development, workshops, and academic scholarship.

III.Retention

To serve as a mentoring network for male educators of color that provides support and understanding of professional advancement and retention processes in MCPS.

In 2016-2017, MCPS male educators of color were invited by BOND Leaders to complete an informal survey of questions related to the BOND Project and the profession of education.  Approximately, ten percent of the school system’s Black and Latino male teaching core engaged the survey.  The three key questions and summarized responses below may begin to shine a light on how to best recruit, support, develop, and retain male educators of color.

Survey Questions Summarized Responses of BOND Project Participants (2016-2017)
Why did you become an educator? (1) Desire to inspire young people to think critically, independently, and be lifelong learners. (2) Being able to see young students recognize their potential. (3) Wanting to give something back to the community. (4) I was a student who was left behind by teachers and staff. (5) I want to directly influence students in becoming successful members of society. (6) My lifelong passion is to help others. (7) I wanted to be a voice for those who feel they have none in schools i.e. at-risk students.

(8) I wanted close the gap. (9) It’s my calling and something I wanted to do since grade school.

What are some of the challenges faced by male educators of color? (1) A feeling of isolation. (2) Not enough role models in the profession. (3) The feeling of being a minority within the minority. (4) Lack of diversity among peers. (5) Black male educators are always steered toward being a disciplinarian, speaking for all men of color, always being watched or seen as too aggressive or intimidating. (6) The burden of being the face of challenging stereotypes. (7) Essentially, the same biases, stereotypes, and challenges that may exist in any profession as a black man.
What do you get from The BOND? (1) Professional development specific to educators of color i.e. a particular cultural lens. (2) An opportunity to engage colleagues. (3) It is a platform for venting for those who normally have to be strong in their role as African American / Latino educators. (4) It provides a network of idea sharing for teachers who want to be more of a presence for students who look like them. (5) It’s professional support from the male perspective. (6) It’s a place to share best practices for classroom management as well as academic interventions to support students. (7) It provides access to a collegial regional network of African American and Latino male teachers and professional staff.

 

It is evident that enrichment from a cultural lens, a space to fellowship, opportunities to hone one’s craft, as well as peer and mentor support is vital to this group of educators. From the survey feedback, one can hypothesize that an initiative like the BOND Project has the capacity to fulfill a need in supporting educators who feel isolated in the profession. One may also conclude that the earlier an individual can gain access to this type of support, the sooner the educator will feel prepared, highly competent, and satisfied in the profession.

One can align the BOND Project’s work with Albert Bandura’s efficacy framework. Self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capacity to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p.3).  Bandura’s four key efficacy expectations that have congruence with the BOND Project’s mission are mastery experience, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and emotional and physiological states. If school districts want to recruit and retain quality male educators of color, they must find ways to ensure that they feel confident, productive, and competent about their performance in the school house. Confidence is integral to teaching and leading and often “the perceptions of competence are more important than actual levels of competence” (Hoy and Spero, 2005, p.344).  These efficacy expectations can increase teachers desire to stay in the profession because they feel they are impacting student achievement and creating social change.

Mastery experiences are when one masters a task in a given area.  Part of the mission to retain educators of color has to be in having them find and actualize success in the profession. Pintrich and Schunk (2001) offer that “if the success is attributed to internal or controllable causes such as ability or effort then self-efficacy will be enhanced but if success is attributed to luck with an intervention from others then self-advocacy may not be strengthened.” When a teacher feels empowered that they are having an impact the belief in future success becomes part of how they see their work.  For example, as evident in some of the BOND Project teacher responses, when one can “see young students recognize their potential” (BOND Project Survey, 2017) the teacher’s efficacy is increased and there is a firm belief that they are fulfilling their mission for going into the profession.

Vicarious experiences (or modeled behaviors) are significant when the observer identifies with the model moderating the efficacy effect on the observer.  This expectation is a critical component of the BOND Project in the mentoring and pairing process. BOND Project organizers are “intentional in creating an ideal mentor match” (BOND Project Survey, 2017) as male educators of color may feel they are not quite understood by someone who has different racial and cultural experiences from them. For instance, observing a veteran Black male teacher perform his work, in addition to other veteran teachers, is vital to a new Black male teacher who is learning various teaching styles, approaches, and practices. There is cultural nuance and efficacy enhanced from “seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raising observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities and to succeed” (Bandura, 1994).

Social or verbal persuasion is also a large part of what was revealed in the BOND Project survey. The feedback pushes back on societal notions that men don’t feel a need to voice their challenges and concerns.  The BOND Project is “a platform for venting for those who normally have to be strong in their role as African American / Latino educators” (BOND Project Survey, 2017). The truth is that context matters and feeling as though one has a safe space for disclosure is key.  Pep talks can represent a boost in efficacy and can readily come through the process of mentoring. BOND Project mentors want new teachers to feel encouraged to talk and ask for help. Because of the many responsibilities and situations that occur throughout the course of one school day, a request for help is not only normal, but desirable, to reflect on a given situation. The BOND Project recognizes the effects of this sense of collective efficacy gained through the mentoring process and group fellowship sessions. There is a feeling of support and communalism that comes from people working together to make a difference.  Collective efficacy in the form of collaboration, leadership, and awareness is evident in the enrichment, mentoring, and support offered through programs like the BOND Project.

Lastly, the BOND Project explores the efficacy expectation of emotional, physiological, and psychological states. Humans want to belong to things that make them feel supported.  Isolation and misconceived notions of male educators of color are only part of the reason for them not having an interest in the field or leaving prematurely. There is emotional and psychological stress that comes “from being a minority within a minority” (BOND Project Survey, 2017) and not feeling culturally connected or productive. The BOND Project seeks to serve as an agent of collective efficacy as well as cultural engagement and support.  Initiatives like this keep educators connected just as schools seek to engage students through culturally responsive practices.

In closing, it’s important to elaborate on the increase in the broader efforts of school districts that aim towards a philosophy and practice of equity, inclusion, and culturally responsive education. There is a lot of work invested into training educators to be culturally competent in the classroom.  In an increasingly diverse world, school districts are attempting to shine a light on the importance of educators getting to know the students and making them feel like they belong. The research on academic performance and how culturally responsive educators are improving the teaching and learning process is held in high regard.  A diverse workforce makes the task of culturally responsive practice even easier to achieve.

The BOND Project recognizes that educators are not absent of cultural identity in the performance of their work. Just like their students, they are impacted by their experiences as racial and cultural beings. With that being said, the truest efforts for bolstering a diverse teacher pipeline – particularly with regards to men of color – will foster teacher efficacy as well as acknowledge the impact of culture in creating a space for growth, development, and support. The BOND Project is just one of many initiatives designed to do just that. Just as school districts’ can’t attack the achievement gap without addressing instructional voids, they also can’t address the recruitment, development, and retention of male educators of color without seeking to address the cultural gaps in these processes.

References

Albert Shanker Institute (2015). The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V.S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of Mental Health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

BOND Project Survey (2017).

Figlio, David (2017). The Importance of a Diverse Teaching Force, Education Next.

Hoy, A.W.; Spero, R.B. (2005). Changes in teacher efficacy during the early years of teaching: A comparison of four measures. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, v21 n4 p343-356.

Lewis, C. & Toldson, I. A. (2013). Black Male Teachers: Diversifying the United States’ Teacher Workforce. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing Unlimited.

Montgomery County Public Schools (2014). Teacher Workforce Diversity: Strategic Plan.

Pintrich, P.R., & Schunk, D.H. (2001). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications (2nd Ed). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Protheroe, Nancy (2008). Teacher Efficacy: What Is It and Does It Matter? Principal, 42-45.

Seth Gershenson, Cassandra Hart, Constance Lindsay, and Nicolas Papageorge (2017). The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers, IZA Discussion Paper No. 10630.

Author Biography

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Daryl Howard, Ph.D. is a Counselor Educator and BOND Project Leadership Team member in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Howard’s academic interests include social emotional learning and the study of race equity in education. Howard’s book is entitled Complex People: Insights at the Intersection of Black Culture and American Social Life (HUE Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @darylhowardphd.

 

 

 

Our Voice…

Have you ever had a male teacher of color? Too often the answer is no.

Male educators of color are less than 2% of the nationwide teaching core.  The BOND Project is an initiative focused on the recruitment, development, and retention of male educators of color.

This blog is one means for male educators of color to elevate their voice and share their stories and experiences in the field of education.