The Meaning of the 2%

I had the opportunity to attend the Teaching and Learning Conference a few weeks ago in Washington, DC. I was given a special invitation paid for by the Carnegie Foundation.  Peggy Brookins, CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, petitioned the Carnegie Foundation to pay for Black men to attend the conference in an effort to add more diversity to teachers who are seeking board certification. Needless the say the conference was awesome. I met many awesome teachers and presenters. I did not have much face time with Mrs. Brookins, but I later spoke with her and she is bonafide awesome.

The biggest takeaway from the weekend was how many educators want Black males in their building, not to be teachers or instructional leaders, but for the sake of warehousing kids. If you think about it, you know what I mean. The stereotype of Black male educators is the Black male who can control kids, who is great at crowd control and behavior management but does not give much in terms of understanding instruction. Even Black teachers, give credence to this stereotype. The Carnegie Fellows sat together during the plenary sessions. It was an interesting dynamic because there were approximately 35-50 Black men sitting in the front of a crowded room as if were dignitaries.

One principal said to me after a session, if I could get three of you in my building, it would make a world of difference. She went on to mention the behavior problems that persisted in her building. I probed deeper and asked her what a job in her school look like for me. She said she wanted a dean of students, and/or someone to run in-school suspension.

I was offended! Where is the opportunity to teach? Where is the opportunity to be an instructional leader? Why am I only managing behavior? Isn’t that the infamous school to prison pipeline? Because other teachers who can’t control black males behavior, I am there to warehouse. I don’t want to be the guy in the building who all the black boys get sent to because no one else can control them. Be the Black male who teaches other adults in the building how to teach and relate to Black boys. I am exhorting the 2% of Black males in education to learn and know pedagogy. Be an outlier in that way. This is the meat and potatoes of education. If you do not know it, you will not be successful. At least, you can’t be as successful as being able to leverage yourself through the other adults.  You will ultimately acquiesce to the warehousing and other short-term controls that Black boys are subjected to; without true academic engagement.

This school leader did not know she was stereotyping me and other Black males educators. She did not realize her standards for Black boys were substandard. She was only thinking in terms of the immediacy of behavior demands being created in her building by (I’m guessing) culturally incompetent teachers.

As I began to correct her, she backtracked and I saw that I didn’t need to belabor the point. She would later self-correct and rethink how she would use Black men that she hired.

About an hour later, the Carnegie fellows ate lunch. (Thank you again Peggy!) She introduced us to Jose Vilson. He introduced himself. He stood up and on queue said to us: Be more than a security guard and dean. I was like “thank you……” I hope that 2% will listen, so we can break that stereotype.

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