Skip to main content

Join the Community

or Close

Search

Celebrating and Sharing the Stories of Black Male Teachers

This guest post by Jabali Sawicki appears in coordination with Teacher Appreciation Week and #TeachingIs, a social media movement seeking to elevate public perception of the teaching profession. Click here to learn how you can participate.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and I want to give my thanks to Richard Harris III and William Wylie, two individuals who changed the trajectory of my life more than 20 years ago. Both of these mentors were teachers—and black men, like myself.

As black male teachers, their influence on me was transformative. The unique wisdom, guidance, motivation, and inspiration they provided me was what I desperately needed to succeed as a student and young black man. By expressing genuine empathy for my struggles and experience, providing authentic and relatable tough love, introducing me to the value of scholarship, and demanding academic and personal excellence, they provided me with an accessible roadmap to my own success.

And just like me, there are millions of students, schools, and communities that stand to benefit from an increased number of African American male teachers in our classrooms. But the harsh reality is that black men currently make up less than two percent of the teacher workforce. Our student population is diverse, but our profession isn’t.

As our country grows racially, ethnically, and culturally, it’s imperative that our teaching force reflects this growing diversity. Greater teacher diversity will increase the likelihood that students are aware of and sympathetic to the dynamics of different social experiences and cultural norms. Exposure to a broad range of personal histories—from teachers and students alike—will have a tremendous impact on students’ school experiences.

So how can we identify a strategic path toward a more diverse profession? A few months ago, inspired by my gratitude for Brother Harris and Brother Wylie, as well as my 15 years of experience as a teacher and school leader, I created the website Black.Man.Teach. I wanted to draw more attention to the need for more African American male teachers while simultaneously celebrating those individuals. Black.Man.Teach. gives a voice to these underrepresented teachers and chronicles the numerous ways in which they bring value to the work of educating our nation’s children.

Our first responsibility in recruiting more teachers of color is to better understand and learn from the experiences of existing teachers who have chosen to do this work. For many black male teachers, like John Burnett, their motivation to teach comes from the opportunity to directly impact black boys, a population that our schools continue to fail at alarming rates. Across the country, the dropout rate of young black men is well above 50%. Black boys are also more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and they are less likely to enroll or graduate from college than any other racial group.

Such dismal statistics strike a painful nerve in many black male teachers. “I teach because my students are like me,” Burnett writes. “In fact, they are me when I was much younger. Young black boys need a steadfast advocate who will always support their best interests, and that’s what I will do.” 

Others, like Korby Wesley, recognize a unique opportunity to elevate students’ life ambitions. “Having a black man in their life who cares about them and helps them every day is a necessary stepping stone to raise self-esteem and take our children to a higher level,” he says.

And many still, like Eric Bunting, teach because they recognize students’ desperate need for ongoing exposure to positive male role models. “I teach because I want to be an example,” he says. “I want children of color to look at me and say: ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”

Although every educator’s position, school, region, and path to teaching differs, their passion and commitment to students is consistent and uplifting. Their words highlight a keen awareness of the educational opportunities presented to them as professionals, along with a willingness to embrace whatever challenges they encounter.

Black.Man.Teach has reaffirmed my belief in the power and efficacy of effective black male teachers. It has also convinced me that there is an urgent need for our profession to address diversity within our ranks. In order for teachers to better serve all children, black male teachers must play a more prominent role in classrooms, as well as conversations that address our country’s most pressing education issues.

The dignified portraits of each teacher on Black.Man.Teach., capturing each man’s pride and vulnerability, should serve as a reminder that we must also encourage these men as educators. We must support them. We must challenge them to get better and to teach with passion, rigor, and joy. We must celebrate them. We must appreciate their unique journeys—their failures, their struggles, and their triumphs. Most importantly, we must heed their advice and understand their motivations and inspirations—so that we in turn can motivate and inspire other people of color to join the profession.

Ultimately, the stories shared in Black.Man.Teach. must galvanize us towards appropriate action in diversifying the teaching profession, including large-scale improvements in recruitment, training, support, development, recognition, and celebration of black male teachers. We must do this for the benefit of all of our children.

 

Jabali Sawicki is an Instructional Designer at Zearn. Previously, he served as the founding principal of Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant, an all-boys K-8 charter school located in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to founding Excellence, he taught Science in Boston, MA at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. Jabali is a graduate of Oberlin College, where he received dual degrees in Biology and Philosophy. He received his master's Degree in Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.

21 Comments

William Tolley commented on May 9, 2014 at 10:45am:

A matter deserving much attention.

When I was teaching at Manhattan Center in East Harlem, with a 20% African-American population mixed in with their roughly 70% Latino and 10% South Asian classmates, I noted how we only had one black male teacher (Special Education--great at his job) in the entire school. It mayhave been Spanish Harlem, but it still didn't seem to explain why the school was well-populated by white male teachers, but also a broad range of Latino males. 

Do you have any thoughts on why Dominican and Puerto Rican males seem to be better represented in urban schools than African-Americans? 

Renee Moore commented on May 11, 2014 at 7:34pm:

Great Need

Thank you so much for this piece, and for your work with Black.Man.Teach. As a Black teacher and a grandmother, I am seriously concerned about the lack of black males in our profession. My two oldest grandsons have gone through their entire K-12 education without ever seeing--much less being taught by---a black male teacher. And they attend 100% African American schools. Based on that observation and the other experiences they have had, they could understandably conclude that there is no place in education for black men, or as one young man told my husband and me recently: "School just ain't for us!"

As a profession, we can and must do much more to eliminate the unnecessary obstacles keeping Black men who want to teach out of our school systems, and helping more of those who enter to stay. I blogged about one such episode a while back; a promising young Black male teacher (a former student of mine) being pushed out of education unnecessarily. Does Black.Man.Teach. help the men network? I'm concerned about new Black male teachers not having mentors around them to help them through those early days/years of teaching.

Albion Alden commented on December 20, 2016 at 10:29am:

Fast our site definitely will

Fast our site definitely will unquestionably turn out to be widely known with virtually all operating a blog families, because of its meticulous content pieces and / or review articles. https://www.reddit.com/r/health4us/comments/56wkwx/the_isalean_shake_is_a_weightloss_product/

juan juergens commented on January 3, 2017 at 7:46am:

JUAN

I am continually amazed by the amount of information available on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well worded in order to get your stand on this across to all your readers. Optionfair review

yokoz lkix commented on January 7, 2017 at 5:24am:

David

subscriber services One encourage plenty of online sites onto your web log My group is allowed to remain thinking about how i ever in your life discover groundwork at may. free youtube views no sign up

JHONKIMER JHONKIMER commented on January 8, 2017 at 3:54am:

JHOIN

get followers apk I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information? free likes on instagram

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 1:43am:

JUAN

I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing. MP3 Download

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 2:11am:

JUAN

Thank you for the update, very nice site.. ayesha khan

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 5:25am:

JUAN

Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post. Bedroom romance stories

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 5:55am:

JUAN

Great knowledge, do anyone mind merely reference back to it songs download

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 6:23am:

JUAN

Thankyou for this wondrous post, I am glad I observed this website on yahoo. songspk

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 7:12am:

JUAN

I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing. Demolition derby

juan juergens commented on January 9, 2017 at 7:56am:

JUAN

Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. zanzibar car rental

JHONKIMER JHONKIMER commented on January 10, 2017 at 5:01am:

JHON

This is a truly good site post. Not too many people would actually, the way you just did. I am really impressed that there is so much information about this subject that have been uncovered and you’ve done your best, with so much class. If wanted to know more about green smoke reviews, than by all means come in and check our stuff. source

Ryan kk commented on January 11, 2017 at 5:37am:

Upload video to extract

Upload video to extract images

Image will be extracted using face detection from the video.
video to jpg converter

JHONKIMER JHONKIMER commented on January 12, 2017 at 5:05am:

JHON

youtube subscribe bot I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information? high retention youtube views

JHONKIMER JHONKIMER commented on January 12, 2017 at 10:43am:

JHON

I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information? Sub-Zero Refrigerator repair in Orange County, CA

juan juergens commented on January 14, 2017 at 1:20am:

JUAN

What a fantabulous post this has been. Never seen this kind of useful post. I am grateful to you and expect more number of posts like these. Thank you very much. LIFE HACKS

juan juergens commented on January 16, 2017 at 4:13am:

JUAN

I like how many followers they got me lol Life hacks, though, aren't anything different from advice. Similarly, use the app Get Maid ( ) to book a $45-per-hour maid, who will arrive at your filthy abode in two hours or less. Reviews - Every year I perform a thorough review of my life and make plans for the upcoming year. Mindmaps - I have a Life Overview mindmap with my general life goals, my ~5 year focus, my current year's focus, and my current main projects. I can't possibly fit all of my thoughts on productivity in this small space—I use too many small productivity techniques and hacks to list, but here are some of the key ones. Sir Richard Branson is the perfect example of prospering fantastically while truly enjoying life. TestS

JHONKIMER JHONKIMER commented on January 16, 2017 at 4:58am:

JHON

Your website is really cool and this is a great inspiring article. https://www.paxfax.com

juan juergens commented on January 20, 2017 at 6:50am:

JUAN

Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! Test

Subscribe to Blogs by CTQ

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive the latest news and events through email!

Sign Up