Thursday, May 15, 2014

We need more black male teachers like me

Mario Shaw is a 7th grade teacher at Charlotte's Ranson Middle School and a Teach for America product. With the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling this Saturday, Shaw wanted to reflect on where things stand today on inequalities in public education.

Perhaps his most important point: Black males make up only 2 percent of U.S. teachers, leaving very few role models for many of the nation's struggling youth.

Here is Shaw's take:

This week marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board ending “separate but equal” in education. As a seventh grade teacher, I look forward to discussing the occasion with my students. As an African American man – part of just the 2 percent of American teachers who identify as black men – the topic hits home.

In ending legal segregation in school, the justices aimed to bring America closer to its unfulfilled promise of educational opportunity for all. Six decades later, that victory has been partial, at best. Our schools remain deeply segregated by race and income, with opportunity gaps to match.
The inequalities driving these disparities are complex and deep. But that doesn’t mean we’re without hope. With all the challenges, my work in the classroom leads me to believe in what’s possible. This begins with ensuring we’re developing a teaching force as diverse as the students we teach.

 As a teacher, I’m responsible for ensuring that my kids thrive academically. But as an African American male teacher – one of just a few at my school – my responsibilities don’t end here. Many of my students have never had a teacher who looks like them standing at blackboard. Depending on their family situations, some have literally no black male role models in their lives.

In this reality, the choices I make carry incredible weight – from the way I dress, to how I handle an argument. The pressure can feel overwhelming at times. But I’m proud to have it on my shoulders.

 We need to encourage more black men to lead in the classroom. My own decision was informed by my experience in school. As hard as I’d worked to get there, I arrived at college behind. As the first in my family to go to college, I had to look beyond my immediate network for help. During this time, I volunteered with the Upward Bound program, where I supported 15 black high school boys and began to recognize the importance of mentorship. From there, I joined Teach For America, an organization committed to taking concrete steps to draw more African American male educators to our highest-need classrooms.

Having regular access to teachers of color makes a difference for my kids. Every day, as we read and explore, I contribute to the breaking down of the powerful stereotypes about my identity. As a successful, educated black man, I offer a counter to the media’s portrayal of violence and victimization. Now, we must work to inspire more black men to teach, offer targeted supports to those who do, and celebrate the proud contribution these individuals make with students who deserve the inspiration needed to take the world by storm.


Pamela Grundy said...

Glad to have you here, Mario. I hope you stay in our Charlotte classrooms for many, many years, doing this important work, despite all the actions by our legislature that seem designed to drive great teachers out of our state.

WeLikeItThatWay said...

SO let me get this right... If the children were to have positive male role models at home... They would have an opportunity to break thru the education disparity...

So Since the Social Engineering of the State seems to think that ever problem for the gap has to do with teachers tests and money.

How are we going to solve this?
Is the state going to fund money to send a co parent home?.....

That is right ... we can't. Until the situation at home is corrected.... Having full support from the family.

There will always be a gap.

Doesn't matter if you are brown green blue martian or cartoon rabbit.

My point is... we can't throw money at a problem that starts from lack of support and expectations at home.

At least this article starts to put blame for our gap of education where it belongs at home with the parents.....

Cornelia said...

I applaud the writer...and Teach for America. Charter schools in DC, which are funded largely by the Walton Foundation, and apparently are staffed by a large number of Teach for America teachers, seemingly are having success teaching impoverished minorities equal to that of top private schools. I would be interested in knowing what percentage of those teachers are black males, because certainly they are role models with whom black male students can positively identify.

Cornelia said...

Pam, why did you feel it necessary to politicize this positive story? I guess that is just who you are.

Anonymous said...

Mario, good for you, truly!!! BUT YOU did not CHOOSE education as your career track if you are TFA. African-American males who work hard to go to college (some of whom are also 1st generation college students) do so to become financially successful and help out their families. WHY the heck would they want to go into education IF they can't sustain even themselves financially???? I agree that our students need more African-American male role models in the classroom. But I think that our best and brightest are TOO bright to live just above the poverty level (from which some of them have just escaped). How LONG will YOU be staying once your TFA service is over???

Wiley Coyote said...

Mr. Shaw is an excellent example of the kind of teacher we need in our classrooms, TFA or traditional and I wish him well.

Where are the Black males?

Okay, only 2% of teachers in the US are Black males.

Only 8.5% of all major league baseball players are Black. Is that an "inequality" thrust upon the populace by some entity with an agenda? Or does it mean Black men just don't want to play baseball?

Over 72% of Black children are born to single mothers.
Before you scream "that doesn't mean their father isn't in the household but just not married", 67% of Black children are in single parent households with no father or father figure present.

I'm all for inspiring more Black men to teach, but inspiring Black men to take responsibility at home, first, should be a higher priority.

Pamela Grundy said...


If we want to build a strong teaching corps then we have to make teaching a profession that a wide range of people want to pursue as a long-term career. We can't staff the nation's schools with 2-year TFA corps members. It's fine to talk about the need for black male teachers, but the question is how to make the profession attractive to them. The decisions made by our legislature are doing precisely the opposite. In my mind, to accomplish the goal that Mr. Shaw has set, we need to acknowledge that and do what we can to change it.

Cornelia said...

Pam then the school year is going to have to be structured so that it utilizes teachers who work 12 40-hour weeks, less PTO, in keeping with that of the private sector. Benefits must be restructured to equate to those of the private sector, as well. Taxpayers are simply not going to support raising teacher salaries to the level you want when they perceive that teachers work 9 months of the year and less than 8 hours a day. You can say that they work many more hours than that, and some do. I know; my mother was a teacher. But some do as little as necessary and the public sees them, too. There is also the fact that central office in CMS is waaaaay over staffed, and teachers and parents dare not call Morrison out. I guess you are scared to do so.
My beef with you, however, is that the low teacher pay in North Carolina goes back to when the Dems were in charge. I am an unaffiliated voter, but I will not let you get by with blaming today's state of affairs on the Republicans simply because they control Raleigh at the moment. That dog won't hunt...with me.27

Cornelia said...

Correct 12 to 52.

Cornelia said...

Why not staff our schools largely with two-year Teachfor America-type teachers. With the huge cost of college tuition today, why not forgive college tuition for the best and the brightest if they agree to teach for say 4 years. They need not be education majors, since I am not a fan of education majors. When they move on to start their life-long careers,a new crop will take their place. Given the sad state of our ability to grasp the golden ring (closing the achievement gap), why not try something new?

Pamela Grundy said...


In the private sector, businesses compete for employees. If they can't get the employees they want with the salary/benefits they offer, then they have to make changes that attract the employees they want. They don't stand around arguing that the employees they'd like to have don't appreciate how great their offer is. North Carolina has to compete with other states and with private firms for the kind of people who make top-flight teachers. That's reality.

Democrats were indeed in charge in 2008 when the Great Recession sent state revenues plummeting and teacher raises were frozen. They made other mistakes as well in the effort to win a Race to the Top grant, most problematically agreeing to evaluate teachers based in part on standardized test scores, which has contributed to an explosion of testing and an escalation of the damage it has done.

However, since gaining power, not only have the Republicans not addressed the pay problem (even though leaders of other states, including South Carolina seem to have managed it) they have passed measures that further increase the damage done by standardized tests and that destabilize the current pay system without having anything concrete to replace it with. Voters need to make it clear that for the sake of our children we expect better.

Pamela Grundy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pamela Grundy said...

Number of teachers in American public schools: 3.1 million.

Number of bachelor's degrees awarded at American colleges in 2012-13: 1.5 million.

Hard to make those numbers work.

Larry said...

Ladies, seeing the difference between a Man and a Boy is shown in the caring of Mario Shaw.

At least try to make sure your sons grow up to be just like Mario, if you are not going to require a real man as a Father.