'Trust me as a teacher - respect me as a black man'

A video recorded by black male teachers is starting a wider conversation about underachievement among black boys
6th July 2020, 3:01pm
Craig Cunningham

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'Trust me as a teacher - respect me as a black man'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/trust-me-teacher-respect-me-black-man
Black Lives Matter: Why Are There So Few Black Male Teachers In Schools? & What Impact Does This Have On Black Boys?

When I was 17, I applied for my first retail job. The phone interview went well and they asked to meet me face-to-face. So I turned up, dressed smartly for the occasion, and the assistant manager looked a little puzzled. She said I "didn't look like how I sounded on the phone".

That wouldn't be the last time I heard that statement: the complexities of the stereotypes of black men are not lost on me.

I hear - and sense - that same complexity every day in my life as a teacher: what society thinks I should be as a black man does not match what I actually am. 

Changing the black narrative

Changing that was one of the reasons I wanted to teach: to give someone who looked like me something I had never had in my time as a student: an opportunity to be taught by someone who looked like them. 

Education can, at times, be a hostile environment for young black boys. Pupil progress between 11 and 16 years old in black boys is one of the lowest among all pupil groups and it would be of no surprise if unconscious bias from teachers plays into this disheartening statistic. 


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Are we surprised there are so few black male teachers? Would you want to return to an institution that systemically devalues you?

As a collective body, we, as teachers, need to address this as a point of urgency. 

Challenging racial stereotypes

Firstly, we need to examine the negative experiences that black boys have in schools and work to address those issues. 

Secondly, we need to reflect upon our curricula and see where we can find opportunities to explore representation.

Thirdly, we need to challenge our stereotypical views, while dismantling our unconscious bias.

And, finally, we need to address the lack of black men in teaching roles. Following the murder of George Floyd, I knew I wanted to do something to address this issue.

Attracting more black male teachers

So, together with a group of black male teachers, we created a video that took the self we presented - the respected and hard-working practitioner - and juxtaposed it with our societally perceived selves.

We let the images speak for themselves, except for the final screen: a simple statement "Trust me as your child's teacher… Respect me as a black man."

You can watch the video below:

I reached out to a couple of teachers to try and articulate the impact of our ongoing situation, we ended up with this! Credit to @MisterJJosephs @KojoHazel @Mister_DGee @ActiveYouthUK @Shepherd_E27 @OfficialJeffreyBrew @MrBradePE #BlackLivesMattters #BlackMaleEducators #teachers pic.twitter.com/XKcQ9K6kBX

- Craig Cunningham (@MrCunninghamEDU) June 29, 2020


 

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