I’ve been blogging now for about 10 months and during that time, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with several people via their written comments about whatever it is I wrote that week. Often the comments are supportive and aligned with my position. There are times, however, when readers of my posts are adamantly opposed to what I’ve said and have voiced as much. That is to be expected and those comments are usually worded respectfully and don’t bother me. I received one of those comments recently, but it had a different effect in me. It pushed me to action, unlike the comments of simple support that my writing usually garners.
In this case, the reader basically challenged me to not just write about the ills I see in education but to actually DO something about it. I was caught off-guard by that comment. How dare that reader come at me like that! My retort was that I AM doing something – I TEACH! When I wrote that, I was confident that the commenter would see the error of her ways and apologize for the ignorant comment, but was I wrong! The push-back increased. I was told that teaching and blogging wasn’t enough. It sounded ludicrous to me, at first….but those words haunted me. Me? Not doing enough? Me? Ms. Fighter Against The School-To-Prison Pipeline? Me? The Teacher Activist? Not doing enough? Surely that reader was mistaken — or was she?
That assertion prodded me to do some serious self-reflection. What more could I do? I decided to delve more deeply into that question. I believe firmly in being part of the solution, not part of the problem. In my quest to find a viable avenue for doing more to elevate my profession and address the disparities in education about which I write each week, I came across a mentoring opportunity within the NYC Department of Education’s initiative called New York City Men Teach. I researched the opportunity. I applied for the position. I was chosen to be a mentor. I attended my orientation session. Here I am! (Don’t tell me I’m not actively helping to address what’s going on in education!)
According to the DOE,
The NYC Dept. of Education is comprised of approximately 75,000 teachers, of those roughly 8.5% are male teachers of color. Meanwhile, male students of color make up 43% of our 1.1 million public school students. NYC Men Teach is focused on addressing this inequality through education by increasing diversity within the City’s teaching profession.
The NYC Men Teach initiative was created to inspire more men of color to become teachers in New York City through engagement and recruitment efforts.
Fundamentally NYC Men Teach is a call to action. Our guiding principle is that by infusing New York City public schools with more teachers who reflect the vast diversity of the City, we believe we can make a difference in the lives of young people who are not accustomed to seeing themselves represented in the front of the class.
I’ve written several blog posts about teachers of color, students of color, and the need for not only more teachers of color, but more specifically, more male teachers of color. (See here and here, for example.) I will continue to use this platform to write about this relevant topic. In addition to teaching students of color, I will now be mentoring first-year, male teachers of color as they navigate their way through a space in which they may very well be the only male teacher of color in the building. Mentoring is not only meaningful; it is necessary for dealing with the social/emotional and professional aspects of being a new, male teacher of color. New teachers who are assigned mentors (all first-year teachers in the NYC DOE are assigned a mentor) are more likely to continue teaching than those who are not assigned mentors. I learned at my orientation that from 2011-2012, 86% of teachers who had first-year mentors continued teaching, compared to 71% who did not have mentors. It feels good to know that through mentoring new male teachers of color, I will be lending my experiences, support, and intellect to being a part of the change I wish to see in education.
I’m not the only one to be fairly reprimanded for just talking the talk without walking the walk. All of us — parents, teachers, students — must not just passively note injustices but do something about them!