Black male teachers bring a different dynamic to the classroom. As a result, achievement for Black boys has increased. So why aren’t more of our public school districts finding better ways to recruit and retain Black male teachers?
For the schools such as several Metro Atlanta charter schools, Black male teachers are growing in number from Pre K – 12 grade. Not only is growth happening through the increase of Black male teachers in classrooms, there’s also and increase in the success of Black boys in literacy, robotics and math.
A Black male educator in Atlanta, Michael Cohon, shared his best practices to help Black boys achieve in Math. “Adding and subtracting shouldn’t be the only skills Black boys have in public schools, and I’m going to ensure that changes!” stated Cohon.
Cohon further elaborates that, “we must remember and acknowledge the trauma of Black boys in schools. For many decades they were told that they wouldn’t amount to anything.” Black male teachers in subjects such as Math help students regain the confidence, attention, and academic interests of Black boys.
Black male teachers help parents uncover the key areas that black boys struggle with in math!
Independent practice appears to be the most common area of struggle in mathematics. Many students do not respect the process and instead have the mindset that calculators and shortcuts are available for every skill. They do not understand the importance of the process and the development of thinking skills versus just obtaining the final result.
Furthermore, this struggle goes beyond studying and homework. There appears to be a lack of motivation with learning in most classes, not just math. The motivation appears to come mostly from grades versus learning.
Black boys are more successful early on in math with the support of their family.
Family engagement is most important because it brings accountability and encouragement.Cohen recalls Black parents saying they are not good at math, it looks hard, or they don’t know how to do a math-related task, which causes discouragement within Black male students.
On the other hand, he has seen Black parents hold Black boys accountable for learning and making them do what the instructor asks of them. This type of accountability through engagement works for Black boys. Unfortunately, there are some Black boys in public schools who struggle because of the lack of parental support.
“Engaging parents in Math strategies to continue at home isn’t an option,” states Cohen. He has seen much progress and success in his Black male students. Many times we assume Black parents aren’t educated, or we overlook the fact they may have received poor academic support in public schools, too.
We also realize there are Black parents who frequently change phone numbers and addresses. These parents rarely have the opportunity or do not attend parent conferences. Cohon insists, “Communication is the backbone to a successful school.” It is difficult to reach many parents of Black boys in public schools. Tragically, the impact is seen in the lack of academic progress Black boys are making in math in public schools across America.
Without parental support, Black boys are left with whatever intrinsic value of education the student has. It is more problematic to teach math to students who have low to no parental support. Moreover, the family and the learner should encourage the process of learning.
Strategies to help Black boys reach success in math.
Cohen has found success in reaching Black boys in math by showing them how much he cares about them as individuals and how relative math can be in their lives. As one who knows several household applications, financial applications, and construction applications of math, Cohen can relate math in a way that makes real-life applications relevant to students for most mathematical topics.
Furthermore, gaining rapport, which is becoming more difficult with this new generation of students, is effective because the care Black male teachers show for Black boys is reciprocated by completing assignments.
Black boys will work for you when you show how much you care about them. Moreover, there is a saying in teaching, “Students do not care what you know until they know how much you care about them as a person, a human being.” Success in teaching math depends on teachers being able to balance their care for the learners and their ability to relate the math skill to the learner.
Best practices that can help more Black boys and families find success in math!
The best practices for Black families to help Black boys to succeed in math are to be resourceful, tenacious, encouraging, and read the problem repeatedly until they understand what is being asked.
There are several resources available for today’s learners. The school has tutorials that give one-on-one time with students. The internet has online tutoring and videos that can be repeatedly played for understanding to occur until the learner gains the skill. Also, Black boys have to persist in their efforts to learn. They should complete assignments, ask questions, and take notes that are used to guide their independent practice.
Also, seeking outside helps promote the ownership of the learner’s learning and ultimately helps to find a way to obtain the skill. If a learner is not able to repeat a math skill independent of assistance, then the learner must persist to study and practice. Black boys must keep in mind that a process, even with learning, is a series of steps, which is the goal of teaching math – achieving in life is a process. Once independent success is achieved on a repeated basis for a skill or task, then the learner has found mastery.
The attitude of the teachers impacts how lack boys find success with math!
Attitude is everything! Black boys’ attitude affects their ability to receive information. When there is a conflict of interest with a teacher, the learner may need to change teachers because the attitude of learning from a teacher does affect their ability to receive information from the instructor (not the ability of the instructor to be able to teach).
Black boys must ensure they understand what is being asked before attempting an exercise. If they do not understand the question, then obtaining an answer is rarely successful. Remaining objective, focused, and consistent with a positive attitude is key for learning math, or any other subject.
Michael Cohen is a Math teacher in Atlanta who is passionate about ensuring that every student that enters his classroom experiences success.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.