We don’t hear from the experts who are making student achievement happen daily in schools. In my experience, Black male teachers are the experts we seldom see or hear from in public school classrooms that are saving the lives of Black boys one life at a time. We’re bringing the solutions to the crisis public schools are facing with educating Black boys to EdLanta.
This blog post features a local Atlanta teacher and fellow Black male educator, Corey Griffith, shares some best practices schools can use to improve educational outcomes for Black children. Griffith states to parents and students, his mission is to “Improve Lives. One Life at a Time.”
One of the most important takeaways from Corey’s experience is for us to remember that it takes all of us, every stakeholder: parents, community, advocates, and business leaders to support educators in helping every student find their pathway to success.
Overcoming barriers, which can range from a faulty understanding of the alphabetic principles or limited vocabulary to a lack of preparation, exposure, and enrichment, while simultaneously striving to achieve proficiency on benchmark and state tests is undoubtedly the single most difficult challenge Griffith faces each year. “In order for us to reach more Black boys in classrooms, we cannot simply have high expectations!” Griffith stated.
“We cannot continue to operate schools in crisis mode because we have failed Black children. We will continue to fail Black children in public schools if we don’t set the atmosphere for learning right!”
I completely agree with Griffith. Being that the bulk of his professional career has been devoted to improving educational conditions and outcomes for schools within economically challenged communities, he has seen this first hand. Griffith has grown accustomed to embracing the challenges, the pressure, and the scrutiny that comes with this particular set of circumstances. It is no secret that ELA/Reading is inextricably tied to every content area and assessment tool used to assess a student’s level of mastery. Yet, Black boys still rank highest in having the lowest Lexile scores and literacy competency per grade level.
The focus on curriculum pacing and state tests forces teachers to continue to press the gas and offers little or no time to pause, reflect, and improve deficiencies that are detrimental to the analysis and comprehension of grade-level texts. This would not be such a problem if the evaluators of teacher and school effectiveness would place a greater focus on growth rather than on that of mastery/proficiency.
Year after year, Griffith witnesses countless Black boys and Black male teachers, who show exponential gains in academic achievement, become reduced to a sense of mediocrity or even failure for not reaching or surpassing the bar labeled “proficiency.” The big question is, “How do we change this?” Griffiths believes, “We have to focus more on real world experiences in our curriculums for Black boys to succeed.” In fact, he also states , “connecting real life skills to academic lessons captures the attention of Black boys!” Once we are able to get their attention, then we can teach them.
Black boys are more successful when engaged with homework and ways to continue education at home.
Homework has become increasingly tougher for a host of reasons. Griffith only assigns homework when it is absolutely necessary. He doesn’t rely solely on parents to help Black boys with homework, which often lies outside the scope of their own abilities and experiences. Griffith has found that by adhering to the following guidelines, homework is less of a punishment and more likely to be completed with ease.
- Homework must be able to be completed without a teacher being present
- Homework is simply practice
- Homework must always be a reflection of the standard/objective that was covered that day
- Homework must be checked at the beginning of class
Black male teachers are finding success in turning around achievement in Black boys!
Griffith’s philosophy of teaching and education has allowed him to consistently and effortlessly bolster student achievement throughout his career. A.B.C. is his abbreviation for Allowing the Basic Culture of Black boys to dictate how he assesses, teaches, inspires, and motivates them.
Since first stepping into the teaching profession, he paid attention to the culture of Black boys’ academic performance. He believes it is only then that teachers can employ strategies, which are effective and aligned with Black boys’ cultural identity. Often times, teachers are knowledgeable of the content, but their strategies are ineffective due to the cultural detachment to Black boys.
Black male teachers create success stories for Black boys in public schools.
Each year that Griffith has taught, he had to remain confident in the face of doubt and uncertainty as to the effectiveness of his pedagogy, which doesn’t fit the traditional mold. “We can’t keep doing traditional methods of educating Black boys which are failing them,” stated Griffith. He could not remember a year where students did not excel tremendously from his lessons. He credits this to the conceptual framework, which Jackson State University utilizes, to consistently produce responsive educators.
Hard work and dedication has once again led his students to being recognized for showing the most growth on the Reading/ELA Star benchmark assessment. Griffith is grateful for every opportunity he has to impose a positive change in the academic success of his Black male students.
Griffith’s educational practices are based on this notion, “The minds of Black boys are buckets, and as a teacher, I have the power to fill them with what I choose. It simply takes courage on the part of the teacher to do what he or she knows is best for Black boys and their survival in this world.”
Corey Griffith is a Black male educator in Atlanta, GA. Corey specializes in the utilization of culturally responsive strategies, which promote academic achievement and success for all students. His sole mission is to, “Improve Lives. One Life at a Time.”
He can be reached on Twitter: @coreygriffith9, LinkedIn: Corey Griffith, YouTube: Corey Griffith .
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.