As we prepare for the reopening of schools, many male educators of color are taking the opportunity to use their voices to help make grave improvements to the current education system.
I’m excited to continue our conversation with male educators of color, inspired by Profound Gentlemen, continues with the Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Brycial T. Williams.
He shares his views on improving the teacher pipeline and why more male educators or color are needed in early learning classrooms. We both agree that we need male educators of color in every grade level and every area of education.
The teacher pipeline needs improvement. In what ways do you see teacher prep programs making changes to their recruitment to gain more male educators of color?
First, choosing more males of color instructors at the college level would help recruit more male educators of color. I did not have any in high school. While attending East Arkansas Community College, I had one Black college instructor. His name was Dr. Powell, and he taught Physical Science. Dr. Powell was fantastic. Seeing him as my college professor, made it okay for me to pursue my degree in education. Secondly, they should visit schools. Since I was a young child, I have always wanted to be a teacher.
CALL TO ACTION: Help us inspire more males of color to become teachers! Support the work of Profound Gentlemen.
When I was in high school, the teacher education representatives were white females and males, mostly females. I was so determined to become an educator, I overlooked that, but can you imagine how many changed their minds, not seeing a representative of color in the education department? Last, teacher prep programs should not only speak it but show it as well. For years, they talk about how males of color are needed but never react to those ideas or suggestions presented. Today, this issue remains.
Innocent are the minds of our children. How does your presence as a Black male teacher in early learning help change negative stereotypes of us?
My presence as a Black male teacher brings hope to young scholars of color. Seeing me in the building or having me as a classroom teacher, states it is okay to dream big, go to college, and persevere goals that seem impossible. Also, it lets everyone know that not all black males are criminals that steal and kill each other.
“Male educators of color can be nurturing, a father figure to many, especially the boys, and dress well for success.”
During one school year, a student in my reading group made this statement: “Mr. Williams, my daddy said, all Black people steal.” Imagine having to redirect and make this teachable moment life changing. I immediately went back to a lesson on pronouns distinguishing the differences between all, some, many, few, none.
Frequently, I am asked, “When are you going to move up from those little kids?” I do recognize that sometimes I am the only male teacher and even more frequently the only male educator of color. This is why I strongly believe strongly in the work of Profound Gentlemen. We must improve how schools are recruiting and retaining male educators or color. When asking about moving up, I continue to stand on this statement.
“The young scholars need me. They need to see more positive male teachers, especially the boy.” “I wasn’t born to “just teach,” I was born to inspire others, change people, and never give up, even when faced with challenges that seem impossible.”–unknown
Leadership is a big aspiration for many in education. How are you using your current platform as a Teacher of the Year to empower other male educators of color to join the field?
I am apart of several organizations that are specifically for male educators. The organizations are influential—the results of a male teacher in the classroom, especially in the early grades. Listening to these guys speaks about their life experiences as educators, how they overcame, and continued to strive as teachers because the children needed them. I connected and viewed them as mentors.
Many of them I started following, such as yourself. I would do precisely what these men did. I would connect–creating organizations where we can collaborate, share and inspire each other to excel in education. Having this in place would bring in more male educators of color. What comes from the heart reaches the heart. I believe this wholeheartedly.
What are your thoughts on effective ways to teach young children about racism?
As an early childhood educator, I always try to bring a visual in the lessons for better understanding. I love the egg demonstration about racism. I would display a white egg, a brown egg, and a light brown egg. I talk to the scholars about how we are treated differently because of the color of our skin–introducing vocabulary to make sure they understand the word. After carefully discussing this topic, I crack open the eggs, this is always my favorite part, because their facial expressions are priceless.
I then have them explain what they notice and their thoughts after seeing the eggs looking the same on the inside. They love it, and I find it rewarding to teach this lesson every year. It opens their hearts and minds, thinking outside of the box, viewing them from another person of color. Another great tool is reading different books that relate to racism. Children love to talk and discuss. We, as the teacher, should give them that time to discuss their thoughts with one another. I try to slide in a few YouTube videos that will connect and bring that vision to life positively.
Brycial T. Williams was born and raised in Wynne, Arkansas. He is a graduate and football state champion of the class of 2002 at Wynne High School. He is currently preparing for his doctorate in early childhood education and is a member of Profound Gentlemen.
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.