The Challenges of Being a Black Male Teacher and Starting a Dialogue on Answers

A guest post from Coron Brinson, teacher and board member for The Black Teacher Project, he will be one of our guests on Black Male Teachers Matter on 3/8, please join us

Throughout my educational career as a Black male teacher I have taught in district, private, and charter management organizations. While many highlight their differences, they are the same in one way; their failure to serve Black children or support Black teachers.

This school year is my 10th year of teaching in two well known cities, Chicago and Oakland, that once have been deemed one of America’s Most Dangerous cities to live. I have been through strikes, superintendent and principal transitions, the birth of a charter teacher’s union, non reelect letters, my colleagues leaving their respective schools, and numerous other traumatic and empowering events. This has lead to an increasing level of despondency around our current educational model for kids and teachers.

Black male teachers make up only 2% of the overall teaching population in America. According to the Sentencing Project Black males make up nearly 40% of the prison population in our country. This is disgraceful and appalling to see these horrid numbers. Even more dismal are the numbers here in California. For the 2017-18 school year the California Department of Education reports there are nearly 3,300 teachers in Alameda County, but only 310 are Black males, that’s less than 10%.  We need to do better!!!!!!!!

Many people identify the need for more Black teachers, and we need to make that a reality. We need to identify the barriers that are keeping Black teachers from out of the classroom. One of the biggest barriers are those pesky and biased state standardized tests. Those come in the form of CBEST, CSET, and CTEL/CLAD exams. The exams are not cheap and are often a cause for us not qualifying for being in the classroom. As an out of state teacher, I needed CTEL/CLAD certifications. While we need qualified teachers, these exams felt like artificial hurdles that did trip people up.  To continue taking these exams over and over can be an economic hardship. Black teachers should get support financial and otherwise in overcoming these hurdles, so that they can get into the classroom.

Beyond Overseers; Black Teachers Need Ladders for Advancement

There is this interesting and weird reality for Black students and teachers. We both live in this shared conundrum of underperforming schools, unsupported environments, inconsistent school leadership, poorly funded schools, and this inevitable cloud of school closures. High tension, concentrated stress, hyper white supremist systems and inept school leaders are the stressors we both deal with on a daily basis. We experience the foreshadowing and tension of school closures, housing instability and unemployment. These factors and reality are all products of the second class citizenship that we were inherently born into. Black male teachers are seen as invincible and burdened with solving all the discipline “problems” of our Black kids, but where are the co-conspirators in this emboldened work?  Why are we always deemed as “overseers: of our kids, but rarely as experts within our instructional practices and content areas?

My role as a Black Teacher Organizer with the Black Teacher Project (BTP) has supported my leadership development. BTP is an organization that has partnered with the National Equity Project, to create and implement institutional changes in American schools. Black Teacher Project’s mission is to sustain, recruit, and develop Black teachers. BTP’s vision is that all children have access to a well-prepared, well-supported Black teaching force that reflects the diversity and excellence of Black people in the United States. My current role is a way financially to sustain myself in the Bay Area by playing a role in organizing us to deal with these harsh and hostile working conditions. We need to be paid to make this a reality. There is a history around hard work and no compensation for Black labor and we are seeing this today in our schools. BTP understands this history and offers the support and space to thrive as leaders within our schools! It is imperative that Black male educators are not just a coveted prize, but we are valued, listened to and supported within our schools and the entire district. Let’s continue the dialogue of how we can uplift the voices of Black male teachers.

And we would welcome Superintendent Thurmond to come to Oakland and continue the dialogue around solutions for getting more Black males in the classroom, our children and family need them.

We will be discussing these ideas and more on 3/8. Join the esteemed Dr. Travis Bristol (UC Berkeley), Sharif El Mekki (CEO, The Center for Black Educator Development), Jason Terrell (ED, Profound Gentlemen), Coron Brinson (The Black Teacher Project) and Dirk Tillotson, to look at the research and effective practices for increasing the number of Black Teachers, and Black male teachers in particular. We will hear from the experts, take your questions, and have some practical steps that folks everywhere can take to support Black teachers.

If you would like to learn more about my work and experiences please feel free to check out my interview done by SOBEO: State of Black Education in Oakland.

Mr. Coron Brinson who was born and raised in Georgia. He was brought up by a family that always promoted the importance of education and faith, particularly by his grandfather, who was stripped of his ability to continue his education at the 7th grade. Mr. Brinson has worked in education for over 10 years, starting as an elementary and middle school teacher on Chicago’s west and south sides. There are 3 generations of educators in his family and he continues to keep that legacy alive. He currently serves the Dean of School Culture for Cristo Rey De La Salle (CRDLS) East Bay High School located in Oakland, CA.

Mr. Brinson gained experience organizing while working for S.E.I.U., where he led the “Fight for 15” campaign to advocate for livable wages for retail and fast food workers. He has also served as a Parent Organizer in Oakland and aided parents to use their power to push for school choice for their children.  He also aided in forming a teacher’s union for one of the largest charter management organization in Oakland. After taking a hiatus from teacher world I worked with homeless communities as a Youth Advocate in Chicago and Los Angeles. Coron’s work with the Black Teacher Project started in 2016 as a member, Advisory Board Member, BTP Fellow and Black Teacher Organizer. Coron received his A.B. in History from the University of Georgia, M.Ed in Elementary Education from Lincoln University, and M.P.A. in Nonprofit Management from the University of Southern California.

Coron A. Brinson, M.Ed, MPA

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