I'm the Black English Teacher
It ain’t easy being a young black male teacher working in the inner city.
The New Balance sneakers that Brad wears to work never get attention from our peers. But I come to school wearing the Georgetown 11’s and every, single colleague notices. The comments aren't abusive, but they're not the kind Brad gets when he rocks his brand new sneakers.
When I started out, I wanted everyone to know that I was not “the new gym teacher” in the building; instead the teacher who was there because of my double honors degree in English and History. So I dodged the “gym teacher” label (no disrespect to my physical education teachers out there) but little did I know, that was just a trade-off. Instead, I became the “attitude adjuster.” I guess somewhere near the forehead of my shaded pigmentation read:
Send me all the troubled black kids, because I will be able to ‘deal with them.’ In fact, just because I am black, I will be able to ‘understand them’ better than you.
Somehow I became the go-to guy for dealing with black kids.
Granted, as Chairperson, or the POR (position of responsibility) at my school, I was in a quasi-authoritative role after my second year of teaching. So it was my job to deal with behavior to a certain extent, especially if our principal was away from the building. But it just seemed like every time he was gone, a heap of black boys, ranging from first to eighth grade, were sent my way.
So what did you do to make your teacher send you here?
Most replies: I didn’t come to class with a pencil.
Here is a pencil, brand new, eraser on the back and everything. Let me sharpen it for you. Go back to class.
But then I was “too easy” on the so-called trouble makers.
And then when a few brazen colleagues became “friends,” what did they do? They boldly walked up to me with exaggerated limps and turned their caps all the way to the side simply because we were about to cross paths in the hallway.
That's a fucking problem.
No need to go into analysis about how this was deeply disturbing to my psyche. Let's just say, thank God I believe in professionalism and value my role as an educator to the highest degree.
It’s hard enough being a new teacher. You have to learn the craft, learn the kids, and learn how to juggle both while still following the curriculum and doing your job well. So kudos to every young black male teacher out there. You already know we weren't given a chance as students, so what's the probability that we'd be treated equally as peers?
And maybe every last teacher had a comment about the shoes I was wearing to work just because they thought they looked that good. Maybe they initially thought I was the gym teacher because of my physique. I don't know.
Nevertheless, that is what it is like to be a young black male teacher.