Black and Bearded in the Classroom

Being a teacher is probably one of the most underpaid yet rewarding careers there is. Think about it; our school aged children will spend more hours out of their days with those who teach them than they do their parents. Having black male teachers in academia other than sports and physical education provides a beacon of hope for the children they teach. These men stand in as father figures, big brothers, and best friends. School sometimes is the one place a student has any peace and someone who understands them.

Over the next few days we'll be sharing with you some of those superheros we more commonly call teacher. We'd like to start by introducing you to Patrick Hill, Jr. of New Orleans and Jake Anthony of Houston. These southern gentlemen, black men with beards teach our youth two of the most important subjects in education - math and language arts. These educators come with just as much drip (isn't that what the kids are calling style these days) as the students favorite celebrities and entertainers, looking like them relating to their struggles because they come from it. They are everyday living proof to these kids that you can make it pass your block. You can be cool and educated with standards higher for yourself than society would like you to believe. 

 Mr. Hill  New Orleans, LA  Grade Level: High School  Subject: Math  Tenure: 4 years

Mr. Hill

New Orleans, LA

Grade Level: High School

Subject: Math

Tenure: 4 years

Mr. Hill:

I came into the school system as a member of the discipline team. After being there for almost a month there were several classes without a teacher. I spoke to administrators about what I noticed and asked to teach the Math classes that were vacant. Honestly, it’s the most rewarding work I’ve done. It’s different every day. It’s also both intellectual and personal/emotional work. By "intellectual" I mean not only knowing my subjects, but also determining the best way to teach something, given the students in the room, their abilities, interests, and needs. By "emotional/personal," I mean that connections are hugely important in teaching.

I noticed that my mere presence makes a difference to the students I teach. I’m a black man with dreadlocks and a beard. The moment I set foot in the classroom, I instantly show the possibilities available to them. Being from New Orleans, and not too far removed from the culture allows me to reach students more effectively. If there’s a concept that’s difficult to comprehend, I would use real world situations and it instantly gives the kids access to ideas they had never heard explained in a language they understand.
— Patrick Hill
 Mr. Anthony   Houston, TX  Grade Level: 6th  Subject: Language Arts  Tenure: 6 years

Mr. Anthony 

Houston, TX

Grade Level: 6th

Subject: Language Arts

Tenure: 6 years

Mr. Anthony:

During my first year of teaching, I thought about quitting every single day. I stuck with it through the very early mornings, the low pay and the freezing cold (I was teaching in Akron, Ohio). The students' behavior was terrible throughout much of the year. Because of lesson plans, communicating with all of the parents' and professional development training that I had to attend, I was beyond exhausted. Most night I'd be lucky to sleep 5 hours. Needless to say, I was on the verge of being unemployed, but then something happened. I was close to the end of the school year, so I decided to stay with it.

The last week of school, the student who had been my biggest problem all year surprisingly asked if he could speak with me after class. He explained to me what his life was like at home and it made sense why he had been acting out. In our meeting, he apologized and he let me know that if it wasn't for me, he wouldn't even come to school. He needed to know what he could be. Nobody had ever motivated him before, or told him that he was great and that he was going to be something. After seeing the 180 that he hit, I knew that I chose the right profession.

I feel that while I’m strong in all aspects of education, my ability to build rapport and relate to these kids is what brings everything full circle.  Once we build a trusting student/teacher relationship, it becomes so much easier to get through to them.  When they see my tattoos and my skin color mixed with the way I talk, they gravitate towards me. Being understanding also helps out a lot.  I let them know that I was the trouble maker, I had ADD to the point where I have to get up and move and that’s something they connect to. The students can see that I come from the same place they come from and I’m just trying to show them that black men can be successful too without rapping or playing ball.
— Jake Anthony