African-American males, like all students, benefit greatly from being able to read and write well. But reading and writing well is not enough. It certainly wasn’t for me. As a Black boy growing up in a predominantly African-American district, I was able to read and write so well that my parents allowed me to skip the fourth grade. Still, reading didn’t take on a transformative place for me until high school. I can only imagine what would have happened if Ms. Dew, my 10th grade teacher hadn’t taken the time to create conditions that spoke to who I was as a Black Boy. It’s possible that I am not even writing this blog to you. It’s certainly unlikely that I would have been blessed to become the only African American male from Baltimore County Public Schools to ever win the Maryland State Teacher of the Year award. So, there has to be something more that our potential-rich Black males get out of the reading process than just discrete skills. For this experience to happen though, the conditions have to be present for the culture to take hold. Below are five ways that culture can be created:
1. Present diverse text sets (game recaps, poetry, rap) in the classroom that are thematically connected and engaging to the interests of African American males
2. Always present texts and videos of speeches that show African-American males speaking well or that affirm the importance and power of African American males
3. Give multiple chances for African-American males to speak and write about things they are passionate about (also give multiple performance opportunities)
4. Connect the African-American male students in your class with their historical counterparts
5. As a teacher, show love, compassion, interest and empathy for their lives outside of school
I will go into detail on each strategy in the next few blog posts.