Bringing together Black male teachers and principals and building a network of learning, support and empowerment is essential, relevant and necessary not only for Black male students, but for all students. This is the essential mission of The Fellowship, a Philadelphia-based group that was founded to support current and aspiring black male educators through advocacy, engaging policy makers, expanding the teacher pipeline, and quarterly professional development opportunities called, “Black Male Educators Convenings” (BMEC).
In November 2015, members of The Fellowship had the opportunity to share our work with Secretary John King. Secretary King spoke candidly and critically about the achievement gap and the need to do more for those most in need through equity and access to excellence. As a former inner-city student, teacher, and leader, King was able to articulate the importance of increasing teacher diversity. He knew well of the “invisible tax” that many African American and Latino male teachers silently endure for the sake of their schools’ students. The pressure of being the lone black or brown male educator in a school, while simultaneously charged with being the main mentor, disciplinarian, and relationship guru for all students who share similar backgrounds, can be overwhelming.
In a school district in which Black males have a four-year graduation rate of 24 percent, Philadelphia is a city with an urgent need for support that targets this population. The Fellowship aims to do just that through a mission to support schools in the recruitment, retention, and development of current and aspiring Black male educators in the Greater Philadelphia region. Studies show that having more role models within the school system can have a positive impact on Black children. We also believe that more Black male teachers can also have a positive effect on all students, not just the students we share a cultural identity with.
In January 2016, in Philadelphia, Secretary King reiterated his urgent message of addressing the stark racial disparity between America’s students and teachers in a town hall meeting with teachers and leaders representing charter, private and traditional district schools. He once again affirmed not only the need to do more for our students, but to do so in a spirit of community and collaboration.
Members of The Fellowship have been able to continue our work of diversifying the teacher pipeline through the Teach to Lead initiative. Through the support we received from the U.S. Department of Education and other critical organizations, we were able to craft a strategic plan for our three-pronged approach to support Black male educators-convenings to provide professional development and networking opportunities, advocacy, and expanding the pipeline.
The Fellowship has committed to ensuring such excellence through the targeted efforts to create a teacher workforce that better reflects the faces of the students we serve. Secretary King not only supports these efforts, but also continues to affirm the work of all educators committed to ensuring that our students are given the best opportunities for success, including ensuring equitable educational opportunities for all students.
Dr. William Hayes is a founding member of The Fellowship and the founding principal of Mastery-East Camden Middle School. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard University and recently received his PhD in Education Leadership from Vanderbilt. Dr. Hayes and The Fellowship can be found on Twitter: @SpeakHayes & @BMECFellowship.