Roberto Germán 00:01
Welcome to Our Classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host Roberto Germán. And Our Classroom is officially in session. Grace and peace. Welcome back to Our Classroom. In this episode, we gonna be talking about building a pipeline of black teachers. I am going to be citing excerpts of an article written by Emily Tate Sullivan in EdSurge. The article gets into the work being led by Dr. Valerie Kinloch at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. Specifically, we're gonna be talking about the initiative called Genius, Joy, and Love: A Focus on Black Students. Excited to share this with you because I've been sitting on this article for a while and I love the early recruitment approach of black students who are potential teachers. We know we need more educators in the field and we know we need more brilliant black minds. And so let's dig in.
Dr. Kinloch started an initiative called Genius, Joy, and Love: A Focus on Black Students. And Dr. Kinloch is the dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. So the inaugural cohort wrapped up most recently on August 4th, brought 14 students in a combination of high school, rising high school seniors and incoming college freshmen. And brought them in for several weeks to give them a taste of what the college experience would be like for those that are training to be in the field of education. Here's an interesting-- here's an interesting line that I read. "Currently, only 4% of K12 teachers in Pennsylvania identify as black," according to Dr. Ken Lott. Obviously, there are implications for that. And I wanna read something else. Here's another quote. "If our students do not see at least one teacher who reflects their racial background, they start wondering if this is a profession they should enter." There are a couple of links in the article that bring you to other articles that break down the research. All right? So this is supported with research. And I can also speak to this personally. Growing up, I did not have a black teacher. I did not have a teacher of color until I got to high school. Freshman year I went to St. Georgia School in Newport, Rhode Island. I had two black teachers over there. Predominantly white institution. This is an institution with students are coming from high-income backgrounds. I was definitely at a place at St. George's. I only lasted there a year. That's a whole 'nother story. Prep school was not for me and it was one of the worst years of my life. I'm just speaking my truth. But I will say about those two teachers, one of them is Johnson. I-I remember-- well, I remember both of them very clearly to this day. And interestingly enough, one of them I felt was a supporter of mine, was an ally of mine, was-- was a champion of mine, and the other sometimes I felt like he was my enemy.
I know strong words, but at 14 years old, that's how I felt. I was in a computer class with this particular teacher. I never owned a computer up until that point. My typing skills were raw. We had a typewriter at home, but you know, it was raw. But we weren't doing basic stuff in this computer class as a freshman in high school. I still remember one of the main assignments was to create an HTML. Now, what does a kid from the hood, from Lawrence, Massachusetts who never owned a computer, did not grow up having access to computers, knew nothing about programming, tell me what was I supposed to know about creating an HTML? And this teacher was of little to no support. I lean on the no support. He was of no support. That's what it was. I ended up failing that class. And it was unfortunate because I didn't fail because of my lack of effort. I failed because I did not know what I was doing and I was not being taught well. And although this teacher, this individual was black, we definitely did not connect. He did not relate to me and my background and I definitely did not relate to him. I think he had been in that environment a little too long. But that's just me speaking. He'd have to speak for himself. The other teacher, Ms. Johnson, she was somebody that really worked with me. She was somebody that not only supported me in terms of helping me make progress with my academics, but she listened to a lot of what I had to express in terms of the challenges I was experiencing in that environment. Including feeling alone, feeling isolated, feeling misunderstood, feeling disconnected, feeling homesick, feeling like I did not fit in. And then couple that with some of the academic challenges I had 'cause I was not well prepared going into that environment. Thankfully I had someone like her who was in my corner and that-- that did help me. It didn't make a difference in terms of me wanting to stay there. I couldn't get out fast enough. But it did help me and I-I-I wish I could come across her to this day. I don't remember her first name, but I-I remember that was Ms. Johnson and she did well by me. And so I love what Dr. Kinloch is doing with this program. I love that we are helping our young people get a taste of what it's like to be a teacher. 'Cause obviously we know that teachers are-- are difference makers, right? We know that teachers have a significant impact in the lives of their students, be it positive or negative.
So, and this is from the article. Gonna share something that a student stated. Last name Baldwin. Baldwin says she left the program feeling more confident and inspired in part because of the speakers who came through and the lessons she learned. But also because she was surrounded by adult leaders such as Kinloch and April Warren-Grice, who she views as role models. "Everyone who was there had some kind of impact on me," Baldwin shares. "Even those who were quiet, they still had some awesome things to say. I still can't believe it's over." This isn't a small window of time. Alright? Think about the impact these folks had on some of these young people that participated in this program in this short period of time. Imagine if they had them for a whole year. Woo, Genius, Joy, and Love program would just be absolutely changing the trajectory for some of our young people. I think it's doing it already, but obviously, if they had a whole year with these rising high school seniors and incoming freshmen, college freshmen, whew, would be a wrap. Would be the takeover. And they did a number of things that during this time with the program exposing them to stem learning opportunities, literacy, mental health. One of the things they did every morning, they recited the poem, Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. I'm gonna go ahead and read this poem to you. "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear in that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." That's powerful stuff.
Think about the way that Dr. Kinloch and her team was setting the tone for these young people and the fact that they're encouraging educators to think outside of the box. And they're not just saying it, they're modeling it. Much respect to all those involved with the Genius, Joy, and Love initiative. We should feel encouraged that we not only have a model, but there are young people that are responding to an initiative such as this one, eager to see where these young people end up and the ultimate impact this program has. And if they do end up committing to a career in education and what it is that they would implement in their own practice that will make a significant impact in the lives of the young people they ultimately serve. Let's learn from what Dr. Valerie Kinloch is doing and others. 'Cause I've-- I've read of other folks trying similar approaches. It may not be specifically tied to black students it-- it may just be an approach to high school students in general. Or maybe there are folks who are targeting other groups. I don't know. I don't-- I haven't come across all of the initiatives that folks are trying on to recruit for their respective schools. But I'm certainly glad I came across this article by Emily Tate Sullivan. And Dr. Kinloch does amazing work. I would love to have her on the platform at some point to have a in-depth conversation, whether it's about the Genius, Joy, and Love initiative or her work in general. 'Cause I think she's a brilliant mind who we can all learn from. So Dr. Kinloch, if you're listening to this, Hey, the platform is open for you to join us in Our Classroom so we can learn from you.
What are y'all doing to recruit students early into the profession? What are you doing to recruit folks now, right? There's-- there's a lot of vacancies, I've noticed, across the country. I'm sure you've noticed also. If you know of individuals, schools, districts that are trying on innovative approaches to recruitment and in particular, if you know folks who are trying on innovative approaches to recruit teachers of color, we know that it's a growth area in the profession, right? So let's-- let's keep it real. Let's acknowledge that and let's-- let's hear about the ways folks are working towards that. So feel free to email me or comment on the different platforms because we are in this classroom together and so we wanna learn and grow together. And part of how you do that is by sharing strategies. Props to the students that participated in this program. I salute you and I hope you have a great school year. Keep marching forward. You're not the future you're the now. As always, your engagement in Our Classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show, and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias, education, and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Robert Germán.