I Want to Be a (Black Male) Teacher

From The Philadelphia Citizen

By Sharif El-Mekki

"Mr. El-Mekki, I’ve been thinking. I want to be a teacher.”

In my 24 years as an educator, I’ve never tired of hearing this from any of my former students. But when an African American male student, like Rasheen Hill, tells me this during a recent visit to his high school alma mater, I feel a special pride that comes with a re-energized, palpable hope for better days for future generations. A pride that’s grounded in rigorous research.

The much-discussed and written-about Johns Hopkins University study on the long-term positive impacts of same-race teachers reinforces what a lot of us educators—and all members of The Fellowship (Black Male Educators for Social Justice)—have known a very long time.

Students matched with a same-race teacher not only benefit from more favorable teacher perceptions, they also perform better on standardized tests and graduate from high school at higher rates. Just exposure to a same-race teacher increases the likelihood that African American students will want to go to college. That this impact was shown to be even more significant among children from the most economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods is not just a research footnote for us.