Saturday, September 28, 2019

21 REASONS WHY BLACK MEN SHOULD CONSIDER TEACHING AS A CAREER OPTION


Over the years, I have written ten books and about fifty articles and blog posts for educators. This is by far the shortest, but probably the most important piece that I have ever written. Black men comprise between 1.2 to 1.3% of the total teaching force across North America! I will consider this to be a national emergency for Black children in general; Black boys in particular. With almost 70% of Black children growing up without their fathers in their homes (and frequently out of their lives) and then going to school and in most cases having never been exposed to a Black male teacher or administrator, the question becomes, where is the Black man who is “holding his hand” and walking him through the process (and maze) of becoming a man? The unfortunate reality is that far too many Black boys are deprived of the experience of a strong, positive Black man in their lives to help them navigate their journey and the consequences to this reality are all around us. Resultantly, these 21 REASONS WHY BLACK MEN SHOULD CONSIDER TEACHING AS A CAREER OPTION serve as my clarion call to Black men that there are a plethora of Black children in general and Black boys in particular who need you! Yes, I understand the challenges of entering the profession, getting hired, low salaries, unfair treatment, etc., but none of the aforementioned take away from the reality that BLACK MEN ARE NEEDED IN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS. To that end, here are my top 21 reasons why.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to enter the ranks of the most important and influential profession on the planet.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to make a significant difference in the lives of Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to have access to countless numbers of Black children over the years and decades.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to be positive role models for Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to be examples of manhood for Black boys.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to become teachers of manhood for Black boys.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to be a presence in the lives of Black boys that they can relate to and identify with.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to teach and demonstrate leadership for Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to be mentors of Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to engage Black children in constructive, thought-provoking and empowering conversations.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to fill voids in the lives of so many Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to be an alternative to the negative and destructive Black male images that so many Black children often see portrayed in the media and in some cases, in their own communities.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to have a “birds eye view” of the current problems, issues and concerns that exist within the schools of Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to monitor the current problems, issues and concerns that exist within the schools of Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to positively impact the current problems, issues and concerns that exist within the schools of Black children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to establish a Black male presence in a school which can prove to be beneficial for the entire school community.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to make a difference in the communities of the children they teach.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to use the classroom as a vehicle to infuse Black history (in an interdisciplinary fashion) and social justice issues for the children.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to bring their unique qualities, strengths, talents and ideas to non-Black children as well.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to serve as examples for other aspiring Black male teachers.

  1. Teaching provides an opportunity for Black men to advance into leadership / administrative positions.

I would dare say that I could have created a list of 50 reasons, but I didn’t want my list to get too lengthy. If you are a Black man and you feel you have much to offer to the children, I hope you will take these 21 reasons to heart. Ponder over them for as long as you need. Whatever it takes.

On the other hand, if you are not a Black man but you have Black men in your life or you are connected to Black men on social media, forward this list to them. This blog post might just be what one of them has been waiting for to “make that move” into the classroom.

Lastly, if you are a Black man and you are already in the classroom but contemplating leaving for whatever reason, I wrote this list with you in mind as well with the hope that you will return to your initial “why” toward reigniting your “fire.”

Note - I also made a You Tube video of my "21 Reasons." Click the link to view.

For further information, order Principal Kafele’s books, Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success, and The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence @ principalkafele.com or wherever education books are sold.

Monday, September 2, 2019

A “DEFICIT MINDSET” HAS NO PLACE IN A SCHOOL!


Recently, I had an opportunity to spend a week with the leadership teams of the Cincinnati Public Schools where I spoke to a different cluster of leaders each day. To launch each day, the Deputy Superintendent would open up with a review of the district norms. One of the norms spoke to reframing deficit speech and deficit thinking. On the first day, she reviewed this at 8:30 in the morning but it stayed with me throughout my presentation and into the night. I kept thinking, “deficit speech…deficit thinking…what is the depth of their implication in the classroom?” When I went to sleep that night, it was still on my mind. And as you probably guessed, I woke up with it on my mind as well. In fact, I woke up about a half hour early because those words were still swirling in my head. So instead of getting ready to get to the facility to present, I started playing with those words once again mentally, but additionally, I started writing about them. And as I wrote, I came up with the following:

DEFICIT speech in schools that reflect DEFICIT thinking produce a DEFICIT culture that puts children at a DEFICIT.

Let that one marinate for a moment. In fact, let me repeat it:

DEFICIT speech in schools that reflect DEFICIT thinking produce a DEFICIT culture that puts children at a DEFICIT.

This is why the Deputy Superintendent’s words stayed with me for 24 hours…because I knew there were deeper implications for deficit speech and deficit thinking in the classroom that I hadn’t previously considered, but I needed time to process it and further think it through. Let me elaborate.

The language that is used by the adults in schools matters exponentially. The language used by the adults in the school is a mirror to their thinking (and maybe even a mirror to their humanity). Said differently, the language used by the adults in the school is the evidence of thought. As educators, we have to be ever-so-mindful of the speech we use toward children, around children and about children. Deficit speech is real and it has a way of sabotaging the dreams, ambitions and aspirations of children. For example, the label, “at-risk.” Although, as a professional educator, I fully understand its intent, when directed at or toward children, it falls into the category of “deficit speech.” It literally tells children that the probability for their failure is real. It stigmatizes them. It places them at a deficit. But let’s go deeper…seeing a student as “at risk” not only stigmatizes the student, but it stigmatizes our own thinking about a given student. In other words, instead of seeing this particular youngster as “at-promise,” “at-potential,” or “at-possible,” we are viewing this youngster as a deficit instead of as a surplus…we’re literally putting this student at a deficit in our classrooms via our thought and speech...we are looking at this student through a deficit lens. In this scenario, we must therefore examine our own thinking, beliefs and values relative to children who have more academic, social and emotional need than others. Because the need is greater doesn’t translate into an “at-risk” student. It simply means that we have to examine the level of equity and cultural-responsiveness that exists for our students in our overall learning environment.

Deeper still, is the impact of deficit speech and deficit thinking on school and classroom culture. Imagine a school that is situated in a location where the reality of economic poverty is pervasive which includes all of the social and emotional challenges that are typically associated with poverty. This doesn’t mean that the school has to be a reflection of the challenges exhibited outside of its walls however. The school can be something dramatically different. The school can be a very special place in the neighborhood. It can be an oasis of hope…an institution of possibilities where everything that students see, hear, feel and experience is calculatingly positive. In other words, there’s an intentionality of positivity in the air. There’s an intentionality of positive thinking, positive speech and positive actions. There’s an intentionality of creating a school and classroom culture where all students can check their outside challenges at the front entrance and enter the building with an optimism that they are going to achieve “the impossible, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, yet attainable.”

Deficit speech and deficit thinking have no place in a school. The opposite of deficit is surplus. Children need to be able to enter schools everyday where there is a surplus of positive energy coming from all of the adults in the building….a surplus of optimism, a surplus of enthusiasm, a surplus of excitement, a surplus of compassion, a surplus of equity. Toward getting to this place, I challenge everyone who will read this article to examine your own thinking. Do you bring deficit thinking to your school? Do you bring a “deficit mindset” to your students? Do you realize that deficit thinking translates into a deficit culture that puts children at a deficit. Be sure to bring “surplus thinking” and a “surplus mindset” to your students on a daily basis…because they deserve nothing less from any of us.

For more of Principal Kafele's writings, videos and podcast interviews, visit principalkafele.com.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Dysfunctional Principal-Assistant Principal Relationship Can Sabotage an Entire School!


“It is apparent that the leadership isn’t on the same page in our school.”

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, The Assistant Principalship: The Most Misunderstood and Underutilized Position is Education. I hadn’t anticipated the wide-scale interest it was going to generate but I am pleased that it did. Resultantly, I felt compelled to write this follow up.

I cannot overstate the significance of the relationship between a principal and his / her assistant principal(s). This relationship is absolutely vital to the health of a school. I would dare say that this relationship epitomizes the pulse of a school. After all, these individuals are the administrative leadership of an entire building…the leadership team. A school goes as the leadership goes. That leadership relationship must therefore be supremely healthy because everything about any given school emanates out of the leadership. When the leadership team is “healthy,” there is a higher probability that the school’s climate and culture will be “healthy.” But on the other hand, when the leadership team is “ill” or dysfunctional, there is a higher probability that the school’s climate and culture will be ill or dysfunctional as well. Just imagine the implications for a school when staff members are having side conversations based on their perceptions and observations that assert, “It is apparent that the leadership isn’t on the same page in our school.” No school can afford for this perception to exist amongst staff.

Obviously, due to student enrollment numbers, all elementary schools do not require an assistant principal. This means that if the principal nevertheless requires administrative support, he /she must be adept at empowering others in areas of need. All others (elementary and secondary) have at least one assistant principal. The principal must be able to maximize the talent, skill and potential of his / her assistant principal(s) toward moving the school forward. The principal must feel extremely comfortable with exposing the assistant principal(s) to all aspects of school leadership while avoiding at all costs relegating the assistant principal(s) to school disciplinarians and cafeteria supervisors. Whether or not this occurs boils down to a few factors which include the relationship between the principal and his / her team; the trust the principal has in his / her team and the confidence the principal has in oneself toward developing his / her leadership team.

As stated above, this relationship must be solid. There’s got to be a bond there. There’s got to be mutual respect there. There’s got to be trust there. Anything less and this relationship becomes not only unhealthy for the team but potentially detrimental for the entire school. The leadership team must be on the same page with a common purpose, mission, vision and goals. When the leadership team is moving in divergent directions, everyone loses. When the leadership team is moving in divergent directions, there are probably serious issues with the overall relationship between the leadership team members that must be given maximum attention, starting with the principal. When this relationship goes sour, it is evident to everyone on staff and may even be detected by students.

Some principals inherit their assistant principal(s) while others have the ideal opportunity to hire their own. Obviously, when the principal has input into who the assistant principal(s) will be, the probability for a healthy relationship increases exponentially. When the principal inherits the assistant principal(s), the relationship still has the potential to be ideal but it becomes incumbent upon the principal to be intentional toward making it work. The principal’s people skills are key; particularly in a situation where for example, one of the assistant principals was vying for the same principalship and was not selected. Now you have the potential for a disgruntled assistant principal who wanted to be principal but instead must assist the new principal. Toward making this relationship work, the new principal must use a high degree of tact and finesse toward making this relationship work. Anything less and the consequence could be dysfunctionality at the highest level which always has the potential of trickling down to staff. When dysfunction sets in within the school’s leadership, it becomes that much more of a challenge for this school to become the school that is has the potential of becoming because of the obvious dysfunction at the top.

As stated in the title, a dysfunctional principal – assistant principal relationship can sabotage an entire school! Given the myriad of challenges that accompany school leadership, the principal – assistant principal relationship is a big one. Be sure then to give this relationship maximum attention toward maintaining an overall healthy school climate and culture.

For further reading on school leadership, pick up Principal Kafele’s three school leadership books, The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence, Is My School a Better School Because I Lead It? and The Aspiring Principal 50: Critical Questions for New and Future School Leaders – all published by ASCD and can be ordered through principalkafele.com.

21 REASONS WHY BLACK MEN SHOULD CONSIDER TEACHING AS A CAREER OPTION

Over the years, I have written ten books and about fifty articles and blog posts for educators. This is by far the shortes...