“This is a space and place where you can be yourself and stretch your soul”
These words were shared by JT Hall, an Black male assistant principal in Philly, during a BMEsTalk virtual happy hour for Black men in education. Pause for a moment, then reread the opening quote. Now, imagine how Mr. Hall felt after logging off that happy hour.
Imagine the energy and enthusiasm he would have for his students when he returned to work the next day. His words are authentic, brave, and inspirational, and the reason why I decided to put my fingers to the keyboard to bring awareness to the importance of affinity spaces for teachers and educators, particularly those that are racialized as Black, Latinx and Indigenous.
Big Question: How do our students benefit when Black teachers and educators, like Mr. Hall, consistently participate in racial affinity groups?
This is a question I have been pondering since I launched BMEsTalk in 2017. I knew building a strong community of Black men in education was needed and could reverse the feelings of frustration, social isolation and disconnectedness in our schools and would ultimately have a positive and lasting impact on students, but I couldn’t quite articulate why or how.
That was until I read a recent report researched and written by Dr. April Warren-Grice of the Black Teacher Project entitled A Space to Be Whole: A Landscape Analysis of education-based racial affinity groups in the US.
After interviewing 101 program leaders of racial affinity groups, Dr. Warren-Grice found that the benefits educators of color, particularly Black educators, received from participating in racial affinity groups included:
- Exposure to culturally sustaining teaching practices for students and adults
- Brave space to practice social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies
- Provides feedback, support and mentorship around issues in their teaching/ leadership practices
- Leadership development and career advancement
(SPECIAL NOTE: More of this please.)
So, how do students benefit from having a teacher who has participated in a racial affinity group?
Enhanced capability to deliver SEL instruction – CASEL has learned “that schools are more effective at teaching and reinforcing SEL for students when they also cultivate SEL competencies [self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills] in adults.”
Improved teaching methods and practices – According to the New York State Department of Education implementing culturally responsive and sustaining education “helps educators create student-centered learning environments that …empower students as agents of social change.”
Black Teacher Retention – One finding of the Black Teacher Project’s report was that educators are “staying in the profession”, and “choosing to return to work at the same schools.”
Black Teacher Recruitment – An article in the Harvard Business Review stated that, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also referred to as affinity groups “help companies recruit underrepresented individuals and develop a talent pipeline.”
Racial affinity groups are a clear pathway for schools, districts and communities to offer support to Black teachers and educators. Valuing, supporting, and investing in racial affinity groups for Black people (and in my opinion Black men in particular) is a win-win for schools/districts and the students they support.
At the end of the day this is all tied to better outcomes for students. When we care for our Black male teachers, our students thrive. Isn’t that what we are all working towards?
To engage in CBV’s work building and supporting a community of Black men in education, visit our website: https://bmestalk.com/