SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: A Few Good Male Role Models Are Needed

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Few Good Male Role Models Are Needed

I never have believed that there is a crisis in education. I mean, a crisis has been created, but that doesn't count. But this created crisis has kept us from discussing and solving the real crisis that is happening right under our noses. The crisis of the family unit, and in particular (nothing against women) the dearth of male role models in the inner cities in our students lives.

Having that dad at home, or even just full time in a child's life, particularly a boys life, has such a tremendous impact, does so much good, that it makes our jobs as educators easier.

But we as educators, unlike the Republicans, choose not to legislate morals or families. We can only do what we can in our little corner of the world, and we have more power than any political party or politician to ensure that our students, especially in elementary education, have that male role model as a teacher.

So what is being done about it? At this time during the summer months principals throughout the City of New York are looking to fill vacancies. Even the charter schools are. Vacancies with new teachers, new blood, fresh ideas. These teachers will be the face of education for their students this coming September.

Unfortunately, most of these teachers will be female (in elementary schools), and white. Oh, and young. Yes, the students of color will identify with the white teachers, increasingly TFA, and young. How could they not? Most of these fresh, white, and young, not to mention elitist young teachers do have something in common with the boys and girls of color in the inner city. Most of these fresh, white, and young, not to mention elitist young teachers have employed, or their parents have, a person of color as a housekeeper or landscaper. It is almost symbiotic.

Never mind that young James has never had a father figure in his life and his life can turn either way. What he needs to see is a successful young white person named Courtney from the Main Line by way of Villanova share with him that the best way to be successful is to have a rich daddy that instills liberal white guilt into her so that James can say, "Dang, White people are whom I should look up to."

Or Jasmine, whose dad only shows up when he wants to get it on with her mom and wishes upon all hope that there was a positive male in her life can't look up to Lance from Yale by way of Hotchkiss, by way of the Vineyard (summers only). Yes, Lance sets a great example of his dedication by looking forward to the time when his commitment to TFA is done in two years and he will be applying to business school. That is if he can get by the weekends doing Jell-O shots on the UES.

Yeah, there used to be a time when if you were male, and better yet a male of color, you can get a job in education at the snap of a finger practically. People, actually veteran educators saw that there was a need to lead and model for the students who through no fault of their own live in a matriarchy. These veteran educators did not give a shit about future salaries of teachers, their pension costs, their thought process. All that mattered was getting that male in that class. Getting these students to see that there was more than the streets they live on in this world. The male teachers of yesteryear were their paths to a unlimited world of possibilities.

Now all our students are stuck with is the politics and business of education which will just entrap them even more and continue them on a vicious cycle in the downward spiral of education brought on by today's so called educational leaders.


Anonymous said...

Courtenaye (spelled exactly that way) is the new General Counsel of DOE.

Lance is a guidance counselor in Queens.

Sahila said...

wow , Peter....

with respect, what a load of codswallop, AND you do yourself an additional disservice with your atrocious grammar and lack of proof-reading...

bad for kids to live in a matriarchy? huh??? and just what has the patriarchy done for this planet in the last several thousands of years, then?

You need to read "Real Boys - Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood", by William Pollack, Ph.D

Pete Zucker said...

Sahlia, notice, I am talking about the inner city, in particular my experience in the South Bronx?

ed notes online said...

They found a simple way to bring in male teachers in the 60s-- have a big unpopular war, a draft and offer a deferment if you teach in the inner city. That's how I got here. But me as a role model? God forbid. We can't come up with policy based on our own narrow anecdotal experiences.

So we had lots of men coming in in the late 60s. Some were awful teachers as newbies. Actually most were initially too and I was one too. There was little difference in we 6 week wonders and the TFAs today. I met guys from IVY League and all over the nation who flocked here. Most left when they could.

I taught 6th grade for years and I remember one girl -- the brightest in the class and the star of the school for 5 years reacted badly to me it seemed and later I figured out that she may have been reacting to me as a male due to her bad experience with an alcoholic dad. (We became friends and I went to her wedding many years later.)

David Greene said...

Boys do need male role models. They also need to be taught differently. There is a huge amount of evidence on this.

Given this, the teacher who had the biggest effect on me when I was a poor kid growing up in the Bronx was a young female teacher who knew how to reach me as that poor boy with no dad at home.

Whether male or female, young or "less young", the key is cultural pedagogy and the ability to teach code switching.

And for further good reads, try Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street and Peg Tyre's The Problem with Boys.... to start.

Anonymous said...

I usually agree with what you post, but I have to take exception to this. While your observation about the lack of male role models in the inner-city is spot-on, I find your attack on young teachers offensive and poorly conceived. First of all, not all TFA / new teachers are white, privileged, and / or middle-upper class. In fact, programs like TFA purposefully recruit a diverse corps, and young teachers just entering the profession (being certified alternatively or traditionally) are a more diverse group than ever before. This is not to say that TFA and alternative certification programs are not without their own problems, but your assumption that all young teachers are somehow removed from the reality of the inner-city or too arrogant to appreciate the problems isn't fair.

Secondly, as someone who works in urban education, I can say that students benefit from having a DIVERSE set of educators. Boys need strong male role models, yes, but students in the inner-city -- especially in NYC, where such areas are socioeconomically and racially segregated -- benefit from having teachers from all backgrounds, whether black, white, latino Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc. teach them, provided these teachers are QUALIFIED and well-trained. South Bronx teacher is a Jew, after all....does that mean YOU are removed from the realities of the South Bronx? Of course not, because you have the training and experience to appreciate the issues, so please extend the same courtesy to those just entering the profession, regardless of race and / or ethnicity, who wish to do the same.

Anonymous said...

What I have learned in my 8+ years of inner city teaching is that most kids do not care what color, age, or gender I am. Most kids are not so shallow.

bronx northeast said...

yes, I agree young men need more male role models. I wish more men would step up to the plate. Wish we did not live in a society that marginalized black men. wish we did not have a system that provides incentives for single parent households. But this is the reality. Therefore, I do not agree that we should attack single parent mothers or the people (white/black/ brown/ women - or other) who choose to work in these communities. Also, don't agree that all young white people are ECONONICALLY privileged - this is a tired white stereotype perpetrated by the media, and others, who clearly have a limited understanding about the majority of white people who live in this country. the real world is filled with all types of people -- the kids of the south bronx need to interact with all types. I work in the South Bronx and there are few places in the world that mimic that reality - and all its greatness and weakness, respectively. So, the fact that the writer is male & jewish and a teacher in the South Bronx is a good -- the fact that the writer would write such nonsense is not good - but interesting, nonetheless.