The Teaching Black Boys workshop held at Friends Center on Monday November 12, 2018 attracted over 175 educators from over 50 public and independent schools from Philadelphia and beyond. The workshop was organized and sponsored by Friends Council on
Education, Friends Select School, The Philadelphia School and the Race
Institute K-12 Educators.
The workshop featured keynote speaker Sharif El-Mekki, Principal of Mastery Charter Shoemaker Campus and Founder of “The Fellowship – Black Male Educators for Social Justice.” There were also breakout sessions with nine contributing authors to the book The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys and a panel of six high-school age Black boys from area schools. All in all the day was a deep exploration into the mindset, tools and skill teachers can use creating a foundation of equity in their classrooms.
El-Mekki, spoke to equity in the classroom not just as an endgame but as “a path to social justice” and spoke of teaching as “a political act.” “We need activists who are teaching,” he said. “Teachers cannot be passive in bending the arc towards justice. They must bring their lessons plans and hammer the arc.”
The student panel featured students from Friends Select School, Building 21 School and Teen Sharp - Delaware. Students spoke openly and frankly about the challenges they face at school as Black boys and gave candid, concrete suggestions about what teachers, especially white teachers, can do to be better teachers of Black students. “I know the effects of what it means to NOT give up on someone…so the thing I want to leave you with is to NOT give up on your students, no matter what the circumstances are. I need you guys to not give up.”
The opening presentation by Ali Michael of The Race Institute included presentation of data and examples to frame the topic of the importance of teachers, particularly white teachers, exploring their own implicit bias and gaining tools and skills for teaching Black boys. Michael is the editor, along with Eddie Moore, Jr. and Marguerite W. Penick-Parks, of the 2018 book, The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys. Her next book is about teaching Black girls.
Break out sessions featured nine authors from Michael’s book, including Christopher Avery, VP of Programs for Steppingstone Scholars; Jack Hill, Head of Middle School and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Cambridge Friends School and a diversity consultant, facilitator, writer and child advocate; Brian L. Johnson, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Philadelphia School; Brian Caselli Jordan, associate Kindergarten teacher and member of the Diversity Committee at The Philadelphia School; Erica Snowden, Dean of Lower School and Diversity Clerk at Greene Street Friends School; Toni Graves Williamson, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Friends Select School; Deneen R. Young, a health advocate and Friends Select School administrative staff; and Carl S. Moore, Assistant Chief Academic Officer at The University of the District of Columbia (UDC).