In October, Center for Inspired Teaching staff members and Fellows joined a crowd of more than 1,000 at the Black Male Educators Convening (BMEC) in Philadelphia. The BMEC advances and celebrates the development, recruitment, and retention of Black male educators in communities across the U.S. We sat down with Brian Palmer, one of our newest Inspired Teaching Fellows and a Middle School Teacher Resident at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, to learn more about his experience at the event.
What motivated you to attend the Black Male Educators Convening (BMEC)?
As a student, I had very few Black male educators, and still I had more than many others I met at the conference. The lack of educators that looked like me was definitely something that I noticed as a child, and that was one of my main reasons I became an educator. I want to serve as a role model for young Black male students, and I felt that this convening would be ripe with information that would help me strive toward this goal. I saw the convening as an opportunity to learn from other Black educators who have been teaching longer than I have.
I think, and research shows, that students tend to respond better to teachers who look like them. Especially in DC where there are a lot of Black students in the school system, it’s really important for students to have role models that look like them. This is what inspired me to pursue education as a career and it’s an aspect of the work I’ve been really enjoying so far.
What is are some key takeaways you learned at the event?
Two key rules for Black male educators were really emphasized. First, “Know Thy Content” and second, hold students to high expectations. Simply being Black and male is not enough. I was also surprised to learn that Black men account for only 2% of the teacher workforce nationally; I left thinking about what can be done to encourage more Black men to enter the profession.
How will your experience at the conference impact your teaching / experience in the classroom?
The conference really drove home the point that I need to be a master of the material that I teach, as much as possible. My goal is to be a wellspring of knowledge for my students — in whatever content area I end up teaching. The possibility of getting a PhD seems a little more likely than before, because I feel an increasing need to have credentials.
What was the most meaningful part of the weekend?
This was really the first time I’ve been to a conference like this and, for me, the most meaningful parts of the weekend were the breakout sessions. I got to dip my toes into several fascinating topics. One session focused on encouraging Black students to pursue STEM, and another highlighted different styles of teaching and their effects. I got a lot of really good information about not just about being a teacher of color, but also about being a teacher in general. It was really helpful to get to have this fellowship with educators who have been doing this a lot longer than I have. I also enjoyed meeting other educators who are my age, and also new to the profession.
How does your experience at BMEC connect to your role as a changemaker?
When you asked me that, what came into my head was a phrase they said a lot at BMEC: Being Black Is Not Enough. That struck me because it’s easy, in a school environment, to hold some kids to different expectations than others, and a lot of time boys of color tend to have lower expectations put on them. A focal point of the conference is that those boys deserve and need high expectations too. Holding them to high expectations can go a long way in helping them to have loftier goals for themselves and their careers. That’s something I really want to inculcate into my practice and I’m thinking about different ways I can do that.