In the fifth grade classroom of Monroe Elementary School near Minneapolis, a teacher named Thetis White was recently celebrated, while his students and film crew watched.
The teacher received a huge etiquette check, as if he had won the lottery. The check is huge-$50,000. But this is not a lottery.
White overcame great difficulties. As a black man who teaches in the United States, he is one of the 2% of the teaching staff suitable for this group of people.
The check is to pay off his student loan and let him choose a career in teaching instead of financial sacrifice.
The person who issued the check was Markus Flynn, the executive director of the non-profit organization Black Men Teach, which supports black male educators. Flynn himself is one of them-as a part-time teacher at the Minneapolis School.
EdSurge sits down with Flynn on this week’s EdSurge Podcast, and you will hear that he chose to come to Minnesota because it is known for its generally good schools and poor record of serving students of color.
Before switching to an education career, Flynn studied to be an epidemiologist, where experts looked for small interventions that could have a major impact on public health. He said that hiring more black male teachers is equivalent to a small change in education, and in terms of student success, it will produce a big victory.
A study he cited showed that if a black student had a black teacher in the third grade, they were 13% more likely to go to college. By then, black students with two black teachers are 32% more likely to go to college.
“When I started researching education research, I saw some of the most compelling statistics I have ever seen-in any field,” Flynn said.
So he moved to Twin Cities, started teaching, and took the helm of Black Men Teach in January this year.
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According to Flynn, issuing large checks to repay student loans is only part of the solution. He believes that to achieve lasting change, the school’s culture also needs to change.
He remembered an incident in his fifth grade that made him disgusted with the idea of continuing education. He owned a red bicycle, and police and school officials accused him of stealing it. They put him in a police car and prepared to take him in until his mother intervened.
“I call it, it’s like the trauma caused by school,” Flynn said. “I think if you talk to almost any black person, they will give you an experience that has troubled them for a long time, a very unforgettable experience that happened in school.” They were treated unfairly because of their race.
He worried that his black students today could easily face similar situations. In Minnesota, black boys are eight times more likely to be suspended and expelled than white boys. “They account for 10% of the student population, but 42% of disciplinary incidents,” Flynn said.
However, he does think things will get better.
“I think it’s a matter of time,” he said. “A place like Minnesota should actually be the first place to seek change because the results are so different and so obvious. Now in Minnesota, considering the murder case, it is the center of attention to fairness and justice. George Freud with Dante Wright. So this is a place where work really needs to be done. “
He said there are the resources and political will to change. “Minneapolis has the most non-profit organizations per capita. The money is here, even in education,” he added. “There are a lot of people who are motivated and inspired to see changes, thinking that things will be different.”