This is a blog post that has been burning at my soul! Gifted Black male students and how they fair in the education system.
I decided to take the plunge with two of my teammates and get my Gifted Endorsement. Honestly, it entails way too much work; especially since this course is designed for full-time classroom teachers! But I have to say, I have been learning a great deal about the characteristics and personality types of gifted and talented learners. It has been eye-opening on so many levels and it has reignited a spark for education that I was honestly beginning to lose.
This Article Brought Me to Tears
An article that was assigned for reading struck me deeply. It was an article about Gifted Black Male students. Read those first 3 words again. Gifted. Black. Males. Do you think of Black Males and Gifted in the same sentence?
There was so much information in this article that I might turn this into a mini blog series so that I can share more with you. I learned so much. It made me reflect on my own interactions with my students and on my teaching practices.
How are Black Males Represented at Your School Site?
The one thing that I wanted to express the most is the way that we view Black males in our classrooms and school community.
Are there any Black male students in the Gifted program at your school?
How many Black males have you recommended for the Gifted program at your school?
I can’t ask you to reflect and share honestly and then not do the same. I don’t think that I have thought of gifted and Black and male in the same sentence/thought before-not actively/consciously. Can’t say that it has ever intentionally crossed my mind. I cannot think of any Black male students that I have recommended to be evaluated for giftedness. One student, Nathan, keeps popping up in my mind, but I am not sure if I recommended him or not. Truthfully, I have not had many Black males in my class in the past several years.
More than words can say, this was the part that crushed me. I’m not even sure if this had ever crossed my mind. Why not, though? Had it seemed like an oxymoron? Are they an anomaly? What?! I can’t say that this wasn’t a shock and deep disappointment because it really was. Thinking of what school must be like for many Black male students brought me to tears. How do we see them?
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Immediately, I thought of the beautiful, melanated boys in my class. At this moment, I knew that they needed and deserved for me to actively and intentionally see and interact with them differently. I need to create an environment where their potential screams at them. They need me to give them specific attention and specific and intentional conversations and exposure to who they can be.
Specifically, I need to open doors for them. My culturally responsive teaching practices need to be geared towards them more, too. Not only so that they can see and recognize their greatness and potential. But, so that other students from other cultures recognize and embrace it, too.
Are Black Male Students Top of Mind in the Educational Setting?
Based on the article that I read and even when I looked for more information myself, very little is written about gifted Black male students.
Okay, so why is that the case?
My school and district are primarily populated by white students. In general, we don’t have a lot of Black male students, but we have had enough. None of these students demonstrated giftedness or exceptional talents in any category? Additionally, I can’t think of ever seeing any Black males in the Gifted program at my school. Truly, I can’t think of a single one- not one.
Have educators been conditioned by the dominant white, middle, or upper-class, mindset to not even consider the potential in Black males? Do we only see them as athletes, challenging, difficult, disruptive or hard to reach? Do we see them as intellectuals? If not, why not? How are we engaging with these students?
Reflect on This Quote
Here’s one of the (many) quotes from the article on gifted Black male students that I want us to leave us with.
The toll that is taken on Black males shows up in all economic, social, and academic areas- more than all other males and females; Black males are over-represented in special education, under-represented in gifted education, over-represented among dropouts, over-represented among students who are under-achievers, and over-represented among students who are unmotivated and choose to disengage academically.
Excerpt from the article, Gifted Black Males: Understanding and Decreasing Barriers to Achievement and Identity by Gilman Whiting.
I hope that you will join me on this deep dive. Let’s uncover why gifted Black male students have not been top of mind. Then, let’s work to bring their needs and talent sets to the forefront. They warrant our attention, too.
Here is the link to an interview that I had with Sidney Keys. He took his experience as a young male student who saw the need for more African American males to see themselves in books and turned it into a business that is changing lives.