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Introducing the Black Teacher Project

Oakland Heroes      March, 2016     
Sara Solar Introduces Educate78 Partnership
with the Black Teacher Project
At Educate78 we are honored to partner with families, educators, and leaders across Oakland who are working to ensure every Oakland student across all 78 square miles and in every neighborhood has access to great schools. We believe that to fulfill our mission of great schools for all of our students, Oakland must become a city that attracts, grows, and retains exceptional educators, especially in our highest-need schools.
We’re investing in projects that elevate educators’ voices across the city in problem-solving and solution-generation, that support high-quality leadership and development opportunities for educators, and that seek to retain an effective, diverse and representative educator force in Oakland.

Learn more about our work

We are thrilled to launch a partnership this Spring with a new organization called the Black Teacher Project, who, through a combination of programming and research, seeks to identify successful strategies for developing and retaining highly effective Black educators in Oakland schools. Research has demonstrated positive effects for students of color having teachers of the same racial background and has also demonstrated that teachers of color reduce stereotypes and increase cross-cultural understanding in all students.
Kareem Weaver, of the Oakland Alliance for Black Educators and Executive Director of New Leaders Bay Area reflects: “Never has there been so much time structured for collaboration and, yet, there remains a nagging disconnection between adults. The Black Teacher Project is attempting to unearth, understand, and address the needs of Black teachers – in order to better serve students. The organization is to be commended for its clarity of mission and willingness to ask tough questions in search of truth and next steps.”
I’m thrilled to introduce, Micia Mosely, the founder of the Black Teacher Project, to tell you more about their work and launch in Oakland this year.
From the Black Teacher Project founder, Micia Mosely Ph.D.
I founded the Black Teacher Project in 2015 to address a lifelong passion and pursuit of mine: to support Black people in the United States in becoming and remaining the best teachers we can be.
I moved to the Bay Area to teach high school over 20 years ago and left the classroom after just a few years. I always pictured myself as the kind of teacher that would be in the classroom long enough to teach my students kids’ and be a strong presence in my community. I knew my departure was a mix of systemic, political and professional factors that were connected to my Blackness. I wanted to learn more and support more Black people to become teachers and stay in the classroom, consistently gaining mastery of teaching while remaining healthy whole human beings. That led me to earn my Ph.D. in Education at U.C. Berkeley and write my dissertation on the roles and experiences of Black teachers in multi-racial settings. I then worked with BayCES (now National Equity Project) to support the creation of small schools in Oakland. I went on to work with organizations like the Posse Foundation and the Urban Teaching Corps which helped me gain a national perspective of what it takes for Black people to become and remain teachers in this country. Since returning to the Bay to support teachers locally I have been able to work with a former Black student of mine who has become a teacher. Working with her inspired me to develop this project. You can read more about that story in The Black Teacher Project’s collection of #MyBlackTeacher stories.
The Need
Black people comprise approximately 12 percent of the population of the United States. Black teachers comprise 7 percent of teachers in this country, with many teaching mostly Black and Latino students. In Oakland, Black students make up about a quarter of our public school population, and Black teachers make up about a fifth of Oakland teachers. Our vision is that all children will have access to a well-prepared, effective teaching force that includes a proportionate number of Black teachers. Our premise is that Black educators offer indispensable insights into the lived realities of navigating schooling institutions, as well as into the social structures of the United States. Therefore, every young person, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, can benefit from the influence of highly effective Black teachers in their life. Our mission is to develop, sustain, and retain excellent Black teachers and support the recruiting of new Black teachers for schools across Oakland and eventually across the country.
The role of Black teachers in schools is complex. Research has demonstrated the positive effects on students of color from having teachers of the same racial background. We also know that Black teachers are often asked to play roles, often unspoken, due to their race/ethnicity, which can impact their effectiveness and decision to continue teaching. For example, our initial research uncovered an expectation that Black teachers are inherently able to address the needs of all Black students and another that they will be a bridge between the school and community. Without the specific preparation and training to play these roles effectively, these affinity-based expectations can increase Black teachers’ loads and burnout. The Black Teacher Project focuses on the affinity-specific expectations of Black teachers in a variety of contexts and identifies strategies to support Black teachers’ effectiveness in the many different roles they play.
We believe that it is also important for non-Black students to have the experience of learning from Black adults. Given the small proportion of Black teachers in the US, we know that many non-Black people (including Latino/as, Asians, Native American and mixed race people, as well as, Whites) don’t get to learn with Black teachers during their K-12 experiences. Our work is about helping people have personal relationships with Black teachers, and it is also about supporting Black people in a position of sanctioned expertise. While Barack Obama’s election didn’t end racism, it did help many people (Black and non-Black) see Black people in a position of expertise, leadership and power. We believe this view is critical to combat centuries of Black people being seen as less capable often as a result of the limited portrayals of Black people in the media.
What We’ll Do
The Black Teacher Project supports individuals in being excellent Black teachers, by valuing the intersectionality of all identities in multiple contexts. We are not encouraging teachers to perform a particular kind of Blackness or supporting individuals simply because of their racial identity. Our work is aimed at encouraging individuals to embrace and embody Black excellence that is authentic to who they are and in ways that serve their students. Affinity-based groups have allowed teachers to address more specific issues in serving their students. Our research indicates that teachers who are able to have open dialogue about how their race impacts their practice have been able to engage in culturally responsive pedagogy from a more grounded and sustainable place. By engaging in this kind of affinity-based practice non-Black teachers will benefit from having colleagues who can articulate and respond to traditionally implicit expectations thereby thriving in their positions while providing a model for sustainable practice.
We are launching efforts focused first on understanding teachers’ experiences and what’s driving their satisfaction and retention in order to provide responsive professional development, community building, and leadership training to retain our highly effective Black teachers in Oakland. We will also seek to learn from current and past recruitment efforts and see where there might be opportunities to support and add to those efforts in the future. This spring we’ll launch a few events below and spend a lot of time talking with teachers and those working with teachers to inform our programming and research next school year in the following areas:
We offer affinity-based and context responsive professional development for Black teachers. For example, we will focus on culturally responsive teaching as it relates to the cultures of Black teachers responding to Black and non-Black students. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are partnering with Black Female Project to host a conversation with Black Female Teachers about how they navigate structural racism and sexism in the classroom and beyond. You can find out more information by clicking here.
Sustainability and Retention
Research and development allows us to understand what is necessary to sustain excellent Black teachers in classrooms and schools. Too often teachers burnout, leave the classroom to take on administrative duties, or to work in education outside of a teaching context. As we support retention, our aim is to ensure that Black teachers not only stay in the classroom, but also are also able to sustain themselves as healthy human beings. Our preliminary research supports the importance of networking activities and developing our wellness program to increase Black teacher retention and sustainability. This June 16-18, 2016 we will hold our Inaugural Black Teacher Leadership & Sustainability Institute in Oakland. Registration will open on April 1st. Check our website for updates.
Right now, our recruitment initiatives are limited in scope as we ramp up capacity. We know that lifting up the impact that Black teachers have can increase our profile and make the profession more appealing. In February we celebrated Black History Month by collecting stories about the impact of Black teachers on people’s lives. Even though February has ended, we hope that many more people will share their stories. Because we believe that all children deserve a Black teacher, we encourage everyone who has had a Black teacher to submit their stories through our site, www.myblackteacher.net.
As someone who has lived in Oakland for almost 20 years, I am excited to support my community in improving teacher practice and retention. I know the issues facing our teachers are complex and it will take multiple initiatives to transform the experiences of everyone involved in education in Oakland. I hope educators across race will get and stay involved with The Black Teacher Project. Sign up for our newsletter here and find out how you can support Black teachers in Oakland.

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