Kwame Griffith: Leading the Charge for More Black Men in the Classroom
1 year ago
The Teach for America VP has success stories to prove that men can make a difference
When Kwame Griffith became a Teach for America corps member 10 years ago, he was met with challenges many teachers face when educating students of color: impoverished children entrenched in a world where they think they are not good enough.
Griffith’s fourth and fifth graders, mostly of low-income backgrounds from the most rural areas of Houston, were reading at a kindergarten and first-grade level. Most of them never knew what it was like to have a stable teacher, as they had been taught by many substitutes over the years.
“My kids were incredibly far behind,” said Griffith. “The lows were seeing the disengagement, the apathy.”
Seeing potential in his students’ ability to improve in the classroom, he aggressively worked with them in their reading, comprehension and math skills. Griffith exhausted his resources to ensure that his students were better prepared for a world where education is designed as the golden ticket to economic and professional prosperity.
Griffith said he was willing to do whatever it took to propel his students to a higher standard of achievement. And so, after many days spending extra time in the classroom, sacrificing his lunchtime and offering his home phone number to struggling students, Griffith was able to break through in a profound way. After two years of working with his students, they were performing at a fifth-grade level in all subjects except math, where they were performing at a sixth-grade level.
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But success stories such as this remain scarce when chalked against the reality blackboard of statistics.
In America, a country that boasts of its first president of African descent in the White House, children of color continue to lag behind their white counterparts in the classroom. According to a study released in March by Yale University, children of color, boys in particular, receive harsher treatment, lower grades and less attention in school. The report rehashed a yet-to-be healed wound in the country’s educational system, one that has impelled organizations like Teach for America to do more in its efforts to help African American and Latino students succeed.