Teaching is not just a profession, it’s a calling. At 10 years old, I used to steal chalk from school and come home and take my mother’s teddy bears from her room. On the steps leading up to her two-family flat, I taught the teddy bears the lessons I learned from school that day. It was in those moments, I knew that I was called to be a teacher. Now, in 2017, I am teaching for my third year and I am no longer teaching teddy bears. Now I teach real, live students. My journey and path into education began at 10 years old, but a few experiences really pushed me into the rewarding work of impacting the lives of young adults in the classroom. One of those moments was in elementary school when I was acting up in class and running in the hallways without permission. I was for the most part a well-behaved student. However, I did have my moments of energetic stupor.
A difference maker
I had a teacher that would not allow me to behave that way in his class. His name was Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray had a strong presence that commanded my attention and forced my behavior to change. He was my first Black male teacher. When he told me to sit down and listen to his and the school’s rules, I did so without hesitation. What I felt in that moment was not fear, but respect and a longing to one day be just as warm and demanding as Mr. Simms. I did not have a father in my household growing up, so the presence and mentorship he gave me was new to me. But I longed for those qualities from my authority figures as a child. Mr. Murray is one of the reasons I am in education. I wanted to be the presence that could mold the behavior of students positively. I believe in the power Black males in the classroom because they are able to shift behavior for many through their presence and poise. I wanted to be just like Mr. Murray and today I embody many of his traits in my own classroom.
The mentorship did not stop with Mr. Murray
In fifth grade another Black male teacher named Mr. Simms took on the role of being my mentor and strong presence in my life. During my student teaching, my mentor teacher, Mr. Grigsby, also took upon the role of teaching and mentoring me on all the steps to become a great teacher like he was. Throughout my life, one thread has been common and that was the power of a warm, demanding, consistent and loving Black male teacher that shaped me not only into the teacher I am today, but also the man I am. I am in this noble work of teaching to impact the lives of the students I teach. I know that a Black male teacher can make the difference in academic and life outcomes of students. As one of my academic mentors taught me, “When you make an observation, you have an obligation.” I observed the need for me to teach and have obligated myself to be the change agent to create multigenerational change for my students.
Devin Evans is a 10th grade English Language Arts teacher at Butler College Prep Charter High School on Chicago's far South Side. He serves as co-10th grade team lead and master teacher for Butler's humanities department. He graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Social Science Education and History and is pursuing a Masters in English Language Arts from Relay Graduate school of ...