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OHIO’s Patton College of Education implements programming to bring more Black men into the education field

Published: September 30, 2021 Author: Noah Wright

Ohio University’s Patton College of Education is changing the way classrooms look and sound. The college is bringing hip-hop culture into the classroom and implementing unique initiatives to put more people of color—especially Black men—at the front of those classrooms.

The new initiatives include the Hip-Hop Ohio Patton Education (HOPE) program, which seeks to use the cultural pedagogy of hip-hop to train future teachers how to foster stronger connections with students, and Brothers Rallying to Inspire and Shape Education (BrothersRISE), which aims to recruit and train more Black men as teachers. Both are led by hip-hop producer and educator Dr. Jason Rawls.

“(HOPE) is the fulfillment of something I’ve always dreamed of,” Rawls said. “Even if you as a teacher are not into hip-hop, you might have students that are, and my class teaches you how to leverage that and use it to help build relationships with students.”

Those relationships are what the program is all about. According to Rawls, the goal is not to rap in the classroom, but to bring a cultural subset often not seen in classrooms to the forefront and allow for natural, organic relationships between students and teachers to foster. Rawls, who began his career in Columbus City Schools, believes students seeing their culture in the classroom means everything.

BrothersRISE is being done in conjunction with HOPE in order to help solve a problem in the state of Ohio where less than one percent of teachers are Black men.

Rawls and former Patton College dean Dr. Reneé Middleton noticed this problem within the state and created BrothersRISE to recruit, retain, and graduate male, Black educators.

Andre Martin is one of these future educators. He transferred to OHIO this fall after being recruited to the program by Rawls and Middleton.

Martin said a big factor in his decision to join the program was the fact they took the effort to recruit him.

“For me, the fact they actually came to my house… showed me they really cared about me,” Martin said. “They made Ohio University feel more like home than my actual hometown of Columbus.”

Rawls says the program is not necessarily about race, but about students seeing teachers who look like themselves – something that is a driving factor for Martin.

“Growing up, I lived in the inner city, but open-enrolled into the suburbs and I didn’t have a lot of Black, male teachers, and some teachers just don’t understand the backgrounds of their students,” Martin said. “Going into a suburban school and having no teachers of color was a big challenge for me because I wasn’t used to not having people who looked like me around.”

Martin explained that he was treated very differently as a student of color from the city attending a predominantly white, suburban school, and it motivated him to one day be in a position to help students like himself.

His main goal following graduation is to work as an athletic director and work with inner-city youth. He believes this program is a stepping stone that will make him a better communicator and leader.

One of the first courses Martin and other students in BrothersRISE take at Ohio University is HOPE’s hip-hop and education class. Martin describes the coursework as an amazing opportunity.

“If you come from a background where hip-hop culture is important to you, the class makes you love doing the work 10 times more,” Martin said.

Martin says the bonds he’s creating in these programs will last a lifetime. He is confident he will leave Ohio University with a professional network of educators who share the same goals.

Both programs are in their first semester, but the results are already visible.

“What I’m seeing is students coming into the class not fully understanding what it’s about, but now that we’re a few weeks in they understand they’re putting a culturally relevant pedagogy into their teaching, and many of the students are excited about it,” Rawls said.

It is still yet to be determined how the program will have an impact on classrooms around the state, but Rawls says the feeling in the program is positive right now, and the future looks bright. For Rawls, the goal is to one day see HOPE offered at schools throughout Ohio with BrothersRISE graduates putting the material to work.