Louisville Magazine

DEC 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.18 41 What are some things you've learned teaching at DuBois, which opened this school year and mostly consists of African-American males? "My background has been with high school students. My approach has had to change. I'm an upfront, honest teacher. Sixth-graders can't handle that as well as 16- and 17-year-olds. I've had to tone it down to reach younger children. •ey're a harder group to reach, because they're right in the middle of that transition between a small child and pre-teen. •e best thing I've done is to genuinely listen to my students and allow them to take more control of the class, more of the •ow." You're very involved with the kids — conducting home visits, staying after school with them. "I am extremely involved. And a lot of the teachers here are. I'm ECE ("exceptional child education," for students with learning disabilities) and my background is with special-needs students — I taught at schools where students were low- er functioning. So, literally, as a teacher, I've cut hair, I've clipped toenails, I've given rides — I've done everything. Not just me, but at the DuBois Academy, the line between teacher and parent is blurred. We've been called to a position where we do a lot of parenting to children who aren't ours so that they can be successful. Sometimes you have to have sta‹ that can pick up the student to go to a basketball game. Or go to an event on Saturday to help students. It's above and beyond the call of duty, but for these young men to be brave, they need to see us doing it. "It's teaching these young men how to be young men. How to carry themselves. How to respect themselves and respect others. How to live. How to function through this world as minority men. Because our experience in this society is di‹erent. I pride myself on teaching them things that aren't publicly spoken on that they need to know. For example, it's something as small as — I don't like seeing these young men walking around with hoods on their head. Yes, they have all the right in the world to do it, but if you know that makes people uncomfortable or suspicious of you, make the wise de- cision and don't walk into the store with a hood on your head. It isn't right that people in our society are so uncomfortable with you dressed like that, but I want you to be wise enough to know that, so you can make a wise decision. Because what matters more at the end of the day: walking around with a hood on or making it home safe? It may not be in a book, but it's things they need to know to survive in society." TROY DUNCAN EIGHT YEARS TEACHING W.E.B. DUBOIS ACADEMY SIXTH GRADE Can you talk about the DuBois Academy's mission of "culturally responsive teaching"? "I'm an African-American man. I know I may be pre-judged because I've got long braids, dreads, whatever you want to call it. But I pride myself on being a well-rounded man. I tell my students all the time: I can go in any setting in this city, and I know how to blend in. I can go to the art museum and •t in •ne or I can go to Shawnee Park and •t in •ne. My ultimate goal is to make opportunities for these young men. Whether that be going to college or being a plumber." In high school you were in a Men of Quality group at Male High School. Do you see similarities between that and DuBois? "In a nutshell, Men of Quality is a small version of what we're doing at this school. Men of Quality takes young Afri- can-American men and pairs them with an African-American mentor to expose them to new things. It taught me how to dress myself. How to code-switch, which is a huge thing — or, as I tell my gentlemen: knowing when to turn it on and turn it o‹. Men of Quality taught me that how I present my- self at a football game with my buddies is di‹erent than how I present myself at a job interview or when I'm sitting down with my principal and discussing my grades. Knowing how to switch my language, switch my looks. •at was the main thing: learning how to adapt to the environment that I'm in." „at had a big in…uence on you. Is there a speci†c teacher who really in…uenced you? "Hands down, Kevin Nix. He was my fourth- and •fth- grade teacher. I believe he retired from JCPS four or •ve years ago. (He brie•y served as an interim principal earlier this year.) He was my •rst male teacher. Until that point, I was a pretty rough kid. I had been referred to be in an ECE room, self-contained. I was an angry kid. Even till this day, I don't really know why I was angry. But in fourth grade, I was placed in Mr. Nix's class. I guess maybe it was the authority or his deliverance — he had a certain way of reaching young men. •at's when I started getting it together in school. I haven't seen him since I was a child, but I still credit where I am now to him. He was the cool teacher, the understanding teacher. •e teacher that, even though we were from the city and rough around the edges, he still treated us the same." Are there classes where you're teaching African-American culture? "No speci•c classes, but I •nd ways to incorporate that into it. Great example: For the last two weeks, I've been teach- ing unit rates, or calculating the rate of sales for anything — miles per gallon, how much apples cost per pound. A unit rate that I taught was BPM, beats per minute. How they measure the tempo of a song. Well, a way for me to embed African-American culture into that is through rap music. •ey love beat-making. •ey're beating on the tables constantly, rapping any chance they get. So, I made a math lesson incorporating beats."

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