It’s not the Teachers’ Lounge. . . It’s THE Teachers’ Lounge: Recruiting, Revitalizing and Retaining Teachers of Color
Every school has a teachers’ lounge, right? But Greater Boston’s teachers of color have THE Teachers’ Lounge. Founded in 2018, by Devin Morris and Jabari “Bari” Peddie, it is a nonprofit membership organization focused on “recruiting, revitalizing and retaining” teachers of color.
Boston educators of color who join The Teachers’ Lounge get access to a wealth of resources and opportunities, both professional and social. TTL hosts guest speakers at its monthly office hours, or they simply “hold space to listen and support“ member educators during office hours.
Last Period is a Friday night gathering where members relax, play games, enjoy complimentary food, beverages, and good vibes. For aspiring teachers or practicing teachers looking for a change, TTL’s job search portal helps school districts to recruit teachers and helps teachers to find jobs.
In response to the pandemic, TTL instituted Social Emotional Learning opportunities for its teachers, geared toward maintaining good mental health and coping with disruption and change. Through many types of support, professional development, social gatherings – and sometimes a combination of all of the above – TTL is there to inspire Boston educators of color to recharge their passion, energy and purpose in their careers and communities.
When TTL started, its co-founders were paying for events out of their own pockets. Today, funders such as the Nellie Mae Foundation, State Street Foundation, Barr Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund have invested in TTL’s mission.
TTL’s Co-founder and Executive Director Devin Morris was just selected as one of nine educators from across the U.S. to receive a 2023 Boulder Fund grant. A grant program of EdLoc (Education Leaders of Color), the Boulder Fund was created to support efforts to end disparities in education, build generational wealth, and reduce systemic barriers for children of color.
What's next for TTL? Devin plans to use the Boulder Fund grant to expand TTL’s Classroom Leaders of Color (CLOC) Fellowship, a two-year cohort model for early career Boston-based K-12 teachers of color. CLOC’s vision, curriculum, and program are intentionally designed by educators of color, for educators of color. Its goal is to develop, maintain, and improve the skills and tools to increase early career educators’ input, impact, and income, towards a more sustainable profession.
The CLOC Fellowship fills a gap that needs to be filled. School districts are ill prepared to manage early career development for teachers of color, according to Devin. These teachers are likely to feel isolated in their schools. Some are stereotyped for certain roles they are not even seeking, while others get tapped for leadership roles but are then not supported in them. Too many burn out after four or five years and leave teaching. Not only that, but early career teachers may be victims of “last in, first out,” when a school district budget is cut and staff must be cut; it’s the newer teachers who are the first to go.
Where is the joy in any of this? Through the CLOC Fellowship and its other programs, TTL is doing all it can to ignite or re-ignite the joy of teaching for Boston’s educators of color. Devin understands that feeling. He said he loved mentoring, teaching and coaching children, something he started doing while in graduate school. It was that time with children that led him to the field of education. Devin and TTL hold the very same hope that inspires He is Me’s staff daily, that when children of color experience a safe, joyful and engaging learning environment that lifts them toward their dreams, they might want to become teachers themselves.
TTL’s seeds were in Devin’s own school experience. He didn't have Black teachers in his academic classes, although he had a few Black mentors for whom he is grateful. He described his academic experience as average, calling himself “a low-performing student.” As is the case for so many Black boys, no one pushed him or reaffirmed his academic potential or ability.
As a Boston College student, Devin noticed a difference between students who had “a slightly different teacher demographic.” Having white teachers might have prepared him to navigate white spaces, but he felt “he missed a lot and did not feel the confidence in the classroom that other students did who had more teachers of color.” In other words, his education lacked exposure to the documented “Black teacher effect” that results in all students doing better in school when they’ve had even one Black teacher.
Devin asked the big question, not just about his own experience, but on behalf of every student of color whose gifts are not recognized in the classroom, and whose potential is underestimated: “What could have been if those who did push were in instructional positions?” Devin’s expression of this comes through clearly in his conversation with Dr. John Travis during the He Is Me Institute’s Martin Luther King Jr. program “Kings In Classrooms.”
What if the undeveloped academic potential of past generations of Black and Brown students had been nurtured and developed? That’s an enormous “what if” to ponder. There’s no way to answer it, looking back. But looking forward is a different story. As The Teachers’ Lounge vision statement says, its vision is “to drive unprecedented student outcomes by greatly diversifying the people, thoughts, and actions of the educational workforce in the Greater Boston Area and beyond.” He is Me is right there with you!
Learn more about The Teachers’ Lounge on its brand new website.
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