In its mission to inspire and support the next generation of educators, TEACH Connecticut embraces and uplifts the change-making teachers shaping our state’s future — and Ryan Parker is one of them. With the goal of transforming the classroom with hip hop and culturally relevant conversations, Ryan is revolutionizing education and empowering students. Here’s his story, in his voice.
I am a part of the two percent of black male educators in America.
Within my experience as an educator, I’ve been able to take part in the meaningful experience of affecting positive societal change in a way that’s unattainable in any other field. I can look out into a classroom where students who look like me have the opportunity to see a piece of themselves within a system that has historically harmed them and currently under-represents them.
One of the greatest beauties I’ve experienced as an educator has been having the ability to directly impact the learning experiences of the youth I am privileged to teach, with a focus on shifting the educational paradigm to the extent that it empowers my students.
This is best illustrated in a line of one of my hip hop pieces:
The new tradition is to break tradition and engage in academics that look, sound, and feel like hip hop.
Imagine the culmination:
A lineup of hip hop instrumentals seeps into an eighth-grade English classroom and become the learning soundtrack. Clusters of youth are frantically discussing the parallels between the civil rights movement of the 60s with the birth of today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Students are digesting text and using it to support lyrical creations they cooperatively construct for the purpose of supporting claims that illustrate historical and modern-day civil rights acts—in conjunction with steps we can take to initiate social justice change in our own community.
Silence and stillness are not invited to today’s lesson or learning activities; golden noise is. Loudness reflecting the creative process, combined with academic purpose and the opportunity to authentically showcase knowledge gained, is the norm.
The simple fact that I get to represent a huge population of my students every day in a leadership position, and perform as a role model and activist for my black and brown youth, is reason enough for me to teach.
These human connections and relationships have been the ultimate magic of being a teacher.
Teaching is a civil rights act. Being a teacher means I get to be an activist, role model, creator, DJ, MC, B-Boy, graffiti artist, knowledge influencer and a change agent impacting both the present and the future.
I also have the honor of connecting and collaborating with families, community members and phenomenal educators, near and abroad, engaging in the most important and rewarding work in existence: altering oppressive legacy and empowering youth in the process!
TEACH Connecticut is a statewide initiative providing anyone considering a career in teaching with personalized support. Free career services include 1-on-1 career advising, scholarships, how-to guides, teaching program search tools, and more.