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  • Kojo Hazel

My Journey as a black male educator in Wales

As I reflect on my journey as an educator, it has become apparent to me that it has only been in recent years that I have begun to fully understand and appreciate my worth as black male educator here in Wales.




In all honesty, it was never something I really considered in my early years as a teacher, and why would I? There is so much to focus on right from the moment you begin to train and then move onto your first teaching job, followed by the years of perfecting your craft. Add to this, a distinct lack of relatable peers and surrounding role models and you can start to forgive the naivety.


Growing up in Cardiff with a Ghanaian Father and a Welsh mother, my experiences were no different from many others from similar backgrounds. I went to a predominantly white school which had no teachers of colour, most of my friends were white and to be truthful I was always proud to be a minority. I had some fantastic teachers who inspired me and took the time to not only educate me but also took a real interest in me as a person. On the whole I enjoyed my time at school. To this day, the positive relationships I had with my Welsh teacher and my PE teachers’ impact my own teaching style and philosophy. Yes I would’ve loved to be taught by a teacher of colour, but I didn’t know any different and I will always be grateful to these inspirational teachers for making me feel important. A interesting question to ponder at this point is “could my experience at school have been even more positive if there were teachers of colour to learn from”?


Unfortunately, I experienced incidents of direct racism growing up, and as hurtful as these experiences were, I was never really shocked because from a young age my father educated me on the importance of understanding and embracing my heritage and also made me aware that at times I may be treated unfairly because of the colour of my skin. There are many young children without the same support network and confidence that I had. How many children in Wales are experiencing racism but have no clue as to why it happens or how to deal with it? From my experiences and now as an educator I feel I am in pretty good position to not only be part of that support network but also help other educators also become confident in being in a position to support.


I owe a lot of my confidence to participation in numerous sports. Growing up I played all the sport I could and eventually found my passion for Basketball. Through Basketball I found peers and coaches who I could relate to. My successes on the Basketball court gave me some of my biggest and first feelings of respect and acceptance. My role models were people like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and my first ever Basketball coach, Lavern Rich. These talented black men gave me the belief that anything is possible and although I didn’t know it at the time, the positive impact that these individuals had on a young black man growing up as a minority in Wales was profound. The relationships with my PE teachers, my love for sport and the opportunities it brings ultimately led me down the path to becoming a PE teacher.


My teacher training was very much like my school education, I found myself once again as a minority, trained by white mentors and surrounded by mostly white peers. This I imagine is no different to the experience of many black and minority trainee teachers who learn their trade here in Wales. Just like my education, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of ITE but looking back, did it fully prepare me for all aspects of being an education practitioner, probably not. I don’t recall any mention of the word diversity or inclusion or gaining any training on such topics during my ITE. I feel that with the introduction of the New Curriculum for Wales and the recent report by Prof Charlotte Williams OBE, it must become a necessity to include such topics in the training of the next generation of teachers.


I must admit that I didn’t have any aspirations to become at teacher and in truth, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I finished University. I spent a year coaching and working as a concierge at the Hiton Hotel in Cardiff. Through these roles I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and even more so, I discovered that I gained a great sense of fulfilment form helping others. One of my Basketball coaching mentors at Cardiff Met University suggested that would make a good teacher and the rest as they say is history.

I moved to Chelmsford in Essex for my first teaching role as a PE teacher and School Sports Coordinator. I felt it was important for me to leave Cardiff and test my character in a completely different environment. I can honestly say that taking myself out of my comfort zone had such a positive impact on my confidence and growth as not a teacher but as a young black man. I found myself once again in a predominantly white school where I was the only teacher of colour. After initially planning to stay to finish my NQT year, I ended up spending seven years in Chelmsford before moving back to Wales.


I remember my father telling me that my ability to progress up the ladder, I would have to work harder than my peers in order to be recognised. During the seven years I did apply for various roles within the school, but I was never successful for whatever reason. However, what I did notice was that I was a teacher that had the ability to make an impact across the school. Despite being a minority and my lack of progression up the ladder I was certainly able to make a difference in ways that others couldn’t. I realised that I gained a great sense of enjoyment from networking with everyone in the school and the wider community. I had complete job and lifestyle satisfaction. It was at this point that I started to realise that maybe progression up the education ladder was not the be all and end all for me and it shouldn’t be for all teachers. I began to utilise the skills I had gained from teaching to branch out into entrepreneurship and set up my first business, Hoop Troops, a Basketball business aimed at providing holiday Basketball camps for children. This additional role to my role as an educator gave the creative and leadership fulfilment that I desired but could not achieved directly from my role as a teacher. There is a district lesson here in that my shortcomings as a young black teacher made me begin forge my own path and understand that I didn’t necessarily need to be recognised by senior leaders in order to become successful.

By the time I was ready to leave Chelmsford and return to Wales, the experience I had gained gave me the realisation that I could be a positive role model both within the school environment and also within the community. This is something that makes me very proud as a black man, knowing that I have the versatility, skills, drive and ability to influence others around me regardless of background and status. My return to Wales would see me take this new found experience to the next level.


I have been working at Treorcy Comprehensive school for eight years now. I was initially employed as a PE Teacher with an extra responsibility for the promotion of Primary School Physical Education. As you are aware, I have always been in the position of being a minority and in my current local authority this I find myself an extreme minority. This situation only serves to drive me further to make an impact as a black male educator.

My journey as a teacher at Treorchy has certainly been enjoyable. I quickly made it my mission to get to know the whole workforce at the school, I can’t stress enough the importance of networking. Once again, through ambition and creativity I was able to start making an impact on a whole school level. I started to feel that maybe I should take another shot at progressing up the education ladder. I participated in various internal interviews but wasn’t ever successful in gaining the progression I so desperately wanted. Of course this was often upsetting and I got to a point where I considered giving up teaching altogether. As much as I have respect for the senior leaders I have encountered, I have always felt like I didn’t fit in, I have never worked with any senior leaders that come form the same background as me, or have the same experiences as a black male educator. Though this is nobody’s fault, it can lead to the feeling of alienation and sometimes loneliness. I was at a crisis point in my career where it was really make or break. I decided to really evaluate my position as a teacher and I came to the following realisation; I feel I was born to inspire the next generation, I have entrepreneurial tendencies and a willingness to connect with the community. I have a passion for technology and I am also at my happiest when I have the ability to lead. So the question is how could I rekindle my love for my role as an educator. It’s funny to think that the setbacks I endured are what truly inspired me to put myself in the position I find myself in today.


In a large school it can be difficult to stand out, you need to really consider what sets you aside from, everybody else. You need to find your niche in order gain progression or more importantly, fulfilment and happiness in your role. I found my niche in technology and with my skills of being able to inspire learners with disadvantaged backgrounds, poor behaviour and low academic ability. I showed how I could combine my skills to create success for my pupils and also be a leading practitioner within the school. I am currently head of vocational education and also have responsibility for leading on the use of Microsoft technologies in the classroom as part of the Microsoft innovative Educator Expert programme. As far as my role as an educator goes, I am the happiest I have ever been and in order to get to this position I have had to accept failure and setbacks but most importantly, used those experiences to look deep within myself to understand what I truly want. Sometimes things come easy and that’s great, but the hardships we go through serve to give a higher appreciation of what you a can, will and have achieved.


As I mentioned earlier, as teacher you will gain so many useful skills and if you are like me and crave advancement, success, recognition, all those ambitious things, the skills you pick up along your teaching journey can be put to work both within your role and elsewhere. For me personally, I have used my skills to progress in businesses outside my teaching but all are closely related to the work I do day to day as an educator. When it became clear that I was not going to become a senior leader any time soon, I pursued my business ventures in order to fulfil my creative ambitions. Now I get the best of both worlds, by day I perform my calling as a teacher and at all other times I run a Basketball business in Cardiff called Tribal basketball. I also own a community organisation based around opportunities for health and wellbeing for children called Team Active, and finally a technology and media business called THE Biz It. All my business ventures were born from that all important networking, putting the skills I have developed over the years in education, combining to achieve a situation where all my ambitions and passions are catered for, which in turn leads to a complete sense of happiness and fulfilment.


Through education and business I am aim to act as a role model and a a source of inspiration to aspiring teachers of colour and children form diverse backgrounds. My work within the community gives me the opportunity to connect with minorities and provides opportunities to bring people from all communities together. I am proud that I am able to give experiences that were not available to me when growing up. I am extremely proud to be teaching in the heart of the Welsh Valleys where I am able to make an impact as a black male educator. I look forward to the day when there are a large number teachers of colour working in the local authority.


I keep referring to the importance of networking and during the recent pandemic is where I truly got to grips with how to seek support from my peers with similar backgrounds to myself. The surge of online chat groups, education meets opened my eyes to a whole new world within the education sector. I was able to meet various education professionals who had been though the same experiences and openly discuss the highs and the lows. I have received mentoring from groups such as BAMEed Wales and the Microsoft Educator Community. The opportunity to have you voice heard and to understand that you are not alone as a minority educator is exactly what I have been missing throughout my career. My advice to any young educators would be to take full advantage to network within these groups, there is so much support and a wealth of knowledge that you cannot afford to miss out on. I have met some of the most inspirational and fantastic educators through these online groups and I have also had the opportunity to participate in work that I never though possible. I was nominated as a BAME Fellow for Microsoft Education UK, where the role aims to bring together BAME educators from across the country to help realise the importance of technology in raising the awareness of diversity and inclusion in the education sector. What a fantastic opportunity this is to be involved in.


In all my years of teaching, I feel that we are at the dawn of new beginnings with the realisation of the power of technology from the pandemic and the all-important introduction of the New Curriculum for Wales and the implications this brings on highlighting the importance of diversity, inclusion and cynefin. I am proud to have been involved in the input to the recent report by Prof. Charllotte Williams and I look forward to whatever comes next in the steps to achieve a more diverse curriculum, improved awareness of diversity through ITE, an increase in confidence for educators to tackle issues like racism and bias and ultimately gaining real a sense of belonging for everyone here in Wales. There are certainly exciting times ahead for education in Wales and we need to make sure that we have an increasingly diverse workforce to contribute to what could be an excellent provision for the young people of our nation.

Teaching is an incredible profession, made such by the lives we impact, the people we meet and the ability pursue all our ambitions. My journey as an educator to date has taught me to be proud of who I am and what I can bring. That it’s important to keep being yourself, don’t change your values to fit in, this will only lead to unhappiness. Be ambitious, be different, utilise your uniqueness, change the script, bring your strengths and continue to work on your weaknesses. Take time to reflect, find your niche and remember you have the ability to make an impact both inside and outside the education setting. Never underestimate your ability to inspire or the incredible opportunities to be inspired through networking, support is out there, you are not alone, reach out to people and you will always find people willing to offer advice.

Teaching is an incredible profession, made such by the lives we impact, the people we meet and the ability pursue all our ambitions. My journey as an educator to date has taught me to be proud of who I am and what I can bring. That it’s important to keep being yourself, don’t change your values to fit in, this will only lead to unhappiness. Be ambitious, be different, utilise your uniqueness, change the script, bring your strengths and continue to work on your weaknesses. Take time to reflect, find your niche and remember you have the ability to make an impact both inside and outside the education setting. Never underestimate your ability to inspire or the incredible opportunities to be inspired through networking, support is out there, you are not alone, reach out to people and you will always find people willing to offer advice.


Your journey is your own, you have the ability to make it incredible.

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