These Brampton teachers are getting real about being Black in the classroom on their very own podcast
Alyssa Gray-Tyghter and Andre Mattrasingh open up about their experience on Teachers Like Us
Two Brampton teachers are turning their lunchtime heart-to-hearts on what it's like to Black in the classroom into a podcast, shining a light on the importance of representation and bringing their lived experience into their school.
Alyssa Gray-Tyghter and Andre Mattrasingh, who both work at Cheyne Middle School, first met about three years ago around the time that Mattrasingh became a permanent hire at the Peel District School Board.
It wasn't long before Mattrasingh found a friend and mentor in Gray-Tyghter, who has been teaching for around 11 years.
They soon realized their lunchtime conversations could be useful for other teachers to hear and eventually came up with the idea for the podcast, Teachers Like Us.
"When we thought about who we were as teachers, we didn't feel like the rest of the teachers around us," Gray-Tyghter said. "There wasn't any representation for students and they were steered into strange career paths because nobody understood their lived experience."
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Black students often get pigeonholed, they noticed. Not only that, they found the reality of the social issues students face is often not a part of the standard curriculum.
According to its most recent workforce census, 7.7 per cent of teachers and educators identify as Black, Caribbean, or Afro-Caribbean, the Peel board says.
Teaching wasn't either's first career plan. Gray-Tyghter had been in public relations for several years, while Mattrasingh had been interested in family law. But both landed on teaching as a way of bringing their personal experiences to the school system, where it felt like few teachers looked like them.
"I feel like a lot of the personal lessons that life has taught me, I've been able to bring to the table and kind of help my peers along and help these students as they're thinking about or working through different situations," said Mattrasingh.
From mental health in schools, the realities of teaching and learning during the pandemic, the importance of seeing teachers who look like them, the pair say the podcast focuses on "real talk."
"I think we need to open up our perspectives on what it means to be a learner in today's society and what it means to be an educator in today's society," said Gray-Tyghter.
"I really think in order for us to make teaching better, we have to get to a place where we're not so much focused on those curriculum expectations, but more focused on the personalities, the identities of the students," he said.
"How are we making them better?
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.