Although Urban Ed Academy serves our communities in many ways, our Man the Bay Program has received much attention over the last few years. Parents, community members, and even News anchors are all interested in our Black men, committed to making a difference. We conducted interviews at the start of 2023, and over the next few months, we’ll introduce them to you individually.

Mr. Jason Muse is the first fellow we’d like to highlight. In his first year as an MTB fellow, Mr. Muse comes to us with a world of experience and knowledge.

Interviewer: First, give us your name, hometown, and where you went to college.

Mr. Muse: My name is Jason Muse. “Hometown” has always been an interesting concept because I’ve lived in so many different places, and none of them are more than the others, so they all feel like home. My home area is the Inland Empire, the IE, so I give regions. I’ve lived in such cities as Upland, Pomona, San Bernardino, Colton, Chino Hills, Montclair, and Claremont, all of which I’ve lived at different times of my life for various reasons. So the IE is where I call home, and I graduated from UCLA and am a proud Bruin.

Interviewer: Can you describe your experience moving to the Bay Area?

Mr. Muse: Yeah, so I stayed in Southern California. I moved from Hawaii. Concise story. So I was recruited by Teach for America. And then, they placed me in Hawaii, where I lived for six years. And then, from there, I moved back to California but to the Bay Area, where I had never lived before because I got an opportunity to teach at KIPP schools, a network of charter schools.

That brought me to the Bay Area; that experience has been great because I developed a great perspective. Learning how to teach in my early teaching career in a place that’s very, very different. As I add more inclusion and diversity to my approach, I have to rethink everything. I was used to interacting with a Black and brown student population at Inglewood High School, where I used to tutor. When I moved to Hawaii, I was suddenly mainly teaching Pacific Islander Asian kids, and the culture is very different. 

Now I’m back in the Bay Area where I’m mainly teaching Black and brown kids again, and it’s like, ‘okay, what were the things that I learned, and how did I tweak my understanding of what it means to be culturally inclusive? Outside of the microcosm of that narrow focus of things that Black and brown kids deal with that are unique?’

I have some insights on more general things outside of that preview that has made me tweak my approach, but my journey has enhanced my perspective, or at least I’d like to think that.

Interviewer: What have you picked up through your credential to support your ability to help students?

Mr. Muse: One of the biggest things that I’ve picked up from the credentialing work that is instrumental in the classroom is a lens for particular dynamics of instruction, and I will call it the mechanics of teaching. Instruction, lesson planning, grading, my approach to assessments, those kinds of general things but also with matters of social justice, achievement gaps, racial discrepancies in education, and how systemic forces, so to speak, can conspire or, let’s say work together to impact specific populations negatively.

I’ve had that lens, but I’ve gotten the magnifier on that, and it’s helped me figure things out. How do I draw a line from what I need to lesson plan to, but I also need to take these systemic factors into account and tweak my approach to things to maximize the effectiveness of the instruction I deliver? I’m incorporating culturally relevant pedagogy, considering the unique aspects of how my students learn. Much of it is based on the culture in how they’re socialized. And I’m doing things in the classroom that maximize their ability, where they’re at, to learn how to add or subtract to 20. To learn how to decode words that are not spelled phonetically, to discover approaches to writing mechanics, and how to spell words. Or what do you do when you need to learn how to spell a word? Instilling those ideas into children, but doing it in a way they can grasp it, and then taking into account things like the pandemic and how that’s negatively impacted young children. For many of my first-grade children, 40% of their school days were taken away from them last year under the pandemic conditions. How do you compensate for that without adopting pessimistic, toxic, deficit mindsets? They just can’t do it because of the pandemic, they just can’t do it because of poverty, or they just can’t do it because of some systemic force here. That can be harmful too, and so I think that all of the things that I’m learning I’m getting gaining from these classes are helping me like sharpen those considerations because a lot of times you get into the routine and day-to-day, I got my lesson planned out, and you start checking boxes. You could be more attentive to those nuances. And so refocusing me in that is the biggest gain I’ve got.