These Top Teachers went above and beyond in a time of crisis.
Brendon Jobs is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Haverford School.
Brendon Jobs’ love of history was nurtured by his father. “Although I was told in my house that I was resting on the shoulders of ancestors, they’d never show up in any of my classrooms,” says Jobs, a first-generation American. “In all of the curricula we’d be taught, Black people just didn’t exist—let alone people from Trinidad.”
Jobs caught the teaching bug while tutoring in Harlem, N.Y., as a Columbia University student. For the past 14 years, he’s taught at different schools mostly in and around Philadelphia, including Philadelphia High School for Girls and the Girard Academic Music Program. Now, Jobs is helping change the way students view history with “Modern Black Lives,” his elective course at the Haverford School. Shaped by his students, the class hones in on African-American history from the civil rights movement to the present. “[It’s become] a course that examines the moment we’re living in, in relation to what’s happened in our past,” says Jobs.
Another elective, “Human Relationships,” is a consortium course with the Baldwin School. There, Jobs and his co-teacher focus on other identity domains and relationships. The way he engages his students is as groundbreaking as his courses. Using an inquiry-based method, he brings them into the planning process. “Students are investigators who are interested most when they get to formulate their own questions—when they get to shape what their learning looks like,” he says.
When classes went virtual this past spring, Jobs made a concerted effort to bring recent national events into the conversation. “I’ve been leaning on reflection as a vehicle for helping us make meaning of what’s happening in this moment right now,” he says. “Then we started thinking about how these ideas—and what we’re feeling in crisis—will influence modern history as it’s developing.”
Jobs is extending those conversations to the faculty as a co-teacher for Haverford’s branch of the National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program. “Each month, we meet and think about race, class, gender, sexuality and our personal experiences of all these identity domains, so we can consider how who we are shows up in our classroom,” he says. “In the early moments of this COVID crisis, it made it so we could really be intentional about how we’re engaging with students and how we’re engaging with ourselves.”
To ensure that students still have places to connect and further flesh out these crucial issues, Jobs has worked to get the school’s affinity groups online—including the Diversity Alliance, comprised of members of the Black Student Union, Jewish Student Association, Pan-Asian Student Association and Gay-Straight Alliance. “Thinking about this moment as a portal for reimagining what this can look like really excites me and motivates me,” Jobs says.