June 2023 Community Service

Jay Williams

Educator, Speaker & Consultant

Jay Williams

Hello Jay Williams! What inspired you to become a coach?

My decision to become a learning coach was sparked by a few things! I was a middle school classroom teacher for about 12 years, and although I loved working with my students, I started craving new challenges. As a Black male educator, unfortunately, I experienced many incidents of inequity and racism, specifically microaggressions, stereotypes and anti-Black racism towards me personally, as well as my students. These first hand experiences really drove the inspiration to impact change on a wider scale. I knew for a fact that I couldn’t be the only teacher experiencing these issues, and that there were many students, who look like me, also held hostage to these societal stereotypes. With the portfolios I carry, becoming a coach has since allowed me to effectively and directly aid in creating system wide change.

You are a Learning Coach at the Toronto District School Board. What does this role look like for you on a weekly basis?

Part of the beauty of my role is that no two days are the same - on a weekly basis there can be similarities from time to time, but the role is unique and forever changing!  Generally, I liaise with superintendents, administrators, and teachers on issues and incidents of inequity. Sometimes this translates into me presenting ways/methods to help to build their capacity and knowledge on issues of equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism, and other times it could be me first-hand responding to more specific, pressing incidents based around hate and racism. Oftentimes, these interventions open up new doors into schools and communities across the entire district.

My additional portofolio is the Black Student Success and Excellence program. Through this initiative, I’m able to connect with specific schools to co-create opportunities of academic excellence, high expectations, Black joy, and Black excellence for Black students. Traditionally, academic spaces and institutions have never highlighted the need for a safe learning and affirming space for Black students, so it is very rewarding to be able to provide this for our youth.

As an educational speaker, you talk about crucial topics. Some of these topics include race and Black masculinity. Why do you think the discussion of race is important?

Race is one of those taboo subjects that we’ve been taught to not discuss, at least not in public; however, it is very important that we engage in these conversations. We have to talk about race because it’s so intricately tied to how we live and engage with the systems that govern us. Race permeates all the systems and clearly speaks to the inequities that have always existed. What I speak about is how as a Black man in education, I am navigating that system for myself and others. I recognize the perspective and voice I bring to the conversation for those that don’t share the same lens. Audiences range from students, to parents, families and community members, to educators and all have varying understandings and experiences. One of the staples of my engagements is creating a foundation of common understandings, dispelling myths, and naming misconceptions. This work cannot be effective if these steps are taken.

Jay Williams

"We have to talk about race because it’s so intricately tied to how we live and engage with the systems that govern us. Race permeates all the systems and clearly speaks to the inequities that have always existed".

How would you define Black masculinity? Why is the discussion of Black masculinity important?

In my opinion, there is no clear definition of Black masculinity; how I define it may differ from how another Black man defines it. However, the common ground, and what one would hope we can all agree on, is that the idea of Black masculinity was formed over 400 years ago in North America and is historically based on (often false) narratives and perceptions of Black men. Looking at current day understandings of Black masculinity, I believe it is an alternative form of masculinity. Mediums in pop culture continue to uphold the structures that paint Black masculinity as less than, while upholding and uplifting white masculinity as being ideal.

Based on my experiences, by the time a young Black man reaches adolescent years, they have been inundated with messages of pro-masculinity, relationships with women, financial expectations, etc. There is a very clear message that is relayed to Black boys, which is a very different message that non-Black boys receive about what it means to be a man.  Unfortunately, there are systems in play that reinforce these messages. Black boys are often adultified way before their non-Black peers. A story I often share that speaks to my own experiences of adultification as a young Black boy took place around 11 years of age. As a student, taking the public transit and paying the child fare, I was constantly accosted about my age, and even asked to “prove it” due to my “abnormal size” and look for a 7th grader, while my non-Black peers of the same age were not treated in the same manner. It’s messages like these that continue to perpetuate the Black male gaze and false narratives of Black masculinity.

What are some other topics you discuss as an educational speaker?

As an educational speaker, I discuss all things education, but if I had to narrow it down to my areas of focus, the main topics would be: race, Black masculinity, what it means to be a man, HipHop as critical relevant pedagogy, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and critical race theory in education. My aim is to connect with people to facilitate the process of informing and re-educating in all environments, not just educational settings. I’ve been blessed to connect locally with schools, parent/caregiver associations, young men’s groups, school boards, universities, municipal and provincial organizations, and governmental sectors.  I believe in the importance of being a role model to engage, empower, motivate, and inspire not only students and educators, but society as a whole. I am cognizant of the way I deliver my message and how my intersectionalities and experiences allow the impact to resonate distinctly from others who may have similar messages/lessons.

How can future organizations collaborate with you if they are interested in having you speak?

For future organizations looking to collaborate, I’m easy to connect with! Anybody can reach out to me via my website iamjaywilliams.com. All my social media accounts are up and running and speak to my perspectives of issues including race, culture, education, and social justice. The team is in the process of planning and scheduling for the upcoming fall season and beyond. Just to be clear, I’m not limited to just educational settings, so I’m very open to all collaborations!

Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as an educational consultant and coach?

The biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome as an educational consultant have been successfully acquiring long standing partnerships, as well as marketing myself as an up and coming ‘expert’ in the field. Folks still associate Jay Williams with being a classroom teacher, which I did successfully for a long time. Without a doubt, those experiences taught me relevant skills that continue to guide me along this new and exciting challenge! I want the name, Jay Williams, to be synonymous with education, race, Blackness, and authenticity in this work. The reception so far has been fantastic. I appreciate all of the vast support I have received across the board, but now the focus is expanding.  We’ve got more work to do.

As a coach, working for the Toronto district, there are definitely different challenges. Essentially, I’m an agent of the board operating from within the system to effectively enact change in schools in the name of equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism. There are days that are more rewarding where you can see your work actively making a difference with quantitative and qualitative outcomes. On the flip side, there are also heavier days where the work weighs on you. Combatting incidents of hate and racism across the system is sometimes ugly and unfortunately, much of the work coincides with parts of my identity. Days like this, as difficult as they may be, provide me all of the validation I need, and remind me why I do what I do.

What are some words of advice you can give to future coaches who are seeking speaking opportunities?

First off, I'm honest and am learning to be more vulnerable. Sharing that I don't know everything with audiences is important. I know what has worked for me making this jump from coach/consultant to speaker. That being said, for future coaches interested in seeking speaking opportunities, I would share these three pieces of advice:

1) Know your subject matter - even if you don’t consider yourself an expert, when you speak on something enough, people will consider you the expert anyway. Knowing and being confident in what you’re speaking about goes a long way.

2) Lean into your lived experiences to support your stance - speaking from experience tends to create a sense of familiarity that research or accreditation can’t provide.

3) Be yourself - authenticity over perfection. Sharing vulnerabilities with your audience humanizes you in a way that draws them in and makes your message more believable.

Jay Williams

"Be yourself - authenticity over perfection. Sharing vulnerabilities with your audience humanizes you in a way that draws them in and makes your message more believable".

Outside of being an educator and coach, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?

I’m pretty lowkey these days. I consider myself to be very regimented and scheduled. My day generally starts around 6:30 a.m. I get started by hitting the gym and sweating. From 9-4, I’m in educator and coach mode, which I mentioned the details of before. However, like most other folks building their own businesses, my work day continues when I get home with brand development, coordinating partnerships, communications, social media, etc.  It definitely adds another 3-4 hours to the day. Outside of that time, I make time for listening to podcasts (Joe Budden Podcast, Black is the New Rich and All the Smoke are my regulars), going on walks and exploring the city, reading, and cooling out with friends and family checking out new restaurants - most likely brunch. And of course, kickin’ it with my dawgs - we hoop every Friday, build with each other and of course talk shit. Not sure where I’d be without my trusted circle of confidants.

Jay Williams

Follow at:
Instagram: @iam_j_will
Twitter: @mstrjaywill
Linktree: @jaywilliams