I am often asked the question, “Why this curriculum and why now?” Our mission at ReEngage, Inc. is to transform males into men. While we are born male and female we learn how to be men and women and in the absence of teachers how do we learn? Over the course of the last few decades there has been a mass exodus of men from families and our children are suffering. Thus, the purpose of this curriculum is to provide our participants with 12 lessons or principles that a father would teach his son. We begin with what is responsible manhood and end with the participant developing a one year plan for his life to break the cycle of poverty, self-destructive behavior, and absentee fathering. These classes are designed to provide these men with the tools to become more responsible and successful as men, fathers, husbands, brothers, & sons. The definition of manhood has been perverted by the media, the lack of role models, and peer groups. The current definition of manhood is killing us with each year a hundred or more murders in Kansas City alone. If we are to change the trajectory of our men and our communities we must redefine manhood in our communities.
These classes provide our participants with the tools to lay the foundation for their future success. There are exercises that will challenge them to make decisions about what they want, what tools they have, why do they want it, and what are they willing to do to get it. There are also suggested readings from different authors to challenge their beliefs and past patterns. It is important to change a person’s thinking if you want to change their behavior. For many people it has been their thinking that has kept them from achieving their goals and kept them trapped in a negative cycle.
Mentoring, goal setting and volunteering are integral components of the class. The mentoring provides the opportunity to learn how responsible manhood by watching other responsible men. The goal setting allows the men to step away from survival mode and develop a vision for their lives. The volunteer component provides opportunities for our men to begin to give back to their communities, to develop work ethics and skills, and to audition for possible future employment opportunities. The life skills that many of us take for granted is learned behavior and if we are to be successful whether it is with educational achievement, re-entry, or breaking the cycle of poverty we will have to address this lack of skills by our participants.
And finally, poverty today is not the same as it was in the past where simply getting employed alleviated most of the poverty. Today we have the challenge of generational poverty which is more than a material lack; it is also an emotional, psychological, and spiritual lack. If we are to create a pathway back into society and out of poverty we should provide our participants with the tools to lead better lives than when we found them. The Man Class© is an attempt to provide those tools to men who have a desire to change.
Key Components of Curriculum & Program
What makes ReEngage’s The Man Class© different from other male mentoring or job readiness programs is our emphasis on a holistic approach to the challenges facing our participants. So often we have focused on the how (how to get a job, how to be a responsible parent, etc.) where I think we have missed our opportunity in creating real transformational change in the lives of people who are struggling is that we have not focused on the why. If the why (why should I get a job, why should I be a responsible parent) is important enough people will want to do the how.
The approach of the Man Class© is to focus on the why. I believe it is impossible to be a good parent, a good husband, or a good employee if you do not understand the qualities of being a good man and that is where we focus. We build on the foundation of redefining manhood and understanding the difference between being a male and being a man. We do this through a 12 lesson copyrighted curriculum developed by myself, consulting with a group of psychologists from UMKC. We focus on the principles of manhood, dress code and discipline, overcoming obstacles and problem solving. Because we use the experiential learning model we also focus on team building and group norms which are developed and enforced by the group. At the end of the process our men are motivated and ready to reengage back into their families, neighborhoods, and communities. They realize they have taken from their communities and are now ready to give back what they have taken.
Three areas of focus that I think differentiates our program from the others is our emphasis on volunteerism and mentoring.
Volunteerism: We strongly encourage our participants to volunteer at other non-profit organizations, hospitals, and neighborhood groups. We believe this serves a dual purpose in that it allows our men to begin to reestablish strong work habits and work ethics and it also allows them to audition for potential employers. As part of giving back to their communities we stress an attitude of what can I give back to the community versus what can I get from the community. Many of the men we work with have sporadic work histories or may be reentering society from incarceration and require retraining in the workplace environment.
Mentoring: As part of their participation in the program we expect each participant to have a mentor, the mentor should be someone from the community that exhibits the characteristics they want to emulate. It is vital to their success to have a role-model. Research has shown that the lack of positive role-models has been detrimental to the success of children in these urban communities. We learn by watching others demonstrate those qualities of perseverance, responsibility, and respect of others.
Ongoing Support: After completing the program we provide the men with ongoing support services through a men’s support group that meets weekly. Many of these men have received some sort of trauma and because of how we socialize boys they have not been allowed to address those sources of trauma. The support group provides a healing environment where they can discuss these issues without judgment or condemnation. The support group also allows us to continue walk alongside these men as they make the transition back into responsible manhood allowing them to bring issues they may be having with maintaining employment or family issues. Too often as organizations when our programs are complete we just send our participants back into the negative environments they come without further contact or support. This we believe is a recipe for failure because research shows that these populations require a longer term involvement to maintain success. The support group and the ongoing support provide that continuum of care which is vital to their long-term success and transformation.
The Man Class© provides our participants with 12 life lessons or values that a father would teach a son. Men and women parent differently and with the absence of so many men in our community the influence of the male has gone missing. The 12 lessons The Man Class© hopes to impart are:
- Class 1 – Rocking the Foundation
- Class 2 – Dress Code & Discipline
- Class 3 – Why Am I Angry?
- Class 4 – We Learn by Watching
- Class 5 – Self-Destruction & Personality
- Class 6 – Interpersonal Communication
- Class 7 – Cognitive Skills
- Class 8 – Overcoming Obstacles
- Class 9 – Organizational Skills
- Lesson 10 – Financial Literacy
- Lesson 11 – Breaking the Cycle
- Lesson 12 – Personal Life Skills
We hope to provide untrained men with the skills they need to become life long partners in their children’s lives and to help train our young men to become more accountable. The “Man Class”© is the beginning of that process.