"You Got to Have a Heart of Stone to Work Here": Coaching, Teaching, and "Building Men" at Eastside High

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



This dissertation is the first study of this length to examine the ways adult African American men build community. It is also a new attempt to describe the pedagogical approaches these men use as educators, and to theorize how their life experiences and personal style impact their work in the classroom. The study centers on a group of African American football coaches, and expands from that critical site to the personal and professional lives of the educators on that staff.

Though Black men are often assumed to be emotionally inexpressive, I find that the coaches I work with expressed their most intimate emotion to select groups of trusted partners. These individuals actively built communities of love and support through processes of racial vetting and personal character evaluation, and took extended periods of time to develop close friendships. After reviewing the ways in which the social sciences have generally regarded Black males with varying degrees of contempt, fear and pity, I examine the ways the game of football and the "consensual violence" the football community fostered help build, rather than deconstruct, personal bonds. I use examples of roughhousing and interpersonal confrontation as ways to talk about how, contrary to much of the scholarship on violence in sports, aggression can lead to intimacy.

In similar fashion, the coach-educators of Eastside High approached teaching as an exercise underpinned by a need to be brutally honest, or "real," with their "kids." I found that these coaches were critical of their colleagues that insisted upon anything but honesty with students, and championed realistic expectations for students as a key to effective pedagogy. These educators also articulated the importance of engaging students from a communal perspective, particularly in an educational environment that at times can be openly hostile to "at risk" students. While these teachers and staff were often critical of youth culture in very specific ways, they also tried to create spaces for their students to express themselves, even in counter-cultural ways. Lastly, the coaches of Eastside High postulated teacher burnout as a pressing issue that should be at the center of considerations for educational reform. They argued that the testing regime had reduced their work as teachers to a numbers game, and insisted that the support of teachers should be central to systemic reform.





Gilmer, Micah C. (2009). "You Got to Have a Heart of Stone to Work Here": Coaching, Teaching, and "Building Men" at Eastside High. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/1210.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.