Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the Promise of Urban Schools

I guess the first thing that came to mind as I was reading this article is that many people take for granted the differences among schools and education in general. It seems that it is assumed that all students should learn the same material, pass the same tests, meet the same standards,yet if we are to look at schools, urban schools as they said in the article, we will notice that this task becomes almost impossible in some areas. It is discouraging to enter into the field of education full of hope and ideas, and then encounter an article that shows the harsh realities we may be facing depending on where we will be teaching.Diversity exists everywhere. I personally see that as something valuable, something that can teach, provide a lesson in itself, instead of being ignored, run over or disregarded.
Unfortunately the article shows that often the population of urban schools is mostly minorities and lower income, students who are not appreciated, nor will have the opportunity that every student should have.Whenever we think of education, we think of homogeny, of everyone being on the same page, everyone being able to learn the same things at the same pace. Too often, people in general, and even educators forget about those that cannot keep up, because of where they are, their school, a learning disability, a lack of knowledge not only of content, but also of the English language. Though the latter is associated with immigration, it is not necessarily a rule. One of the sentences in this article that illustrated that was "all too many schools lack all-day kindergartens, reading resource teachers, science labs, small classes, art and music, state-of-the-art books and materials, culturally relevant curricula, and other important material and human resources for an enriched and engaging education." Senior Fellows in Urban Education "The Promise of Urban Schools" (2000, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, p.9) I thought the quote was a perfect example that many times it is neither the students nor the teacher's fault that they cannot pass a test or are not up to standards but the fault of the system, a system that is nowhere near perfect.

I kept thinking about Ron Clark, a North Carolina teacher who decided to teach in New York after watching a program about Urban schooling, the lack of teachers and the struggle of students in the poorest neighborhoods. Clark described driving by several schools and stopping at one where he saw a fight between a teacher and a student; he broke it apart, talked to the student then to the principal saying he wanted to teach there to try to make a difference. He won teacher of the year award and is currently traveling to research other schools in need of improvement as well as other teachers who have taken on an innovative approach.
As I read about innovative methods of teaching, of success not only in including the students in decision making and in reaching out to them in terms of responding and incorporating aspects of their daily life and interests; I recalled my readings of Ted Sizer's book Horace's School where he emphasizes that students should take part in decisions about their studies, in the creation and implementation of their curriculum. He also stressed the importance of having what he called exhibitions, basically interdisciplinary projects that would enable students to "show" what they had learned, apply the theories, and incorporate their creativity as well as critical thinking skills.

1 comment:

UrbanEveEdublogg said...

It IS such a shame that certain districts are living it up with the community's money for books, supplies, and materials... while others have next to nil available to them. As you said in your entry, it may be neither the teacher nor the student lacking effort or faculties, but the lack of resources. A sad reality.

How can we remedy this?