Thursday, June 5, 2008

Preparing Teachers for “Monday Morning”

I thought that this article provided some interesting points especially the statements of educators learning more themselves and having a positive attitude towards urban education in order to be able to pass on or instruct future teachers about urban education and about the potential of their students. How can educators prepare future teachers in a field they themselves are unfamiliar with? How can they show teachers the values, benefits, the richness of urban schools when most of them are unaware that these exist?
An interesting fact that I had not noticed was the article’s pointing out that these urban areas that already receive less money because of devaluing of property, families of lower income and deterioration, are the homes of universities, hospitals and museums, none of which pay taxes. In other words they are valuable resources to have but unfortunately they contribute to the cycle of low investment in the schools. Even more disturbing is the article’s statement that although these places are in urban areas, many urban students may never enjoy any of them nor will they attend these universities as students but rather as low-skilled workers. It is no wonder that stereotypes about urban education and students are so difficult to break.
As we have learned in class, there are many preconceived notions about urban education, many myths, but also many realities, not pertinent to all urban communities but present in many of them. The article highlights the lack of resources, of materials to teach, of a proper gym, of air conditioners, of textbooks; as well as the difficulties students may be facing such as racial or cultural discrimination, health issues such as HIV and most predominantly poverty levels, sometimes with no roof over their heads. In the face of all of these challenges, the article’s response about what can the teachers change struck me as realistic and worth pondering: “Our only recourse is to change ourselves: our preconceived (conscious or unconscious) derogatory perceptions about our students and, most important, our will to effectively educate our students.”*
As I had mentioned before I am a believer that one person can make a difference and as such by throwing away wrongful perceptions and by placing responsibility and high standards as goals for these students, educators are making them aware that they too can accomplish their own goals, they have a future and the teachers are there to help them on their way. Educators should provide examples of pedagogy strategies that prospective teachers can use with their students. These models may or may not work for all classes or for any class, but at least they are possibilities, ideas.
According to statistics the majority of teachers are white females, that is not surprising given the culture of the country, but what was surprising and very disturbing to read is the fact that a great majority of these teachers are unfamiliar and worst unaware of the diversity in the US and ultimately in the schools and classrooms where they will be teaching. True that statement seems far-fetched to me, as an immigrant, and as someone living in the East Coast, most specifically in the Tri-state area, but I would not doubt that this is true in other areas of the US where the immigration trend has not expanded as much to the proportion it is here.
*Jennifer E. Obidah and Tyrone C. Howard "Preparing Teachers for 'Monday Morning' in the Urban School Classroom: Reflecting on Our Pedagogies and Practices as Effective Teacher Educators" (2005, Journal of Teacher Education, 56, p. 251)

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