1. What were your expectations for this class? What did you hope to learn? What did you learn?
To be honest I registered for this class because it was a requirement in the program. I went to an urban elementary school for two years then on to the first year in high school, both in Newark. I had good experiences in both schools, that is to say, I like most of my teachers who had a positive attitude towards students, believed in us and pushed us to the limit always saying that we could do anything we wanted to. I won’t say that all of them had this attitude, unfortunately a few did not and actually told us that they saw no point in our continuing to go to school since most of us would not amount to anything. Take these so-called teachers and combine them with the Hollywood depictions of urban schooling and you have a nice ugly picture, but again Hollywood is Hollywood, it is making money, selling to the masses, and the masses like to think of themselves as correct and the worst the picture, the better. So when I entered a course on urban education I had actually expected it to show those schools that was most in need. I was actually delighted that after all the incorrect assumptions and readings, the class had a chance to see urban schools, much like the ones I attended, that did work, that had caring professionals.
I hoped to learn more about teaching in general and also about techniques or methods that work more effectively in an urban setting. I did learn quite a bit. Mostly I learned about how people’s misconceptions and about the politics of education which like all politics serve to push forward only those on the inside, while leaving those most in needs, our children, where they were originally – still in need.
2. What was your biggest personal challenge in terms of the themes and content of this course? What was your greatest accomplishment?
I don’t know that it was my biggest but certainly one of the main challenges was to keep a blog for the class, where I could put my reactions and opinions and where not only the teacher, but also all of my colleagues could read and give me feedback. I was very self-conscious and apprehensive in the beginning, but found it really rewarding and an excellent experience overall. It was great to receive comments regardless of them being positive or negative, because it made me reconsider my thoughts, and my writing. It did not necessarily make me change my mind, but it opened me up to a bigger picture, especially after reading some of the other blogs. I saw it as a great tool, one I intend to keep using it for my future educational classes and possibly into my teaching career. I also hope to have an opportunity to demonstrate this to my students and invite to share the experiences in a closed setting within the school or classroom only.
My greatest accomplishment was learning the methods and techniques that can be used by any teacher, not just in urban education. By that I mean that I saw my initial assumptions about a good teacher materialize, namely if you want to be a good teacher, you have to care about your students, your subject, your methods, you have to give more of yourself not just expect students to step up to expectations. Learning like trust works both ways, you have to give in order to receive and having students want to learn is something you earn not something you can force. I would also say that coming up with a website focused on urban education and on our subjects was one of the biggest accomplishments so far in my studies as well. It was a great opportunity to work in groups, to gather material and to learn from the entire class about different subjects within the urban setting.
3. Based upon what you’ve experienced this semester, what do you think are the most important skills, knowledge, and dispositions that teachers need to develop if they plan to work in urban schools? Where are you on this journey? Even if you have decided urban teaching is not for you, what will you bring with you as a teacher?
I think the most important skill / disposition for an urban teacher is the knowledge, belief and drive to make urban students as successful as any student. Urban teachers need to know and be prepared for entering a different environment, but above all they must be open to embrace the diversity in all senses of the word among their students. As mentioned several times in our classroom, the teacher must teach, he/she must leave behind the bureaucracy, the paperwork, the impediments that pop up wherever he/she turns, and teach with his/her heart and soul, believing that the children are capable of learning and doing / exercising any profession they choose.
I think that I am on the right course of the journey, but not yet fully ready. I have learned about urban education, have experienced it first hand as a student, have also had experience as a suburban student, but now I think that what is missing is a “how to course,” where I can learn to develop effective lesson planning. I am aware that different students learn in different ways, at different paces, but I would like to be exposed to different techniques, possible ideas, what doesn’t work, what could work, etc.
Though I attended an urban school, like the ones we visited, it was more or less the same inside and outside. To be frank, I haven’t yet decided if urban teaching is for me, sometimes I think it is, that I would like to be part of one of those schools and try to make a difference, push students, show them what they are capable of and may not be aware of. At other times, I am not sure, and my biggest fear on that is not being brave, strong enough to be there for them all the way (by them I mean ALL students). This will be a factor in any school and I am counting on my future courses, fieldwork and student teaching experiences to push in the right track.