Preparing Educators to Teach in Diverse, Urban Schools: Why this is Important

Preparing Educators to Teach in Diverse, Urban Schools: Why this is Important

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In this blog post, I want to discuss the importance of preparing individuals to teach in schools that serve majority students of color and/or low-income students.  The topic of the preparation of educators who want to teach in urban schools is a significant one and a topic that is often overlooked.  Society often discusses the problems that are happening in classrooms in regards to teachers and students of color, but we are not talking enough about how those teachers are initially prepared in terms of getting their professional license, their academic training, and the experiences that teacher candidates have before coming into the classroom.  There are several reasons why it’s important that we pay close attention to how teacher candidates are prepared prior to their first days of schools in diverse, urban settings:

  1. While the majority (about 85%) of public school students are children who are Black, Latino, and low-income, the majority of public school teachers (about 80%) are white, middle-class females.  Already, there is a strong, statistical misrepresentation between the cultural make-up of teachers and the students they serve.  I also want to say that this has not always been the case.  Prior to the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation ruling (1954), many Black students were taught by primarily Black teachers, but after this Brown ruling, those numbers drastically changed.  I’ll have to save this another for another blog post, because I have a lot of data and research to explain my position on the ruling of Brown and how it affected Black schools, teachers, and Black education overall.
  2. The preparation of teachers is also important because teacher candidates need to engage in a critical, academic space to reflect upon their stereotypes, assumptions, beliefs, and values that are already held about students of color.  This is important because we have to understand that schools are representative of society in general.  The ideas that teacher candidates have about Black males, for example, if not unchallenged and question by professors, mentors, etc. can have a large impact on how that particular teacher interacts with his/her Black male students, for example.  It is important that teacher educators and other professors/instructors in colleges and universities have transparent and open discussions about teacher candidates’ beliefs and views about race, class, language, and gender.
  3. Preparing teachers to teach in diverse, urban settings is also important because these candidates can learn and explore valuable instructional strategies and practices that can increase academic achievement for students of color.  Many teachers have a desire to work in diverse, urban settings not because they want to improve academic achievement and equity in urban schools, but because THEY NEED A JOB!  These teachers understand that in order to get their bills paid, they need to have a reliable source of income that will also give them some valuable work experience.  To say that a person has 4-5 years of work history in an “inner-city” school in Chicago, New York, or Detroit, for example, looks great on a resume.  However, when a teacher is solely driven by this desire and perspective alone, 9 times out of 10, this teacher is not willing to adopt culturally responsive teaching strategies that can actually alleviate students’ disconnect from their schooling environments.  It is important that teacher candidates understand and are willing to adopt empowering, research-based culturally responsive instructional strategies when teaching in diverse, urban schools.
  4. Lastly, teachers need to be better prepared with equity-based behavior and classroom management skills. This topic deserves another blog post entirely on its own, but I want to emphasize here that this is very important.  Many students of color are experiencing harsh, disrespectful, and totally inappropriate treatment from their White teachers.  This mistreatment often leads to higher suspension rates for students of color and higher placement in special education classrooms (this is particularly the case for Black males).  I also want to point out too that many Black girls are also experiencing high suspension/expulsion rates too just like their Black male counterparts.  I have had MANY Black students share with me the bogus, racist experiences they’ve had with their White teachers.  Everything from name-calling, to Black culture-bashing, to blame on the cultural environment of African-Americans.  This is an environment that children of color do not need to experience, nor does it propagate a healthy, culturally responsive learning environment for them.

 

I can go on and on about this topic, but I wanted to share my ideas on this particular matter.  In the next blog post, I will dive deeper into the 4th topic I presented today, which is about the effects of teachers’ mismanagement skills and students’ criminalizing experiences with suspension/detention and classroom management.  Feel free to comment to keep the discussion going!

Sincerely,
Dr. Karla Rose

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