Monday, February 2, 2009

Thinking about teaching in urban communities

Let's face it, no matter where you choose to teach, the work of teaching and learning is HARD. Too many people think that they will become teachers because of the "short work day and summers off". Too bad that the short work day is merely the time you have contractually have to spend at school, and there are few teachers I know who actually don't work over the summer. But, it's a belief about being a teacher that persists.

When I think about what people believe about working in urban schools, in particular, I am often struck by the number of people who tell me what my experiences must have been like, even though they have never set foot in any school other than as a students. Take for instance, Mr. Edubabbler, who one day told me how to fix all urban schools: the man who has never worked or been a student in an urban school, who attended private schools lost of his life. He's lucky he survived that discussion. But, here are the highlights shared with me by people who have never set foot in an urban school:

1. The students need more discipline. Schools should be run like military academies.
2. Teach only the ones who want to be there. The rest can go for job training.
3. Force the parents to come to school.
4. Use more classroom management and discipline.
5. Get better teachers.
6. Get rid of the "bad" students.
7. Hire better principals.

And so it goes. What amazes me about most of the items on this list is that the focus is internal to schools, as if they have nothing to do with the societies or communities in which they exist. And of course, I have to ask where some of these ideas come from...

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