What about picking future teachers for urban classrooms?
Third in the series Raising Teachers
We know that naturally great teachers are enthusiastic, believe they can make a difference, and are fair and respectful. But what about great urban teachers? Are there additional factors that great urban teachers possess, and can we begin to identify and select the next generation of great urban teachers from today’s high school students?
Recent research has linked not only pedagogical and content knowledge, but also certain attributes and background with effective urban teaching. Successful urban teachers have a strong knowledge base about teaching students from poverty, but research has also shown that a set of background factors is predictive of what kind of people will be effective in high-poverty, diverse school settings. These include people who:
- Live in or were raised in urban settings
Attended schools in metropolitan areas
Are African American, Latino, or members of a minority group, or are from a working-class white family
Earned a bachelor’s degree from a state college, many starting in community colleges
Are part of a family, church, or ethnic community in which teaching is regarded as a high-status career
Have experienced a period of living in poverty or have the capacity to empathize with the challenges of living in poverty
Live in the city
Have engaged in activities with diverse children in poverty
We know that it’s certainly more than just background factors that make a great urban teacher. Successful urban teachers possess a strong desire to help at-risk students. Many see urban teaching as fulfilling a sense of duty and giving back to the greater good. They are aware of their own personal beliefs and philosophies, they have clear expectations and a belief that all children can learn regardless of the environment, and they are determined to modify their teaching practices to ensure that all students do learn (Gehrke, 2005). These talented teachers solve problems through persistent yet flexible avenues, work with a sense of urgency, understand the power of collaborations, are cooperative, and have a love of lifelong learning (Stotko, Ingram, & Beaty-O’Ferrall, 2007).
A study conducted in 2005 found that 61% of beginning public school teachers first taught in schools located within 15 miles of their hometown, and 85% entered teaching within 40 miles of their hometown. An amazing 88% of teachers whose hometown was in an urban district entered the teaching profession in an urban district.
It’s clear that great urban teachers, who are enthusiastic about staying in urban classrooms for the duration of their careers, may very well be graduates of an urban school.
A clear and thoughtful ‘grow-your-own’ urban teacher program, established in current urban high schools in partnership with local state colleges or community colleges, may be a very viable solution to staffing urban schools with outstanding urban teachers. Those future educators should experience the joys, rewards, and challenges of urban teaching in their precollegiate years, while they examine and assess their own personal dispositions and backgrounds.
Partnerships between the urban district and local colleges of education will pave the transition to collegiate life and complete the circle, turning the precollegiate future educators into promising new teachers who have the background factors, skills, content knowledge, dispositions, and clear expectations of what teaching is like in the urban school district, increasing the likelihood they will stay.
Previous post in this series: How do we know which students to pick?