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Preparing Teachers for the Urban Classroom

How can new teachers be prepared for the challenges of the urban classroom? College professor Dave Weiss, who taught for more than 30 years in Chicago, offers some personal suggestions in this week's Pulse blog post.
Some school districts have already instituted a one-year student teaching program. This allows the novice to experience the practicalities of beginning the first day of school and the end of the school year. This would be an excellent program if instituted throughout all schools of education.

I would also suggest a change in the methodology of teacher training courses. Recognizing that theory is essential for a foundation of professionalism for every educator, schools of education should institute differentiated staffing in the structure of their faculties. By this I mean that along with professors of education, the faculty should also consist of instructors who have had many years of experience teaching in urban school systems. The lack of a doctorate should not be an impediment to staffing a few classes in teacher education.

I would argue that teachers who have been in the classroom for a number of years, and have received superior ratings from their administrators and other commendations, would be invaluable to any teacher training faculty. This would be the best of all possible worlds where scholarship and practical experience can collaborate and truly prepare the students to become excellent teachers.

I would also propose one more suggestion. A program could be designed which would allow education professors to leave the confines of the university and spend time actually teaching in an urban school. I believe that this would be an invaluable experience for both the professors and the students they teach. This would allow professors to apply and field test the various theories they teach and see if they are truly compatible in an urban classroom.

I would like to conclude by using other professional training as a model. Law school classes are staffed by working attorneys and medical school faculties use practicing physicians. The same can be said of accounting and numerous other professional training institutions. Why should education faculties be different? I would like to suggest that readers of this article refer to Arthur Levines comprehensive and excellent study, Educating School Teachers, which is available on line.
Dave Weiss is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the College of Education. He spent 36 years teaching in the Chicago Public School System where his tenure included middle school through high school.

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