Hollywood has shaped how people often think about urban teaching jobs. Movies like Blackboard Jungle, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, and even Sister Act II show students who struggle with drugs, gangs, and anti-social behavior. The movies show a teacher who comes in, cares about the students, and changes their lives. The reality is that urban teaching is tough. Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and funding and support is low. Before taking an urban teaching job, here are 6 things that you should know.
Respect Is Key
Mutual respect is required for learning to take place. If you want to share information with students, you need to have their respect. Oftentimes students in urban schools won’t just respect you because you’re their teacher; you need to earn that respect by showing them respect. Once you’ve created a safe environment where students feel respected and valued, then you can share knowledge with students to help them learn.
In many urban school settings, teachers feel the need to be an authoritarian in the classroom. They think that this will help with classroom management issues. However, part of treating your students with respect involves offering them choices. You need to show them that you trust them enough to choose what they want to do on their own. Let students feel responsible for their own education.
Students Need to Learn How to Think
Sure, you can spend your time teaching facts to your students. However, if you want them to gain the most from their education, you need to teach them how to think rather than just what to think about. Teach students the thought process used to come to their own conclusions. Also, encourage them to read and discover truths for themselves.
Provide Real-World Applications
Teachers who’ve worked in urban school settings often find that there are lots of students who don’t want to be in school. These students would rather learn a vocation, but they’re legally forced to attend school. Because of this, many of these students don’t understand the purpose of their schoolwork. How can it help them outside of school?
To help students understand the importance, teachers need to create assignments that are authentic. Help students understand the real-world applications. For example, you could have students practice writing letters and then actually send them. Make learning valuable to your students by showing them how it can help them outside of school.
Don’t Underestimate Your Students
Statistics show that urban schools have low test scores and low graduation rates. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should have low expectations for your students. Students are going to rise to your expectations. If your expectations are low, you’ll probably spend a lot of time dealing with behavior problems stemming from their boredom. Challenge your students! Let them know that you believe in them. Raise your expectations, and watch as students work to meet them.
Urban schools tend to be a melting pot of different backgrounds. Some teachers choose to ignore the linguistic, cultural, and racial differences of their students. In the end, this can come off just as discriminatory. It’s better to recognize the differences. Look for ways to get to know your students. Use lessons to help students deal with issues in the community. To learn what those issues are, don’t be afraid to invite guest speakers from the community or attend churches and community events.
Urban teaching jobs have many pros and cons. If you’re up for the challenge, it can be a very rewarding experience. Remember these tips and move forward with a determination to do your best.