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Urban Education....The Trials and Tribulations
Urban Education and Why Its Important
Why I do What I Do
I teach and I inspire but my reach is far beyond that. As someone who teaches in an urban district it can be a day to day challenge doing what I do. You see, urban education is very different from rural and suburban education. Most of our students come to school unprepared to learn, unwilling to learn and without the needed tools to want to learn. We often have a high rate of economically disadvantaged students, students from one parent (and maybe even no parent) households, and most of all students who were never taught to appreciate a good education. I guess you could say that our students are often considered the throwaways of society. They are the students most likely to be headed for prison, involved in gangs, drug users, parents at an early age, runaways, drop outs, and juvenile delinquents.
After reading this I am sure you are beginning to question why I would even work in such an environment. That question is one that is often pondered by many but one that is also easily misunderstood. There are no accolades from the parents of the students we teach, we often struggle daily to reach our students in un-traditional ways and the rewards can be far and few in between. The sad reality is that we may never see the fruits of our labor realized through every single student we teach. So you may be asking, Then why do it? Get another teaching job.
My answer to you is I do it because I care. Although these students have been written off as the unwanted, I see in them something that many of them (and their parents) fail to see. Each and every student I work with has the potential to be great; The potential to inspire future students. Over the course of my 12 years in this field I have learned many things and of all those lessons the most important did not come from my teacher preparation courses. Instead, it came from my students.
I have learned that it takes a lot to change their perceptions on education and also their perceptions about the world in general. Many of my students have low self esteem and as a result give up way too early. They are not bad, they are not purposely malicious. What they are is distrusting of the world around them. Somewhere in their life (most likely at a very early age) someone gave up on them. Someone failed to take an interest in them and thus they gave up on themselves. Therefore, I made it my mission to change that perception and encourage them to go on, despite the challenges they faced.
I could go on and on about what urban education is and what it is not but I would much rather give you accounts of my reach. In one of the first few years of my teaching career I encountered a young man who was addicted to drugs, depressed and just generally lost. This particular young man was a challenge and many were quickly willing to write him off. However, I saw something in him that inspired me to help him turn his situation around. There were many conversations with him about his life and many tears that followed. He felt lost, he felt it was hopeless but above all he had given up. In my eyes, this was not acceptable. It took almost two years of working with him to finally see a change in him and a fire in his eyes. Fast forward to a few years later and this same young man is now drug free, attended church and working as a certified nursing assistant.
He could have easily written off like so many others but the point of this story is to illustrate that they can learn and want to learn but we need to give them that chance. Like him, I have had many others with similar situations who were ready to give up and at times they did. However, I stepped out of my teaching zone and gave them the encouragement that often is realized through a parent. This is why I teach in an urban setting.