Describe your preparation for teaching in urban schools
There are numerous opportunities for Illinois State teacher education students to learn how to teach in urban and other high-need schools. Some of these are built into required courses and others are available through electives, clinical experiences, or co-curricular activities. The purpose of this strategy is to assist Illinois State University students, who are preparing to be teachers in urban schools to describe your preparation and experiences to impress potential employers. The goal of the process described below is to provide you with a mechanism to document and articulate your preparation for urban teaching and to transform that preparation into reflective and exemplary practice.
The recognition process
Your transcript will not reflect all of the experiences you have elected during your teacher preparation program nor will it provide a description of the impact of these experiences on your practice. Therefore, it is recommended that you document and prepare a reflective analysis of these experiences to use as part of your letter of application and/or interviews for a teaching position.
Part I: Experiences
First, keep a cumulative summary of the things you do to prepare yourself for urban teaching. It need not be a detailed description of every experience, but rather a well organized list with talking points to effectively communicate the types of experiences you have completed. This part of the analysis should be framed around the following concepts:
- Urban teacher preparation (UTP) meets the requirements and expectations of all teacher education programs at Illinois State, including 50 hours of diverse clinical experiences.
- UTP exceeds these requirements and expectations by taking advantage of elective urban education classes and co-curricular experiences (e.g., UTP-related student organizations, UTP-tagged courses and field experiences, the Urban Studies Minor, the Civic Engagement Minor, the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline™ summer STEP-UP program, and/or urban student teaching).
- Students prepared for urban teaching demonstrate a wide and deep understanding of UTP knowledge, skills, and dispositions that they are able to articulate to prospective employers.
Part II: Critical Reflection
Second, write an essay or set of talking points to describe how those experiences have impacted you. The goal is to reveal your ability to apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that you developed through these experiences to the classroom and school community that you intend to join. Your analysis may include specifics related to the following points as appropriate for you:
- The ways Illinois and U.S. schools and communities are socially, economically, politically, culturally, historically, and geographically situated and related.
- How you have worked and will work with racially, ethnically, economically, and linguistically diverse children in urban schools and neighborhoods.
- The ways that your teaching begins with seeing each child, fully and fairly, as a multi-dimensional being, an individual with a unique history, hopes, and dreams—a child of promise and possibility.
- The methods through which you value students' cultures and lived experiences—and make space for these in your classroom and curriculum—and espouse the crucial importance of subject-area expertise as well.
- Your ability to question stereotypical views of city kids, families, and neighborhoods, and to see and tap the assets of urban communities rather than only seeing deficits.
- The ways you employ electronic technology, the principle of Universal Design for Learning, differentiated instruction, and special education, literacy, and reading comprehension strategies to nurture identities of achievement in all students (including LEP students).
- Your openness to examine the ways that your own racial, ethnic, cultural, class, religious, sexual, linguistic, and political identities—including your own economic or social privileges and/or disadvantages—have shaped your perspective and educational practice.
- Your desire and capacity to analyze and critique the sources of economic, racial, gender, and linguistic inequity within schools and communities, and to understand how these factors influence students' lived experiences within and outside the classroom in ways that inform your teaching practice and relationships.
- Your willingness to explore with colleagues whether and how educators can be part of social movements that seek to overcome racial, economic, and linguistic barriers and inequities.
- Your focus on urban schools with interest in collaborating with other educators who attend to the related social justice needs of rural, small town, and suburban schools.
Urban education historically referred to schools in metropolitan communities that typically shared the following characteristics: large enrollments and complexity, students representing many ethnic groups and multiple languages and cultures, and large concentrations of economically disadvantaged families.
These realities are no longer unique to large city public school systems. Many of these same issues challenge suburban and rural schools—though they may not be present to the same degree. To broaden the definition, schools of need, which were historically in urban settings, are no longer bound by city limits but meet some or many of these criteria:
- The school has a high proportion of students from low-income families.
- The school has a high proportion of students of color.
- The school has a high proportion of students who are Limited English Proficient.
- The school has been designated by state or national definition as "high need," "hard to staff," or "under-resourced."
All Illinois State teacher candidates are expected to complete a minimum of 100 hours of field experiences, at least half (50) of which must be in diverse settings. Illinois State's Council for Teacher Education (CTE) has defined a "diverse" setting as one that meets or exceeds enrollment in at least two of four categories:
- 10% English Language Learners
- 20% Students of Color
- 20% Students from low income families
- Presence of students with disabilities
The minimum 50 hours can be exceeded through elective and co-curricular clinical experiences. This diversity requirement is being phased in over a few semesters starting in Fall 2009.
In addition to required field experiences, teacher education candidates complete required general education or teacher education courses that address many of the characteristics for teaching in urban schools. Candidates often elect to take additional courses and participate in co-curricular experiences related to urban issues.
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