What really attracts teachers to urban settings?

FacingHistoryUrbanEd.previewBy Gabrielle Gray — Schools in urban settings often have to address a wide range of social issues — including but not limited to — poverty, cultural diversity, social stratification, language barriers, and violence.

In addition to the challenge of teaching students and preparing them for future success, teachers in urban settings also have to be able to identify barriers that may hinder a student from achieving to his or her highest potential.

So why would a teacher want to enter an urban school district?

The Institute of Education Services estimates that currently, there are roughly 7.2 million teachers in the United States. 80% of who are female; 1 in 5 who are in their twenties, and 1 in 3 teachers are over 50 (nces.ed.gov).

Who are these teachers and what values are essential to the core of their missions?

According to Wright (1981), students that attend urban schools require a special type of teacher that has a genuine respect for children and their families, who actually believe they all students can learn if properly taught, and one who understand or attempt to understand the different cultures from which children come from. Such a teacher would have to also be willing to invest each student on the basis of an equal educational opportunity, supporting diversity and language education, addressing issues of poverty and social stratification.

With the challenges that exist in urban schools, where is the pull factor that draws in teachers each year?

The problems that many urban schools face are only further exacerbated by teachers that attempt to do what they believe to be their ‘social duty,’ instead of focusing on what really matters- the students. Are the pull factors into urban teaching a genuine commitment to educating youth, a dedication to social justice, or a desire to ‘fix the broken children’ of our society under a deficit theory approach and missionary ideology?

Before you walk into your classroom, I challenge you to ask yourself:  Why am I here, and what purpose do I serve? Is it for my own satisfaction, or do I truly believe that each student deserves a quality education?

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