by Claire Miller
The term “urban schools” can conjure negative images from movies where directors focus on the perceived problems of urban schools, students, families and teachers.
But rather than looking at an urban classroom in these terms, College of Education Clinical Assistant Professor Alyssa Hadley Dunn wants educators to see students’ potential.
Dunn’s new book, entitled Urban Teaching in America: Theory, Research and Practice in K-12 Classrooms, highlights topics relevant to urban educators and shows how to put theory into practice in the classroom.
“There’s a great need for high-quality teachers in urban schools because traditionally, there has been a lot of turnover in these schools, and urban students need and deserve the very best teachers,” she said. “We framed our conversation around an asset perspective, so we don’t see students in urban schools as coming with problems – we see instead their inherent gifts and funds of knowledge.”
Dunn and co-authors Andrea J. Stairs, assistant professor at the University of Southern Maine, and Kelly A. Donnell, associate professor at Roger Williams University, organized the book into chapters that correspond to eight central issues that urban educators should consider: students’ innate resources, positive learning environments, culturally responsive pedagogy, English language learners, inquiry, teaching to the standards without standardization, school bureaucracy and social justice.
The authors offer current research and theories on each of these topics, as well as examples of how current teachers apply this information to their teaching – including testimonies from and anecdotes about four COE alumni: Stephanie Reiss, Virginia Stephenson, Aileen Zeigler and Andrea Eifrid Avery.
“We wanted to show that real teachers can and do theory and research every day, and each chapter features accounts of teachers who are doing that in their classrooms today,” Dunn said. “The people we asked to contribute share a commitment to social justice in education. They are best in their field and they embody what urban teachers should be.”
Dunn hopes that readers see that theory and research don’t have to be disconnected from teaching practice – particularly in an urban context.
“We need to think critically about what it truly means to be a teacher,” she said. “You can’t just walk into a classroom with content knowledge – you have to think about how to teach it and how to connect with your students.”
For more information about the book, click here.