Teaching Teachers: Lisa Delpit Offers Solutions for Connecting with a Global Classroom

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Teaching Teachers: Lisa Delpit Offers Solutions for Connecting with a. Global Classroom

DUNDALK, MD -- She is the voice of hope for those children who are left out, neglected or misunderstood. As an educator and internationally-known speaker and writer, Dr. Lisa D. Delpit has traveled extensively from America's urban and suburban schools to rural Alaska, Papua New Guinea and Fiji to conduct studies and find answers to the dilemmas facing underserved students of color.

In New Guinea, she was entrusted with three little girls to care for by villagers who wanted her to have an up-close and personal perspective on their children and the education they were receiving.

Delpit is currently the Benjamin E. Mays chairholder at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where she is setting up an aptly-named Center for Urban Education Excellence. She was named the MacArthur Fellow for Outstanding Contributions to Education in 1993 by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which hailed her as a "visionary scholar and a woman of courage."

Delpit's work has focused on the education of children of color and the perspectives, aspirations and pedagogical knowledge of teachers of color.

She has served as site coordinator for the Urban Sites Writing Network and senior research associate at the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. Delpit also served as coordinator of the Teacher Education program at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

The Teachers' Teacher

Recently, she led a dialogue on diversity at Dundalk Community College, where some 100 researchers, educators and students heard excerpts from her most recent book, "Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom." The book focuses on the issue of cultural conflict in the classroom. The program was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Project Prime, in order to introduce teaching as a career option to middle and high school students in Baltimore.

A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Delpit describes her early education as one of feeling "unwelcome" as one of the first group of students integrating Catholic schools in her area.

Even as an undergraduate student at Ohio's Antioch College in the early 1970s, she recalls being one of only a handful of African Americans. She still remembers the strong feeling of isolation she experienced during that period.

In 1977, Delpit returned to Louisiana to supervise the Title I (now Chapter I) program at the State Department of Education. It was there that she was bombarded with calls from teachers and parents seeking answers to improving education for students of color. Those calls and her work in aiding teachers led her to seek out answers at Harvard, where she earned a master's in reading and language development in 1980, and an Ed.D. from the department of teaching, curriculum and learning environments.

According to Delpit, one of the most pressing problems in education is the need to recruit more African Americans into teaching. Since great numbers of prospects are choosing other, more lucrative fields, she recommends that they be recruited heavily mid-career, when many are seeking a career change.

Increasingly, white teachers are teaching in classrooms with students of different cultural backgrounds, but Delpit reports that many are poorly prepared to handle the challenge.

"Many of them learn to teach in the inner city for about two years, then return to the suburbs," she said. "The instruction part is a tough problem. …