Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Weaving Teacher Education into the Fabric of Urban Schools and Communities

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Weaving Teacher Education into the Fabric of Urban Schools and Communities

Article excerpt

Urban schools and communities face numerous challenges: Urban poverty; high mobility and displacement in and out of neighborhoods; inadequate funding to adequately cover the educational, social, and health needs of children and their families; and high teacher turnover are just a few examples. Too often, schools and teachers are inadequately prepared for the social, political, and economic conditions impacting the lives of their urban students, families, and communities. This is because, as Keyes and Gregg (2001) explain, "while an urban school is located in a community, it is not often of the community. Employees are rarely neighborhood residents. Many do not share the culture or race of their students" (p. 32). Koerner and Abdul-Tawwab (2006) add that "Most teachers in urban classrooms ... often teach in communities that they have never previously even visited" (p. 37).

Clearly, a greater effort must be made to ensure that future teachers in urban areas learn to see themselves as part of a school's community. Indeed, such a movement has begun, as Murrell (2001) documents.

A key component of the new national agenda is collaboration among institutions of higher education, the K-12 schools they work with, and a broad community constituency. The success of urban school reform will depend, in part, on how the university, to learn, not that teachers, pre-service teachers, and teacher educators go into the community to learn. However, a growing set of literature is defining communities in terms of their assets, or the term used here, their strengths. Theories of community strengths urge teachers to go into the community, meeting and partnering with community members and agencies, to learn about the important community strengths that can then be utilized in a more culturally relevant education.

Funds of Knowledge

The concept "funds of knowledge," introduced by Moll, Amanti, Neff, and Gonzalez (1992), refers to the sets of cultural and strategic knowledge and skills found within a particular community. Moll et al. (1992) describe funds of knowledge as a family's "development and exchange of resources--including knowledge, skills, and labor--that enhance the households' ability to survive or thrive" (p. 73). Funds of knowledge can include such cultural components as language and traditions, or can include the strategic network of relationships established within and outside the family and community. This community knowledge often does not coincide with the types of knowledge valued in the educational system, but when a teacher takes the time to learn and recognize a community's funds of knowledge, that set of cultural and strategic skills, she can more effectively draw on those to create a culturally relevant classroom (Ladson-Billings, 2006).

Community Cultural Wealth

In a similar fashion, Yosso (2005) developed the concept of "community cultural wealth," which "focuses on and learns from the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged" (Yosso, 2005, p. 69). Yosso (2005) details six types of "capital" held by members of marginalized communities.

1. "Aspirational capital"--"the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future, even in the face of real and perceived barriers" (Yosso, 2005, p. 77), also known as resiliency.

2. "Linguistic capital"--"the intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style." (Yosso, 2005, p. 78)

3. "Familial capital"--"those cultural knowledges nurtured among familia (kin) that carry a sense of community history, memory and cultural intuition." (Yosso, p. 79)

4. "Social capital"--"networks of people and community resources. These peer and other social contacts can provide both instrumental and emotional support to navigate through society's institutions. …

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