Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Unification of Church and State: Working Together to Prepare Teachers for Diverse Classrooms

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Unification of Church and State: Working Together to Prepare Teachers for Diverse Classrooms

Article excerpt

The incongruity between a largely White teacher education population and an increasingly diverse public school population poses significant and urgent questions regarding how to help prospective teachers toward multicultural competency. What kinds of experiences do these future teachers need to become exemplary teachers for children whose backgrounds will differ markedly from their own? Teacher education programs have responded to this question in different ways, ranging from multicultural coursework to fieldwork placements in urban schools, with more or less success (Melnick & Zeichner, 1998).

Such efforts might be part of the solution, but they do not address what we see as the issue fundamental to this problem: Although we live in a diverse society, many of us, and especially Whites, live monocultural lives. It is our belief that effective multicultural teacher education must begin with the recognition of a divided and segregated society in which it is common for people to live out their lives in communities with people who look, act, and talk like them and in which people rarely develop significant and enduring relationships across ethnic and socioeconomic lines. This condition is often mirrored in teacher education programs, where it is not unusual for a largely White teacher education faculty to be teaching White students about how to best teach children of color (Ducharme & Agne, 1989; Villegas, 1993). Given this social context, it is imperative that universities and colleges recognize that they cannot prepare multiculturally competent teachers without help. Communities can and must become integral partners in this effort.

We describe an evolving partnership between a large African American Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, and a teacher education program at The Ohio State University (OSU). More specifically, we focus on the nature of our partnership, the commitments we have to building a mutually beneficial relationship, and the challenges and promises in nurturing trust and attempting reciprocity. We conclude with a description of an "equal-status" internship intended to provide our students with the experience they need to begin to develop socioculturally relevant pedagogies.

Urban School Failure and the Preparation of Teachers

The failure of urban schools to support students of color is widespread and worsening. This failure is evident in the achievement gap between White students and students of color (Stevens, 1996), in low achievement (Holt, 1992), and in high dropout rates (Lomotey, 1990). Although this failure is embedded within the historical and contemporary political and economic inequities of the larger society (Anyon, 1980; Apple, 1996; Aronowitz & Giroux, 1985; Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Lewis, 1978), schools are implicated within this system. The incongruity between an increasingly homogeneous, White, female, working- or middle-class teaching force and an increasingly ethnically and economically diverse student population, in particular, plays an important role (Grant, 1989, 1993; Greenleaf, 1994). For example, the urban center within which we are located hired more than 600 new teachers for the 1998-1999 school year who were predominantly White, female, and middle class. The city, however, like other large urban districts, has a diverse student population. More than half of the children attending city schools are African American. These new teachers, if similar to their colleagues across the nation, have had little experience with sociocultural diversity (Howey & Zimpher, 1990).

The need to prepare teachers capable of enacting culturally relevant pedagogies has been well established (Delpit, 1995; Hale-Benson, 1986; Hilliard, 1992; Irvine & York, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Lomotey, 1990; Tate, 1995), and many teacher educators have been involved in an ongoing struggle to identify the experiences that will support powerful teachers for diverse learners. …

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