19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

Who Are Our Urban
Students and What Makes
Them So “Different”?

Rebecca A. Goldstein

A simple question, yet answering it can prove to be anything but easy. It requires delving into aspects of American society that few people are truly comfortable confronting, because exploring such questions requires us to consider other, linked, and equally important questions: With whom are we comparing our urban students? Who are our urban students not? What makes these questions so difficult for many students of teaching—indeed, what makes them difficult for teachers—is the fact that answering such questions requires us to come face to face with our assumptions about “American” society, teachers, students, families, and communities, particularly those that are urban. We must push beyond our initial understandings, to tease apart what we know, or think we know, about what it means to be urban. We must question the very definition of urban itself.

The purpose of the following discussion is to consider what we know versus what we think we know about our urban students, using the above questions as a general frame of reference. These questions are ones that I love to answer, because I take pleasure in letting people know that what they assume about urban schools and students is not always reality. When I first began to teach in Rochester, New York, I was very excited. I finally had the chance to put into practice all of the things that we had been talking about in my doctoral program at the University of Rochester. Teaching was an entirely new world to me. To watch students learn and to see how powerful they could be in their classrooms and in their immediate communities was a truly incredible experience. I craved the energy of teaching, especially the dynamic of working in an urban school with students from the communities in which such schools are located.

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