19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

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

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Why Teach in Urban
Settings?

Joe L. Kincheloe

Derrick Griffith

Kecia Hayes

John Pascarella

One of the key questions that should be asked in a book of inquiries about urban education involves why one would want to teach in urban schools. If urban education is faced with a perpetual crisis, is represented in the media as a gangsta paradise, is characterized by dramatic economic disparity with deteriorating neighborhoods, and is destined to limp along without a guiding vision, then why get involved in such a concrete briar patch? The answer to such a question by many prospective teachers is a resounding “It's not for me—see you in the suburbs.” But there are many, of course, who take up the challenges. Why do they do it? What do they have to teach individuals pondering a career in urban education? Derrick Griffith, Kecia Hayes, and John Pascarella represent the best of the professionals who choose a career in urban education. Like urban students and urban teachers in general, they are different from one another on many levels and in their diversity present divergent reasons for becoming urban teachers. Their responses to the above question constitute this chapter.

A key premise of this book is the belief that teacher educators should be brutally honest with those contemplating going into urban teaching. No punches should be pulled, and no harsh reality should be sugar-coated for the uninitiated. Urban teaching is hard work, with some days unavoidably running over fourteen or fifteen hours, teaching loads characterized by more than 160 students a day, and stacks of papers waiting for responses and grades. And all of this work for about $15 an hour—the salary of a manager at McDonald's. Urban teachers can't help but think about this comparison as they eye the Devil's Tower of student papers litter

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