Through the appointment of its 8 selected Senior Fellows, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform has set out to create an ideal - or if you will, what they say are conceivable aspirations for urban schools. These "Great 8" have ironed out - and nicely I might add (tho not quite as good as my mom's ironing) - 5 different areas of focus.
Relevant questions are addressed throughout. Where/or in what does fault lie in urban education? What might we strive for? And HOW can it be achieved? To prevent an entry that will make your eyes roll out of your head it's so long, I will focus on one of the areas, agency.
Agency brings us to a place of empowerment. WE CAN create change in not only our own lives but in society as well! I see the value in letting our students know that they ARE VALUABLE and they CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE; infact this is INvaluable. Our Big 8 state that, "Successful urban educators connect the construction of knowledge in the classroom with the language, music, poetry, and other cultural forms that students use to express their lives and ground the curriculum in intellectual, political, and artistic contributions of their students' racial, ethnic, and religious communities," (The Promise of Urban Schools, pg. 2).
Can't you relate best to something that hits upon your own world? I'm Polish and if I were asked to do a study on the history of piergois and polka music - needless to say how incredibly stereotypical as this is - I would feel a connection to it and dive in all the deeper! It's all about connections. If you connect a child's world to what you want them to learn, what you want them to store away in those 3 lb. wonderful organic machines, it will have so much more gravity and meaning to them. It's also a better way to get them INvolved and INtune.
So this agency helps the student to see the need in society and provokes them to become actively involved in pubic life and society, rather than subsisting as a bystander and allowing action to happen to them. For a more powerful learning experience, students need to become agents of their own learning. They are not objects that should sit and simply be talked at, but unique "producers" of knowledge.
But let's not leave the paperweight on the students side. There is a great deal to be said for the questions that teachers ask, the timing of these questions, and the effort they make to be INvolved as well. Local and school avenues are out there for the teacher to get involved in: VOTE in your local elections, write a letter to the editor on an issue that you strongly believe in, pull up your sleeves and put your two cents in at school debates and meetings about school issues, be a chaperone and DANCE at the school dance.
Not only is that a great example for the students - because they WILL notice what you do and what you say, just like young toddlers notice and immitate the actions and words of their parents - but this helps create that dynamic setting to inspire others to learn and take action.
Do you walk the walk that you so love to talk up?