Starting Fall 2010, SVSU is offering a new Urban Teaching - Master of Arts in Teaching program and an Urban Teaching Specialization, which can be applied toward the 18 professional hours required by the State of Michigan Department of Education. Dr. Barbara Jean Jones, an SVSU associate professor, developed the program because she believes this field is the future of education.
Dr. Barbara Jean Jones, an SVSU associate professor, was an educator in the Saginaw schools for more than 10 years before she realized she wanted to make a bigger impact. For years, she’d taught at the middle school level, until one day, the idea hit her: she could impart her lessons onto thousands of students. Today, she does just that — by teaching the teachers of tomorrow.
With her bachelor’s degree (elementary education, endorsement in emotional impairment) and her master’s degree (education, endorsement in learning disabilities), Dr. Jones trains students who want to focus on special education. Her latest venture, however, is launching the new master’s specialization in urban teaching. This field, she says, is the future of education, and she hopes it will dispel the myths of urban education.
“If I can actively engage my students by knowing something about their culture and integrating it into my teaching, then it’s going to help me, and it’s going to help the students,” she says. “The entire program is looking at how we work with students in urban settings, regardless of their culture, because what teachers are going to be getting is a framework — a framework for looking at, ‘This is what I need to know about myself, the community, the families and my students,’ and, ‘How do I incorporate all that into my teaching?’”
Often teaching programs do discuss multiculturalism and its impact in the classroom. “You pick up a textbook, and it will have one chapter on multiculturalism. That’s it," explained Jean Jones. "What do you learn from one chapter? You need information you can apply and how you’ll develop your teaching style based on the cultures in the community you’re working with.”
Urban teaching provides a framework for teachers to address the increasing diversity of P-12 students which challenge schools to become more responsive to student diversity to ensure successful learning for all students, regardless of their personal characteristics, learning styles, linguistics, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
“Students come from families with different concepts, beliefs and value systems, so we have to look at them and look at how we can incorporate them. But we also want to make sure that we’re not changing or making the education for these students lesser. We are finding a way to bridge the gap between what’s going on in the urban setting and what needs to be known in the educational arena for students to be successful in mainstream society. It’s all about bridging that gap.”