Today, American Public Schools face several pressing concerns, including an overwhelmingly high teen pregnancy rate, the fall of the nuclear family, drug use and violence, all of which are risks faced by students. Perhaps more so than any other problem attending to these concerns, there is a need to cure the ill that allows these challenges to self-perpetuate by educating teachers on what they may be getting themselves into by agreeing to teach in an American Public School. More than any other factor, the inability of many public school teachers to fundamentally relate to the lives of their students places these students at even greater risk than they already are.
Ultimately, “diversity training” programs have done little to prepare inexperienced or even experienced teachers to adequately engage with the difficulties faced by the students they teach. Instead of simply offering a one-stop-shop set of pre-fabricated programs designed to superficially expose a teacher to general principles of diverse education, community involvement in the form of a town meeting style event, in which parents of students meet the teachers who will be teaching their children, will do much more to ensure that teachers operate under no illusions as to the challenges faced by the families whose children they educate.
Accordingly, genuinely diverse teacher education begins with exposing them to as broad a spectrum of multicultural student backgrounds as is possible. Indeed, research has indicated that American Public-School classrooms have never been more diverse than they are now (Milner, Moore, Moore and Flowers, 2003). As such, teachers must be eminently familiar with the manner in which their students’ families live. Otherwise, it becomes impossible for a teacher to contemplate how a given student might be working or why a given student is struggling to find the time in which to work.
To this end, many teachers simply recognize a struggling student and assume that some lack of effort is solely to blame. In reality, as a result of the fall of the nuclear family and general decomposition of American family life, many of these students simply live in home structures inadequately predisposed to learning. Their parents did not read to them as children and their parents now work so much that these kids are often left to their own devices for extended periods of time during which all manner of troublesome social opportunities are available to them. For these kids, doing well in school is not as much of a choice as it is for others; they are pulled in various directions by various social factors and lack the tools necessary to simply hunker down and work.
Of course, a teacher with no background whatsoever in the conditions of inner-city living would have difficulty comprehending this reality. With all this said, the reality of things is just that and we should deal with it accordingly. If we do not educate our teachers according to the communities they serve, we are condemning the children of those communities to lives of mediocrity in which they will struggle even to achieve a fundamentally sound quality of life. If teachers are placed directly in front of the parents of the children for whom they are responsible, these teachers will be far more likely to take it upon themselves to take an active and personal interest in their students’ lives away from the classroom.
Once teachers are able to actively engage with the social dynamics at work in the private lives of their students, they will be in better positions to assist them - ultimately improving the public school system overall. Ultimately, in order for “no child [to be] left behind,” those in charge of not leaving them behind would need to understand the ramifications of leaving them behind in comprehending the lifestyles to which these kids are and will be condemned if they are not appropriately engaged and challenged to provide for themselves.
Milner, H. R., Flowers, L. A., Moore, E. Jr., Moore, J. L. & Flowers, T. A. (2003). Pre-service teachers’ awareness of multiculturalism and diversity. The High School Journal, 87(1), 63-70.