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General Science and Teaching

Teaching Science in an Urban Environment

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Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

Urban school districts come with their own unique set of problems and promises. I have taught science in an urban school district for three years, and I love it! I think it is sometimes difficult for urban schools/districts, especially in high-needs, low-income areas, to maintain and retain quality teachers. Yet, if it is a goal of our federal and state educational departments (and others) to lessen the achievement gap between urban schools and schools in more affluent areas, what can be done to address this concern? What are some of the unique problems you encounter as a science teacher in an urban district? How do/can you overcome them? What are some of the unique promises of teaching science in an urban school district?

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

Adah and others, And right before the holiday, I received one of those "rewards." I heard from one of my former students. She is a freshman in high school this year, and she earned straight As last quarter! I was so excited to hear from her and to hear her news. :-) I love good news! Just thought I would share, Sue

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

One problem I had in my former district was "supplies." The science department received a very small "budget," which was controlled by peoples that were not teachers or were not hands-on teachers...so they were not supplies that helped me in my teaching. So in addition to trying to teach on a shoe string budget - whatever I could afford - I began to scavenge for supplies. In my travels, I discovered two excellent sources for supplies. One might be available in other areas, and the other will ship when there is a strong need indicated. The first is the "free cycle network": http://www.freecycle.org/ - which is a great resource, if you are quick on the response. I have gathered board games, yarn, bells, keyboards for computers, and all sorts of odds and ends. The goal of free cycle is to get new and/or used items, that otherwise may go into the garbage, into the hands of others that can use them. I have also donated items through free cycle. If you are looking for a specific item, you can even post a request. However, there is always a goal to balance the "wants" to "offers" to keep the listserve at its prime. :-) The other resource is a local based school supply recycler - SCARCE: http://bookrescue.org/ SCARCE takes donations from schools of used and sometimes new supplies to "recycle" to other districts and/or teachers. Everything at SCARCE is free to teachers. I have gathered a boat load of supplies from SCARCE, including science glassware, textbooks, notebook paper and binders. SCARCE has been known to ship to districts or areas that are considered "high need" - such as areas hit by flooding or other natural disasters, and even overseas to schools or areas in high poverty. Has anyone else located resource links for supplies that come at low to no cost to teachers? Sue

Thomas Daniels Thomas Daniels 20 Points

Suzanne, Adah, and any other who want to reply, I am preparing to move to an urban area after I finish my certification process. I come from a small city in the midwest. I am moving to a much larger urban area in the sunshine state. Any thing would be helpful. Thomas

Angie Fairweather Angelika Fairweather 12180 Points

Thomas, My mentor taught in urban schools for most of her career before she was promoted to the district curriculum supervisor. She told me something I'll never forget. She said teaching at an upper socioeconomic school can be easier but she knew her kids, needed her. I also agree with Adah that establishing relevance is very important. I would also add it is very important to allow exploration time within the curriculum to establish background knowledge. Good Luck, Angie

Manuel Vasquez Manuel Vasquez 1950 Points

Thomas, As a product of the urban community, I strongly encourage you to "read up" on the different cultures you will encounter in your transition to the Sunshine State. I currently reside in & around the Orlando area...a very diverse population especially in the Hispanic culture. If you haven't learned any Spanish...I recommend you start picking up a few words my friend. Once you start speaking their language or even attempting to make an effort it will go a long way in them accepting you & trusting you with their education and livelihood. I recommend you pick up the following read by Herbert Kohl: I Won’t Learn from you". A must read...especially for those considering working in these environments that are characterized by cultural, racial, economic, and linguistic diversity...this will surely help in your transition. Another good book by Jonathan Kozol....Ordinary Resurrections Best wishes and good luck, Manuel

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