Monday, May 4, 2009

Will I Teach Urban Education?

I was pretty sure that Professor Goldstein omitted blog #8 on the syllabus during one of our classes, but I could be wrong. In the place of that blog, I have decided to write about the question: Will I teach urban education?

I am having an internal debate with myself that I feel is important to address. I have many questions of doubt and comments about excitement. I understand that the topics and issues that we covered over the course of the semester can carry into any school or classroom. Even though it is the end of the semester, I hope that some you have similar questions that I raise, and can give constructive feedback and thoughts.

Honestly, I took this class because it was a requirement for the MAT program and it sounded interesting. Before this class, I had never considered teaching in an urban school/location. Fortunately, I have learned a lot about urban education through class readings, discussions, and the inquiry project that have persuaded me to consider teaching in an urban school. My visit to the Arts High School really put into perspective how successful urban schools are. However, there are several factors regarding my career path that I am still considering, and questions that I am still asking myself:

-Can I handle myself in an urban school that is not a magnate school? (Arts High was a magnate school). Non-magnate schools are more violent and have higher disciplinary issues and crime.

-Will my kind, passive personality be effective in my instruction? Will my students walk all over me? Do I have to constantly worry about my students' safety as well as my own? (I understand that it is not a large concern in magnate schools).

-Will I be more happy in a school that can afford plentiful art materials and nice equipment? Will these elements make teaching more fun?

-I do want to make a difference in history by helping to turn the current education system around for the better. I also want to make positive differences in the lives of urban students. Am I the person for the job? Will teaching in a suburban school give me the same gratification as teaching in an inner city?

I guess I will not know the answers to these questions until the time comes. Observational field work and student teaching will also help make these connections more concrete. I am thinking that the best way to figure out if I like teaching urban education will be to observe or student teach in a city. Only then will I really have a taste of the inner city school systems, and how well I will teach in these conditions.


When I began this class, I was a bit unsure of myself with regards to urban education. As some of you may remember from my culture paper, I grew up in the middle class town of Flemington, NJ. Looking back, I was very spoiled with luxurious school facilities and opportunities in this predominately white town. The culture paper/collage made me realize the different traits, people, and places that makes me who I am. Because of my background, it took a little while for me to discover how to relate to the inner city and to get a grasp on many realities.

Through class discussions, readings, and my inquiry project, I was made aware of the many issues that go into urban education. Some of this knowledge was upsetting. For example, the Lareau text made it clear that working class students are at many disadvantages with social, reading, and writing skills because of their class and race. My inquiry project titled, "What are the relationships between art, public education, and the community," allowed me to do a case study involving physical research and interactions. I learned a lot through this project, including the disconnect between parents and arts education. These disconnects seemed to be mainly because of economic and cultural reasons.

Despite the negative, I did learn about positive issues in urban education. Spectacular Minds, for example, left me with hopeful thoughts about teaching and my future students. Through visiting Arts High School in Newark, I witnessed first hand the power of strong, effective teachers and smart, determined students.

I will be more in tune to my students through my awareness of urban community's economic, physical, mental, and social factors. I will take what I have learned and apply it to my classroom. I will use interdisciplinary teaching methods combined with students' interests to connect with my students. I will value students' opinions in classroom instruction, and tell them that they can make an immediate difference in their lives and in the lives of others through their school work. My students will be the center of my teaching and pedagogy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Inquiry Paper Abstract


The purpose of this study was to discover the relationships between urban communities, the arts, and public education. The focus of our study was the community located within ten city blocks of Newark, NJ. Over the course of six weeks we collected qualitative data through research, observation, and interviews of community members, teachers, and students. Analysis revealed that the street art and local arts sites in Newark directly mirror the culture and current trends of the community. Data revealed that arts education is an important trait of the community and is reflected in the public schools, teachers, students, and local performances. There is an economic disconnect, however, between the parental community and the arts. This study and analysis is important because communities largely impact the local arts and education systems, and arts education is crucial for cognitive development in children.

Summary of what I've learned:

Newark seems to generally be moving in the right direction with regard to the arts, public education, and community involvement. There are examples of advertisement street art that are representative of the culture and current trends of the community. Affordable art sites open to the public is plentiful, but community economic issues seem to create a disconnect between the locals and these arts sites. Public schools have positive connections between school performances and the community. Performances generally have significant turnouts of students’ families, but performances at the Arts High School are plentiful resulting, again, in economic issues.

The supportive relationship between parents and their children can make or break students’ futures regarding the arts, so the school administrations must raise student and parental awareness for future art careers. For example, more partnerships to universities, field trips to local museums, and artist guest speakers will help raise understanding. These experiences should include the school, students, and parents. Lastly, instructors need to be supported to teach outside of the box by integrating the arts when appropriate to foster high-level thinking. When connections are made from classroom content, to the arts, and to the outside world, students begin to see the big picture and relate material to their personal lives.

Summary of Project Findings

Interviews of community members:

There seems to be a disconnect between community members and the arts. Most of the parents that we interviewed on the street stated that they are aware of communal arts sites in Newark (i.e. NJPAC, NSA, and the Newark Museum), but they have never been to these sites with or without their children.

Street Art:

We found one street artist painting name banners, painted trashcans, banners hanging on the streetlight poles, historical sculptures, and music playing at street vendors. These forms of street art seem to all convey aspects of advertisement, but they are also reflective of the community of Newark and the current trends of society.

Interviews with teachers:

We interviewed a bunch of teachers at the Arts High School. All of the teachers we interviewed seemed very passionate about teaching. The teachers incorporate elements of the arts into their classroom curriculum. One math teacher gave us an example of teaching math functions using balls of clay. The teachers also ranted and raved about the disconnect between the support of the parents and the arts.

Teachers also commented about the struggle between the teachers, who want to teach our of the box, and the administration. One teacher said, "they [the administration] want you to teach out of the box, but they keep putting you back in! I carry a box cutter!" This teacher continued to say that teachers teach out of fear; fear of getting fired if they do something wrong, fear of budget cuts, etc.

Teachers also explained that there is a strong disconnect between the parents and arts education. Economic reasons alone prevent parents and their families from seeing their children in school performances. Also, parents do not see a the arts as an area that is suitable for making money. Consequently, students do not respond well to out-of-class field trips to the Newark Museum.

The Arts High School was very inspiring for me, a future art teacher. It was such a great experience, and the students and teachers were so friendly and helpful.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What I Am Learning From My Inquiry Question

Inquiry Topic Question: What is the relationship between the community, the arts, and public education?

Walking the streets of Newark, interviewing community members and children, and taking photographs and field notes have revealed a wealth of information answering the question above.

I have discovered that there is not an abundance of street or public art in the community. The only pieces of public art that I have been are the boldly painted garbage cans that line the street beginning at the Lincoln Park Historic District and moving down Broad Street,. There is also very little graffiti, which could also be considered “street art,” and the only mural is the devils hockey icon on the Prudential Center.

However, there are many community sites that are affordable for the public and that celebrate the visual and performing arts. An extra-curricular school called the Newark Community School of the Arts (NSA) is open to both children and adults. This school has a high population of people who participate in the arts programs and classes. There is also the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), which is a venue that holds attractions for the performance arts and musical arts concerts. There are several museums and galleries in the area, including the Newark Museum. This museum is one of the top three museums in the country that spends the majority of its budget on programs and classes for the local students.

Interviews with community members informed me that the community values and takes pride in the arts, but the artwork is only visible inside the sites built to honor the arts. I saw and spoke with one street artist who was painting “name banners.” He is trying to inspire to community, and he saws that it is the artist’s job to create the art that speaks to the public.

I am learning that Newark public schools also value the arts. Parents that I have interviewed shared that their kids produce a lot of art in school. The only time student work becomes part of the community is when student work is chosen for an exhibit in a local museum or gallery.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Online Assignment 4/13

1. Review the families in Unequal Childhoods, and see if you can create a chart that reflects the following demographic and cultural information.

See chart. (hard copy only)

2. Turn to the NJRCL report and pay specific attention to the information provided about Essex County, and the concerns, challenges, and recommendations in the report. Review the six families in Unequal Childhoods, and make connections between the NJRCL report and the realities these families might face if they lived in Essex County, NJ.

The annual self-sufficiency wage for a single parent with one or more children in Essex County ranges from $39,299-$61,017. All of the single-parent families, the Taylor’s, Brindle’s, and the McAllister’s, make much less than the annual self-sufficiency wage. The Driver family might get away with living in Essex County, but the politics of the family is sticky because Ms. Driver’s boyfriend is not legally tied to the Driver children. Without his contribution, the family would suffer.

There are only four families that would be able to live comfortably on the annual self-sufficiency wage, the Tallinger’s, Williams’, Marshall’s, and the Handlon’s. The other families would need to cut out expenses such as transportation, extra curricular activities, childcare, and food in order to survive in Essex County. For example, Tyrec Taylor would not have been able to play football, the McAllister family would run out of their food supply more often, and the Brindle’s may not have electricity for a couple days until they could pay their electric bill. The parents are forced to sacrifice certain needs to match the needs most important.

The poor families from Unequal Childhoods would have a fighting chance to survive if they lived in a city in Essex County. Cities, compared to the suburbs, have free transportation, markets and stores within walking distance, and more job opportunities for adults who have little educational background. Unfortunately, cities are a dangerous environment to raise a family. Mrs. Taylor comments that she currently lives in a “ghetto” city with high crime rates. If the Taylor family were to have moved into a city in Essex County, their situation would be sadly worse compared to their current living conditions. The Taylor’s would have to downgrade their house size as well as other expenses that they have in their current location.

3. Look at the two reports from the LSNJ on living in poverty. What further information can you glean from the reports regarding the struggles the poor families in Unequal Childhoods might face if they lived in NJ?

New Jersey is a very expensive state to live in. Compared to the federal poverty level of $17,600 per year, the self-sufficiency wage in Essex County is well above that mark beginning at $39,299. Although this number seems self-sufficient, there would be many currently affordable expenses and activities that the poor families from Unequal Childhoods could not afford if they lived in Essex County. The drastic cut in expenses could drastically altar the children’s learning ability and cognitive development.

If the Brindle family moved to Essex County, for example, Ms. Brindle could not financially support Katie singing and performing talents if she was asked to compete at a higher level. If Katie’s mother cannot financially support Katie’s talents and passions through extra-curricular activities, this may drive Katie to more serious self-destructive behavior. Young Katie is already traveling down a dangerous road considering her family’s current situation, and the more bumps in that road the more challenging it will make Katie’s life. Moving to Essex County followed by the Brindle’s budget cuts might cause Katie to suffer mentally, socially, and cognitively.

Similar to the Brindle’s, the Driver’s would be in a similar situation if they had to live in Essex County. Wendy is currently unusually busy with extra-curricular activities that require her mother to transport Wendy from place to place. If living in Essex County, the Driver’s would have to cut back on travel expenses, therefore taking away most if not all of Wendy’s extra-curricular activities. These activities are most likely helping Wendy with her cognitive development as well as with her learning disability. It would be a shame if Wendy were forced to give up the activities that play a crucial role in her educational development.

4. Turn inward and think about who you are as a budding urban educator. In what ways is this information useful (or not) for you? In terms of better understanding a community? What do you need to learn, or what skills and dispositions (frames of mind) do you need to develop related to demographics and economics to be a successful urban educator?

As a future urban educator Unequal Childhoods, the NJRCL report, and the LSNJ reports have helped me realize that every child comes from a different race, class, and family environment. While it may be difficult to know the full details of a student’s daily life, past, and future, it will be very important that I make a strong attempt to understand and relate to each student’s life so that I can be an affective teacher.

Art is a lively aspect of culture and education. It is important to be open-minded towards my students’ abilities, artworks, and opinions. Individuality and expression will hold a high standard in my art lessons and pedagogy. I believe it is crucial to get to know each student’s interests and culture so that the student can incorporate a large piece of themselves into their artwork.

An instructional method that I could use of the first day of my art classes is an Interest Inventory, which will give me a general idea of who my students are, their interests, likes, dislikes, favorite activities, hobbies, family life, and perspective on education. It is important that I have an understanding of the type of lives my students have outside of the classroom, because it will affect their schoolwork and outlook on life.

Ice Breakers are also a good method to begin to learn about students. These teaching techniques barely scrape the surface of getting to know students. I understand that to be a successful teacher it is important to get to know the community that the school resides including local demographics and self-sufficiency wages. I would also love to meet my students’ parents and families.

I believe it is important that I learn more about what I can do as a teacher to become a more active member in the community and in my students’ lives. What is a practical way of researching this type of information? What have other art teachers done with their local communities in the past? Will I be encouraged or discouraged by the school to take these actions?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Introduction to Inquiry project

Art education represents an important part of a student’s education in order to form well rounded individuals. It has been proven to help students cognitively and motivate them in many other school activities.

Therefore, this study which took place in Newark, New Jersey, is a research on the importance of art education in Newark public schools. In particular there is a focus on Newark Arts High School, the opportunities this public school provides, how art is integrated in the curriculum, and the public art that surrounds the school in a ten block radius.

Because our main purpose of research is to find out what are the relationships between the arts, the community, and its public schools, it was necessary to observe the community of the Newark Arts High School, to look at art on the streets, popular art in particular, and to discover what ways art represents the community and how is it linked to public education. Do teachers use popular art in classes to engage students?

In this study the main characters were students and teachers. It was crucial to have an understanding of the interests students had compared to what the teachers wanted them to learn. The opinion of the rest of the community was also an important aspect of our study, so therefore we also interviewed people on the streets.