Teacher Candidate Connects with Diverse Cultures through Community Involvement
In order to gain entrance into the Childhood and Early Adolescent Education (CEAED) program, students are required to participate in 40 diversity hours, which means they must work in an environment with a different socioeconomic background or culture than their own. In order to satisfy those hours, Dore utilized the Penn State College of Education class the CI 295D: The Philadelphia Urban Seminar.
For two weeks, Dore took part in daily learning forums, completed community service and worked with children and teachers in the Philadelphia public school system.
One speaker from a learning forum, Charles Cognato, principal of Stetson Middle School, particularly inspired Dore to connect with the community in which she taught.
“He explained that if teachers and administrators are aware of and are listening to the community, we can actually get through to our students and do our job,” Dore said. “I admired his dedication to the system and to his students.”
Dore got to know her community by repairing and improving Norris Square in northeast Philadelphia with other Seminar participants.
Dore said they cleaned up trash, gardened, repainted the community playground, painted a mural and donated toys to children who visited the playground as Seminar participants were working.
Afterwards, the community exposed the participants to the local Puerto Rican flavors with a lunch and Bomba dancing performance. Dore said she gained a better understanding of a culture with which she was previously unfamiliar.
Dore said her teaching experience at Allen M. Stearne School taught her the importance of retaining patience and remembering the specific context of the school in which she is teaching.
“While present in any given culture, it is the responsibility of the teacher to adapt themselves to best meet the needs of the students in that culture.”
For example, Dore noticed some students behaved inappropriately due to issues at home. When one student was confronted by Dore’s mentor teacher about insulting another classmate to the point of tears, he responded by flipping his desk over in a fit of anger and leaving the classroom.
“Though he resisted the conversation at first, I managed to get him to talk to me about his dream of becoming a police officer when he grows up. I asked him if he thought there was anything he might need to change to be a police officer one day,” Dore said. “He responded that he can’t be the one making trouble if he’s a police officer. The student walked back inside, sat down, raised his hand and apologized to the girl he had insulted. For the rest of the day, his aggressive behaviors seemed to have reduced.”
“I think every College of Education student should participate in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar,” Dore said. “It is a truly life-changing experience and I feel much more self-aware and prepared to teach than I ever have before.”
Dore is now continuing her studies in the College of Education. She said her participation in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar has eliminated any reservations of teaching in an urban setting in the future.
By Samantha Schwartz (October 2014)