Teachers not prepared to serve diverse students – Prof

RON FANFAIR

Teachers are not fully prepared to serve diverse population of students in school, particularly those institutions serving economically disenfranchised communities and children of colour, says former American Educational Research Association president, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings.

The award-winning scholar, whose research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with Black students, is also concerned about the absence of deep intellectual interrogations of race and the work of race in teacher education programs.

She said teacher educators provide prospective students with data that either re-inscribe their longstanding notions of race or invoke emotional responses that trouble them without causing them to address race in their teaching practices.

“Teacher educators have to talk about race, not to give it more colour, but rather to take control over it and expose it for the lie that it is,” Ladson-Billings said in her keynote address at an event at York University last week to honour the memory of Dr. Patrick Solomon, who succumbed to cancer seven months ago.

“We have to find ways to render it useless. Now, while this work sounds impossible and impractical, it is exactly the kind of work that African-Americans have been participating in since their arrival in the Americas. Theirs has been a project, not only of survival, but also of subversion and revolutionary freedom. The work of African-American survival necessitates the creation of new language and new forms of human expression.”

Ladson-Billings, who is credited with introducing and applying the framework of critical race theory in the realm of education, suggests that teacher educators must work to defund race despite the enormity of the task.

“Fighting for justice is never about winning,” said the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Hilton Endowed Chair in Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences. “It’s about the hope of winning, but more importantly it’s about fighting for the right cause. Our responsibility to democracy and democratic education extends much further than the folks in the White House or State House.

“It extends much further than the current students we hope to shape into democratic educators who live and work in a multicultural society. It extends into spaces and places we can only imagine, but extend it we must. We are obligated to retrieve a vision of democracy that was never intended to extend to non-Whites, women, poor people, people with disabilities and those with different sexual orientation. It belongs to them just the same. This vision can never be realized as long as its foremost enemy – that concept of race – serves the current arrangement so well.”

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration this year, York University marked the milestone last Thursday with the program to honour Solomon’s remarkable legacy. The event explored the significance of diversity, social justice and equity in education and for the university’s shared future through a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Warren Crichlow, a colleague of Solomon for more than a decade.

The panel of teaching colleagues and research collaborators reflected on Solomon’s scholarly contributions and provided commentary on ways in which his ideas serve as a compass for future directions of academic inquiry and practice in urban education.

Solomon spent most of his life in education, teaching in elementary and secondary schools and at the university level. A graduate of Mico University College, he taught in Jamaica before coming to Canada in 1969 to, among other things, complete his Bachelors degree at the University of Waterloo, his Masters in Educational Administration at the University of Western Ontario and his Doctorate in Social Foundations of Education at the State University of New York.

He began working at York University in 1991 where he launched the highly successful Urban Diversity Initiative three years later in response to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s call for academic institutions to make teacher education more relevant to the province’s increasingly diverse population and to integrate issues of equity, diversity and social justice into the schooling process.

Close to 1,000 teachers have graduated from the program and are using what they have learned to engage and empower students in Canadian and other classrooms.

“In all of my work, I always mention Patrick’s name,” said Dr. Andrew Allen, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor. “He taught and mentored me and created a space and opportunity for me and many other minority students. Prior to meeting him, I never thought about becoming a faculty member. He created that possibility for me.”

Solomon received many accolades and awards for the Urban Diversity Teacher Education program that he conceived.

“Patrick worked very hard to ensure that teacher education is connected to the community,” said retired teacher, Claude Grimmond, who taught at Westview Centennial Secondary School and was the first recipient of the York University’s Faculty of Education Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching award which was presented in 1998. “He was a pioneer in the whole issue of urban education.”

Dean of York’s Faculty of Education, Alice Pitt, said that Solomon was a wonderful colleague and an active participant at so many levels of faculty life.

“He will be greatly missed, but the passion and commitment that he brought to us will continue,” she added.

  • Paulet Biedermann said:

    Hope Replaces Despair at Westview Centennial School, propelled by the passion, committment and vision of award winning principal, Patrick Knight.

    Westview Centennial SS located in the once violent, troubled and broken Jane and Finch area in Toronto. This is a predominately black neighbourhood. In fact, this school was deemed the most at risk nationally by former Toronto Mayor, David Miller.Lets fast-tract to 2012: Westview is not only on Par with most other secondary schools in GTA but in some cases out- performed some of these schools in several areas, including suspension rate, number of students graduating and in school crime and application to post secondary schools. One would believe that the Toronto District School Board would celebrate and reward these positive changes but to the contrary. Lets take a look at Westview CSS from 2005 to present.
    Suspension:
    2005 553 students suspended
    2006-2007 451 suspensions
    2007-2008 237 suspensions
    2008-2009: 248 suspensions
    2009-2010: 141 suspensions
    2010-2011: 86 suspensions
    2011-2012: 44 students suspended
    Graduation: 100% of students eligible to graduate with required credits graduated.total of 218 students ( a first in Westview’s history)
    College application among graduates: 75 students 2012
    university application: 119 students in 2012
    Total application to post seconadry institutions:194/89%
    (highest in history- Guidance counsellor stated she has never seen that in her 9 years at the school)
    Crime rate decreased by 85%

    What contributed to such outcome? one man who believe in the students, in the community, in the satff and most saliently, he collaborated with the Jane/Finch community and incepted various programs to involvesyudents and parents. That man, is none other than Mr. Patrick Knight.

    Mr. has been with westview in various capacities and effective in 2009 he took over as principal and the result is unbelievable! In three years, Mr. knight accomplished what a lot of principals could only dream of let alone achieve. he implemented a total of fourteen new programs aimed at solidifing the partnership with Westview’s staff, parents, community leaders, students and religious leaders within the Jane/Finch area. One parent stated that the inception of the parent-council has had the greatest impact. Mr Knight also managed to build a bridge between the Police at Division 31 and the people of Jane – Finch community.

    Earlier this year, he won award for teaching excellence which is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an educator within the TDSB. So, yes, he has been recognized for his brilliant leadership. So how is it then, that this visionary who have taken a lot of these kids from crayons to perfume went on summer break in June and suspended in August for gender discrimination? Please note that the information contained has been supplied by parents and validated by members of the parent council for Westview. Attempts were made to reach Mr. Knight and Chris Spence (Director of Education for TDSB without success. Therefore, validation of this information obtained from the above mentioned body.

    The parents and students are shocked and appalled that Mr. Knight left the school on summer break and wont come back. They stated that he may have been set up and sabotaged by his own people, who are in a position of power. They stated that he was accused of gender discrimination by a mainstream female teacher that wanted his position as principal but was given to Mr. knight instead. (unvarified).
    The most shocking revelation is that Chris Spence, the leader who makes the decisions had the option of suspending Mr. Knight during the human rights investigation or his accuser and he opted to oust Mr. Knight while the teacher who accused him will be returning to school next week. If this is the case, does this make sense? The teacher is only one and teaches one class, while Mr. Knight manages the entire school: students and teachers! What is it? Is it politics? is it Lynching? is it race hate? is it evil? is it nepotism? is it Sabotage? has Knight done too much for the Ghetto youths by teaching them self love and entitlement to success? Has he gone too far by guiding these youths to become someone and uplift the oppressed and down trodden blacks in certain parts of the city of Toronto? Are they not entitled to the attainment of success? Is Canada not a land of opportunity for a lot of Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Caribbean and all people?

    The tragic shootings at a barbeque in Toronto the other day which left two young people dead has re-opened a lot of old wounds, in fact there were a lot of attention and talk by politicians, community leaders, religious leaders, law enforcement leaders and average citizens. Now here is the question, Mr. Patrick Knight has helped to decrease crime by 85% in the past couple years and it seem as if he is been punished for it. The mere fact that this man by including and respecting the Jane/Finch residents and yet, Chris Spence Suspended him and by doing so, will likely contribute to a rapid deterioration in Jane Finch area re crime?

    Well, Mr. mayor alluded to the fact that he wanted to chase the gunmen out of town, but what will he do to restore safety to Jane Finch? Will he call for an independent investigation into the irregularities surrounding the suspension of Patrick Knight! Mr.Chris Spence is already spending tax-payers dollars carelessly by suspending the principal of Westview, paying for a replacement principal and most likely paying Patrick Knight to be on leave pending result of this “GENDER DISCRIMATION” charge. I have never seen this in all my life. That said, here is something, whenever a teacher or principal is accused of any crime / injustice against students will TDSB suspend the teachers and or principal pending investigation result??? Or will the student stay away from school until the investigation is complete?There is now a precedence.

    On a different note, Please join me in welcoming the new principal of the Africentric school, Ms. Jacqueline Spence, who is the sister of Chris Spence Director of Education who had suspended Thando when she was falsely accused of mistreating a student and later cleared of all charges. I do not believe nepotism is at play here.

    Paulet Biedermann

    Thursday August 30 at 1:17 pm
  • N.D.Z said:

    Westview should just shut down already. Too much has already got worse as it is from the endless bullying that’s been going on for years and now the teachers are acting like children by blaming things and spending rumors to each other…how pathetic. This school will never change as the weak(the victims) will fall in despair while the strong(the bullies and teachers) will rises. There are a few students in this school who have either dropout (lose all hope) or have finish high school but can’t find the right path as a career because teachers failed to help in any kind of way. I use to be a student from this school and I know that the teachers favours certain students and give them more opportunities than others. Mr Knight couldn’t even do anything with the bullying and favoritism (I know he’s a good man and all but all this guy care about is his stupid brothers unlimited club and nothing else). I know that some people will go against me by reading this but I don’t care as I am speaking for the rights. A message to all of the bullies and awful teachers of westview, for destroying all hopes and dreams to the innocents you have hurted I have to say that I pity those who look up to you and how you should be a shame for what you have doing. I hope that whatever you doing to those people, the memory will haunt you for a life time.

    Sunday September 22 at 2:05 am

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