Panel Discussion on Urban Education Held at Mount Union College
May 10, 2010
A panel discussion on urban education was held in the Mount Union Theater November 30.
The panel discussion, hosted by Dr. Tom Gannon, associate professor of education, explored issues and situations within the education system and offered advice to the many aspiring teachers in attendance.
Panelists included Mark Black, a 1998 Mount Union graduate and principal of Canton McKinley High School; Tamiko Hatcher, a 1998 graduate and assistant principal of Alliance Middle School; Corey Grubbs, principal/leader of Timken Senior High School Service Academy and Sandy Womack, a 1992 graduate and director of pupil services for Canton City Schools.
Topics explored included diversity, culture shock, expectations and preconceptions.
The panelists explained that diversity is much more than race and gender, and that very often the actual problem is a lack of diversity. The panelists said that when there is a lack of diversity, a new student or instructor of a different race experiences "culture shock."
Grubbs advised aspiring educators to ask themselves, "How do I, as a teacher, deal with ever changing diversity?" He answered his own question by saying, "Always be willing to learn."
The panelists also shared their personal experiences with culture shock during their careers.
The discussion then shifted to the topic of expectations. Many students in inner-city schools have to deal with poor home environments as well as lack of materials, such as computers.
"Students are a product of their environment," Black said. "You have to understand the environment students come from."
The panelists took questions from the audience and were asked how to deal with students who can't go home and use a computer or who do not have time to complete assignments because of problems at home, including obligations such as babysitting a sibling.
Hatcher suggested that, if time is the issue, the instructor takes control and makes sure that the student is given the time and opportunity in the classroom to complete assignments. The entire panel agreed that instructors should offer time and help to those who need it instead of lowering the expectations of a student to perform.
"You can't help the home life," Womack said, "but you have to teach. This isn't brain surgery; it is much more serious than that. These minds are malleable."
The panel also discussed the preconceived notions and perceptions that both students and instructors have about different races and environments.
Black shared stories about his experiences as an African American teacher in a predominately Caucasian school district.
"You have to be honest with the kids," Black said. He advised aspiring teachers to be open with students about what they do not know or understand because students will respect that.
"Our perceptions become our reality," added Womack. "We are really much more alike than we are different."
In the end, the panelists advised the audience to be themselves, be clear about their identity, find their niche, stay open minded and that things will work out for them if they are diligent.
"Be you; be genuine; be passionate,' said Hatcher, 'and remember that kids will be kids.'