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You Can't Teach Us if You Don't Know Us and Care About Us

Becoming an Ubuntu, Responsive and Responsible Urban Teacher


Omiunota Nelly Ukpokodu

This book addresses the needs of diverse urban students for a new kind of teacher, classroom learning context, curriculum, and pedagogy in order to effectively learn, perform, and achieve. Drawing on the African concept of Ubuntu as a fundamental framework for enacting a humanizing pedagogy, the text invites teachers, students, and families to enter into an interdependent and interconnected relationship for education. This book is uniquely transformative as it elevates the centrality of student humanity and models the integration of emergent theories and practices, utilizing real-life stories to enlighten and illuminate. Emphasis is placed on Ubuntu pedagogy as a model to emulate, anchored on five ethical dimensions: humanism and Ubuntu competence, relationship and learning community, humanism in the curriculum, pedagogical and instructional excellence, and collaboration and partnership. Particularly valuable for teachers learning to cultivate the spirit of Ubuntu that undergirds their ability to be humane, responsive, socially- just, efficacious, and resilient, this book is a cutting-edge resource for effectively addressing the persistent academic achievement of diverse urban students.

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The moment I began working on the manuscript I quickly learned that writing a book is not just one person’s work—it is collaborative. Many people have made this book possible, including many urban students, teachers, and teacher candidates who directly or indirectly provided the motivation for the book. In particular, I am grateful to Jennifer Bingham-Gawin, my former student, for allowing me to be a part of her teaching journey, to come into her urban classrooms, and, most importantly, for her professional collaboration.

My deepest gratitude also goes to my “sheroes”—my mother (mama), grandmother (Uwhewhe), and my mother-in-law (Yeye)—who taught me about the values of Ubuntu and the love for one’s work.

My deep appreciation also goes to Christine Sleeter and Kevin Kumashiro for their friendship and incredible support of this work. My thanks also go to Erdem Demiroz, my graduate research assistant for his technical assistance and my long-time friend and collaborator, Debra Doyle.

I am most grateful to my husband, Peter Ukpokodu, for his relentless moral support throughout the writing of the book. I deeply appreciate his diligent reading, excellent editing, and guidance of the manuscript. Thanks to my chil ← xi | xii → dren, and especially my granddaughter, who have inspired me and contributed to the ideas that enriched the book.

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