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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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Chapter 2. Ethic of Humanism and Ubuntu Competency


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Chapter Overview

Recently, I was contacted by a teacher who needed help from me. The teacher’s email read:

I have taught for two years in a low-income … public school. I do not come with racist thoughts about the abilities of children of color, but have found it very difficult to teach effectively, in a way that honors the values of my students, and hooks them in. I hate being “the man,” and fighting students all the time. I understand the desperate need for teachers that care, and I do, but I hate the fight! I have decided to go back to school to be a school counselor, but I really wanted to teach (Malia, secondary school urban teacher).

This quote is reflective of the frustration that teachers who desire to teach in urban schools face. In my two and a half decades of preparing teachers for diversity, I have encountered many teachers who have a desire to teach in urban schools but lack the tools to do so effectively. This chapter addresses this question: Do urban students need a different kind of teacher in order to effectively learn, perform, and achieve? It focuses on the ethic of humanism in teaching and learning. In it, I discuss teachers in urban schools, including their cultural orientation and the match/mismatch between them and their diverse urban students. I also discuss the concepts of culture, cultural ← 37...

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