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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 5. Ethic of Instructional/Pedagogical Excellence


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Chapter Overview

For decades, progressive scholars have documented the teaching practices of the dominant, deficit-based pedagogy that not only dehumanizes but disengages urban students from effective learning and performance. Haberman (1995) describes these practices as “pedagogy of poverty” that involves simplistic acts that promote low-level, monotonous, worksheet work. Delpit’s (2012) study confirms this oppressive pedagogy, as noted by her participant, who said: “In high school a lot of our teachers are about occupying us, not teaching us” (p. 76). Freire (1970) refers to this form of pedagogy as “banking education” in which teachers are knowledge depositors and students as depositories who regurgitate content information upon demand. With banking education, teachers treat students as empty vessels whose minds must be filled with information through didactic transmission. Freire criticizes this pedagogical approach as antidemocratic because it fosters student passivity.

The dominant pedagogy also promotes tracking practices that contribute to the learning challenges and underachievement of urban students. Oakes, Lipton, Anderson, and Stillman (2013) define tracking as a “permanent, block assignment of students into courses with different types and levels of instruction, therefore preparing them for different futures” (p. 296). Tracking/ability-grouping means that students are placed into fast, average, or slow ← 147 | 148 → classes or learning groups on the basis of their achievement scores or teachers’ own perception and assessment of students. Oakes (1985) has written extensively about the deleterious effects of tracking, how it alienates students and undermines their...

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