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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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Introduction: The Transforming Power of Education



The Transforming Power of Education

As I have always done in my works (see Ukpokodu, 2010, 2012, & 2016), I begin this introduction with the story of my childhood beginnings.

As a child growing up in Africa, I quickly learned about the promise of education as “the great equalizer” and the passport to upward social mobility. As I entered the world of education, this belief was reinforced by historical and political figures, such as Benjamin Franklin (1749), Horace Mann (1848), Carter G. Woodson (1933), Lyndon B. Johnson (1966), Nelson Mandela (2003) and many others, who espoused that education was not only the “great equalizer” but a force of transformation and social change for individuals, families, nations and the world. As President Johnson (1966) wrote, “I know education is the only valid passport from poverty.” I was privileged to have a firsthand experience of education as a leveling and transforming force. I had a humble beginning. I grew up in Nigeria, where I lived in a compound with a large extended family—grandmother, eight uncles, five aunts, their individual families, numerous cousins, and two adopted families with their own individual families. In the compound, each individual family had a room that was shared among their immediate family members—wife/wives and children. I lived in a 20- by 30-square-foot bedroom with my mother and four siblings. The room was where we slept, kept our belongings, had the drinking water ← xvii | xviii → pot, kitchen utensils, and...

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