“The number of participants keeps growing,” said the course’s teacher, Dr. Dennis Parsons of SUNY Oswego’s curriculum and instruction department. “There are currently 20 students enrolled from both childhood and adolescent majors, although in the past, we have had students from technology education, vocational teacher preparation and public justice.”
The course starts with class meetings on the Oswego campus toward the end of the fall semester. In January, students work for two weeks alongside teachers and directly with urban students in a New York City classroom, then conclude their work with a class back at Oswego early in the spring semester.
Throughout the experience, participants are in touch online to share experiences and travel tips, respond to course literature and submit their final projects.
The “New York experience” itself is a draw for many students, Parsons said.
“Some have never even been to ‘the city’ and immediately get caught up in the Whitmanesque ebb and flow of city life,” he explained. “After the class is over, some even return on their own to revisit the school and the students they have come to care about.”
For some students, the experience often determines whether they want to student teach or apply for positions in urban schools, Parsons noted. “But even if they don’t, myths of urban life, stereotypes about the city or city kids, are often demystified by the experience,” Parsons said. “They have something tangible to share in their rural or suburban teaching, about difference and about urban teaching and living.”
With the growth of interest, student placements have expanded from one school in lower eastside Manhattan to four schools and now include Middle School 56, The Island School: PS 188, Harlem Renaissance School and PS/MS 306 in the Bronx.
“It turns out to be a lot of running around for me, but each site has a supportive administration and teachers who welcome our students, putting them right to work and help make the program a success,” Parsons said. “The projects alone that come out of this course are truly amazing.”
Past class projects have included a photography scrapbook, featuring profiles of and interviews with public-school students on their impressions of urban life, and collaborative bookmaking or poetry projects that serve as giving-back projects that remain at the urban school. “All these projects make good use of technology in the sense of using multitextual forms and genres to create a hybrid space between themselves and their urban counterparts,” Parsons said.
For more information on this or other urban initiatives, visit the SUNY Oswego School of Education’s Project Smart Web site at www.oswego.edu/prosmart.
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(Posted: Nov 30, 2005)