By: Theresa Schempp, Staff Writer
Towson University continued its 150th Anniversary Speaker Series Monday, April 18 with professor and public education commentator Pedro Noguera, who discussed preparing teachers for urban school settings through “commitment and cultural competence.”
“Many of our schools are doing it all wrong,” Noguera said. “We’re relying on passive learning, but that’s not how [students] learn.”
Noguera said that teachers are not prepared in being culturally competent with their students and are put into the education system untrained but expected to understand what their students need.
“What we’ve done in education is that we’ve assumed that we can blame teachers, and there’s very little evidence that that’s going to work,” Noguera said. “How to perfect a teacher is through art and skill, and that takes time.”
Noguera presented a plan and keys for success for future teachers who will be working in urban schools. He also stressed the importance of changing schools in favor of hands-on learning over standardized tests.
“If we only focus on the deficits, we reinforce the deficits,” Noguera said. “We see the kids through their test scores instead of how they learn.”
Noguera suggested that new teachers be shadowed and put into easier classrooms, instead of more challenging ones when they’re still new to the workforce.
“We don’t put brand new doctors in the top hospital and expect them to do open heart surgery,” Noguera said. “They’re monitored by more experienced staff, and the preparation of teachers should look just like that.”
At Towson, the College of Education mirrors what Noguera said during his speech. Education majors specialize in different subjects each semester, and become student teachers in local schools during their senior year. During student teaching, they are put into real classrooms to shadow teachers, learn to be attentive to the students and teach some of the curriculum as well.
Graduate Reading Program Director Gilda Martinez-Alba said that she thinks the College of Education is “on the right track,” because many of the concepts Noguera spoke about have also been discussed within the program.
“A major takeaway was the emphasis on motivation which I always try to emphasize in my classrooms, so I was just very happy to hear that he thinks the same thing,” Martinez-Alba said.
Robert Blake, elementary education department chairman, said that he agrees with Noguera about reinforcing the idea of engaging students.
“You will find that many of the faculty and staff in the college of education speak the same thing he does in terms of what we’re trying to get done,” Blake said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to achieve, but it’s really what we’re striving for.”