Weapon scans, lesson plans, and power -less computers: Becoming a teacher in urban America

Jason Robert Klugman, University of Pennsylvania


The process of becoming an urban teacher is multi-layered and complex, filled with intense struggles and success in small doses. Despite expensive reform efforts, political cries for accountability and standardized testing, and periodic shifts in school control, urban students and teachers are still—in large numbers—experiencing failure and defeat. Many new teachers in urban schools are not from urban backgrounds. They must learn about school and community culture, as well as gain an understanding of their own notions of school in order to bridge the cultural and social distance that separates them from the urban school community. Concurrently, they enter teacher preparation to acquire expertise in technical aspects of teaching and are challenged to develop caring and trusting relationships with students in their classrooms. This research paints an ethnographic portrait of the journey of a cohort of white, middle-class student teachers working to make sense of the interrupted and chaotic urban school setting in a secondary teacher preparation program. The study is located within the context of a teacher preparation program as the researcher was also a participant in the program and the study. Using qualitative methods, the study documents how cohort members negotiated the difficult conflicts between their expectations of schools and schooling and the reality of the interrupted urban school context. The design of the research also helped to create a community of student teachers that worked together to learn about teaching. The dissertation, structured as a series of case studies, builds on notions of teaching as a performing art and focuses on key components of effective urban teaching and learning to teach in urban contexts: improvisation, care, collegiality, and trust. Seven recommendations for urban teacher education emerged from the data analysis. The most important recommendations center on the creation and maintenance of cohorts of student teachers, the implementation of workshops for student teachers in drama, improvisation and performance, and the focused academic study of the interrupted-ness and distressed condition of urban schools.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Klugman, Jason Robert, "Weapon scans, lesson plans, and power -less computers: Becoming a teacher in urban America" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3015334.