Linda Jones, The College of New Jersey

Immersing myself into the urban classroom

This past spring and summer, I had the opportunity of teaching at two different school districts in Trenton and Camden. Taken together, they were a learning experience like none other.

I have always expressed an interest in working in an urban setting from the time I was in high school when I volunteered regularly in a local homeless shelter. That initial curiosity and interest has deepened throughout my college experience as I continue to volunteer weekly at an after-school program in Trenton. Because of these previous experiences, entering the Trenton and Camden public schools was not too far outside of my established and always expanding comfort zone.

I did not grow up in an urban community. In fact, I had quite the opposite experience, growing up in an affluent suburban area of New Jersey. But I always find myself gravitating back to the urban setting.

Frequently, I get asked by friends, family, and colleagues where I would ideally get a teaching job. People who know me well insist that I should make it my plan to go back to my own school district and teach there. What I have to say to them is simple: No, thank you. That is not where my passion for teaching lies. 

The need to help advance others who are not given the same opportunities as I was, drew me into this profession. I believe strongly that a teacher can help set an individual’s life trajectory, and that teaching is one of the most selfless careers.

I aim to devote my life’s work to giving every child the motivation, confidence, and tools they need to advocate for themselves and prosper in a world that might otherwise only try to squander their potential. To begin on this monumental task, I have chosen to immerse myself as much as I can as a future educator in experiencing the classrooms in urban areas.

The need to help advance others who are not given the same opportunities as i was, drew me into this profession.

Guidance along the way

I have seen firsthand the effect that a good teacher has on a room full of students dealing with problems such as poverty, hunger, trauma at home, violence, and immigration enforcement as well as other traumatizing experiences.

While in Trenton, I marveled at how my cooperating teacher, Laurie Tindall, put her students’ needs at the forefront of each school day. I will never forget the day when a new student showed up to our classroom in May without a backpack, school supplies, lunch or even a pencil. Without batting an eyelash, Mrs. Tindall had pencils, notebooks, and personal care items such as a toothbrush all stuffed into a new backpack for our student after he entered the safety of our classroom.

It was while reflecting on such moments that I recognized the monumental task ahead of urban educators as they not only prepare lesson plans but stress, worry, and help to care for every aspect of their students’ well-being.

I have seen the power of teachers who deeply care for their students beyond a teacher’s call of duty. My cooperating teachers have not told me, but instead have shown me what it means to be unconditionally devoted to children and how to build a lasting career out of helping to raise and empower others.

NJEA Preservice helping me navigate the urban classroom

As I have ventured into learning and experiencing the urban classroom, NJEA Preservice has assisted me tremendously.

NJEA Preservice has offered countless opportunities for aspiring educators like me to attend professional development workshops aimed at helping us navigate and understand more deeply the dynamics of all classrooms: urban, suburban and rural.

As my passion for understanding the urban classroom grows, I have had the opportunity to talk with seasoned urban educators who have shared their tried and true lesson plans, first-year experiences, both positive and negative, personal philosophies and of course valuable insights that I will be sure to carry with me throughout my teaching career.

It is also because of NJEA Preservice that I will be the preservice representative on the NJEA Urban Education Committee this year. There, I will further delve into learning about the policies and current issues facing urban education.

Overall, becoming a part of NJEA Preservice has enriched my understanding of what it takes and what it means to be an urban educator. NJEA Preservice continues to help prepare me for any task ahead as an aspiring educator, and I could not be more grateful to be a part of an organization which has influenced my career in such positive ways. 

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