Urban Education

Teacher Helping Boy To Use Digital Tablet In Computer Class


  1. Physical Place and Emotional Space: The spaces that our students live in and interact with are not something we can or should expect them to leave at the door when they enter the school building. These places carry emotions that are unshakable. As teachers we must embrace the complexity that surrounds the impact spaces have on our students. We may infuse this by creating spaces for our students that are not only safe but also support who they are and where they come from. This means taking the time to learn our students and to incorporate who they are and where they come from into our space and our lessons.
  2. Of Barbers and Beauty Shops: When we enter a barber shop we expect a personal experience, and it is up to the Barber to create the environment for that to happen. As teachers, we aim to do the same. This is only possible when we create space for open and honest discussion. When working to infuse this into specifically urban classrooms, much of our work with be in diffusing the tensions of our students. Tension and apprehension are common for many students and through the work of a teacher to create humor and story into the classroom, we can lead a change in attitude that leads to openness and comfort.
  3. Rap Cypher: Students who may struggle to form connections and engage with one another are able to do so when sharing culturally relevant aspects of their identity. As teachers, we may infuse this insight by breaking from the traditional set of boundaries about how learning is done and constructed and instead work to use culturally relevant material. Don’t be afraid to reference pop culture.
  4. Speaking Students’ Language: Working off of the last insight and focusing more heavily on pop culture. We want to speak our students’ language, and no that does not mean appropriating colloquial language and terms. This simply means not being afraid to lean off of your student’s interests and excitements. Music is known to help studying; however, in the classroom we often play classical music because it lacks word and distraction. While I do love to rock to some good Mozart, I also love to get through work while listening to EDM. Plenty of songs don’t have a single word and they are up beat, energizing, and they speak the language of my students’ interests. Use words, phrases, references that your students know. It is fun, funny, and can create a positive environment.
  5. Science Genius: When we search for how to engage often disenfranchised students in the classroom by employing common interests of rap and hip-hop. Like any infusion of urban culture, we do have to be careful and intentional with implementation to make it clear that we are bringing culture into the classroom and not appropriating it. We can invite local DJs and rappers, and work with pop culture members of our community to help students create art that also engages them in the work they are creating.

Change in Thinking

  1. Teaching in urban areas is different than a traditional school. This isn’t something negative, but it is a fact. Those who treat teaching in urban schools like the saying “I don’t see race” are setting themselves up to fail. It is important to acknowledge the difference so that we may then adapt to the environment we are in.
  2. We as teachers should not shy away from infusing the culture of our students including nontraditional aspects that are commonly seen as separate from academic thinking.
  3. Don’t shy away from social media in the classroom. There are great and powerful ways to infuse it and can lead to increased interest and engagement. With proper care, it can be a powerful tool.

Change in Thinking -> Application in Class

I hope to create a TikTok page in my future classroom that highlights not only who my students are but what they are learning in a way that allows for full participation and prideful representation of their culture and identity. Each week I aim to upload one video that highlights a students’ work or a happening in class that will highlight the excitement of my classroom and the powerful ways they engage with content. By using pop culture references, songs, and quotes this project will add a layer to my classroom that engages my students beyond the traditional sphere. Of course, as an already behind in the tech world future teacher, I will rely heavily on my students knowledge and abilities to help create content. This interactive aspect allows for the students to have an active role in producing something that goes beyond the classroom and that highlights them.


  1. Hello Melinda, I enjoyed reading your post. I think it is a great idea to highlight student success in the classroom and using social media would be a great way to spread the word. The only question that I have would include how you might deal with parents who do not want their kids on social media. While this might be a unique situation, I have seen it arise on occasion and was wondering about your thoughts.

    • Hi Duncan, that is a great question and one I have definitely thought over. I have seen a couple of ways that educators work through this. Some make videos that only include the teacher’s face but include the voices of the students. Others have done permission slips and worked with the administration on the protocol. I think that working in 9-12 will be a bit more flexible with having my students take part in video creation, but I will of course reach out to parents first and their comfort along with my students’ comfort always come first!

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