Why is it important to teach NYC?
As student teachers, we learn about the need to activate prior knowledge as a bridge to new understandings. Basically, what do your kids know already to help get them interested learning something new? As a student of NYC history, I have observed time and again how every aspect of the curriculum can be extricated from the bustling life of this town. There is everything from math to science to ELA, and endless fodder for Social Studies. The life of modern world has its crossroads in our city. Our kids need to be a conscious part of that.
Kids need to see the city!
We live in the greatest city in the world. That is why many of us who were not born here came here. But many of our kids don’t know that. This city is their room temperature reality. Its all they know. For many of our kids, especially the poorest, their neighborhood is their world. The city is seen in brief glimpses on shopping trips. We need to understand as teachers that the greatest opportunity for our students to see the city is through school and other extracurricular programs.
We are not showing it to them!
Its unfortunate that in my short time as a teacher, I have seen such a disconnect between the culture of the classroom and the richness of experience to be found in NYC. Part of this is NCLB mandated focus on testing skills which further isolates the school from the city.
So what is the solution?
I heartily commend the efforts of the NYC Dept. of Education in supporting the work of the Gotham Center, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and other groups, as well as the work of dept. officials like Fran Macko for working with teachers who want to use the city as a curriculum resource. But we, as teachers, need to do it on our own. This is our city, these are our students. Let us ourselves bring them together for the betterment of both.