In the talk from Tim Wise, he mentioned that he finds it ridiculous that a white teacher can go to work in a black school without knowing anything about the students he or she will be teaching. While I agree with this, I really don’t think race is the driving factor here. Yes, there would be great culture shock for a white middle-class suburban teacher stepping into a poor black urban school for the first time. However, wouldn’t the culture shock be just as great if that teacher were stepping into a poor rural school in Appalachia, where most of the students are white? Or, taking poverty out of it entirely, what about someone from the northeast working in a school in Louisiana or southern California? I would argue that it’s a good idea, no matter the circumstances, for a teacher to be familiar with and preferably have experienced the conditions their students live in.
That being said, it’s not really possible to mandate that people can only become teachers in the area where they grew up. So how can new teachers get to experience how their students live? Maybe parents could be encouraged to invite a new teacher to their house for a meal, or offer to take them on a tour of the town. Maybe a teacher could even arrive a couple weeks early for their first school year and stay with local families, who could be compensated for the time, food, and effort by the school board. Thoughts? How could this work? Would it even be worthwhile?