Dr. Sonia Nieto, professor of language, literacy, and culture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said teachers need to be more aware of their students’ communities.
Nieto is the author of four books used to prepare teachers for the classroom. She was at Duquesne University today to speak with School of Education faculty and students on how to tackle teaching challenges and best teach the next generation of educators.
Nieto said teachers need to be more aware of diversity in the classroom. She said educators aren’t just seeing students of different races in the classroom, but students with different sexual orientations and different social classes.
“I was just writing, in this social justice chapter that I’m writing, that this one teacher who’s from Philadelphia was saying that in his school, which is a school for social justice, a lot more LGBT students are applying to go there because it’s a safe school,” said Nieto. “Teachers need to know about those things.”
Nieto said teachers should also take a student’s community and surroundings into account when thinking about how to teach. She said she once interviewed a young woman that lived in a town that tried to pass an ordinance to restrict the number of Puerto Ricans moving in.
“Now how could that not affect her and her family and the whole community? How could that not affect them?”
Nieto said schools of education need to move away from methods courses and teaching “best practices.” She said teachers should get to learn about their students and their neighborhoods before determining what could work in the classroom.
She said teachers are constantly facing new challenges and have to adapt to society changing.
“You may be uncomfortable. You know, it’s not about you’re discomfort. It’s about making school and the schooling something that’s satisfying for the students,” said Nieto. “So that’s what we always need to focus on.”