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Learning to Teach All Over Again

The New Haven Independent has an in-depth profile of a 7th grade teacher at a "turnaround" school in New Haven, Conn., who describes how the move from a small town to a big city forced him to reinvent his teaching style.

Previously, Jason Schneider worked as an assistant principal in the small town of Greenfield, Mass. He decided to go back to the classroom after relocating to New Haven, saying that in a new place "you have to learn what's going on in the classroom." At his school in Greenfield, where 75 percent of students qualified for free and reduced-price lunch, Schneider said he was considered one the best teachers at the school. But his move to an urban school district made him realize he was a "mediocre teacher at best." Whereas he used a "more relaxed" teaching approach in Greenfield, his new students in New Haven let him know "they needed more structure, more group work, more hands-on activities." His classroom management style morphed from polite to directive.

Schneider explained that the kids at Wexler/Grant, who mostly come from low-income black and Hispanic families, had some reservations about accepting a white, Jewish man from out of state. They also weren't used to having a teacher stick around very long, and expressed their surprise when he returned after Christmas break. "Oh, you're back?" some said. He made it his goal to find a way to reach the kids, staying late at school every day, and pushing his students to think more critically and beyond the textbook learning they were used to.

In a recent visit to his classroom, the paper reports that Schneider's lesson on Indian art had the class "brimming with enthusiasm." According to the article, Schneider and his students have come to a "mutual understanding."

"It took us a while to get there, but we got there," Schneider said.

What are your thoughts on the notion that students in urban schools require different kinds of instruction than those in small towns? Has this been true in your experience? Why do you think this is or is not true?

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