Our graduate program is specifically shaped to prepare candidates for urban teaching. The decision to create and name a program of study as "urban" was not done lightly. The faculty is aware of the ways in which so much of the vocabulary of city schooling contains code words for elements of race and class. The core elements of good teaching are the same for any setting. A teacher is always charged with the responsibility for student learning and for developing the skills to support learning.
Recent research and evidence (Weiner, 1993, 1999; Ayers et al. 1998) does, however, make the case that preparing for urban teaching is different. In particular, candidates need to develop stronger competencies in initial enactment, an initial sense of navigating a more complex organizational context and a better sense of their students' assets. Pedagogical knowledge also plays an important role as teachers need to be able to reframe from a variety of directions concepts that students initially struggle with (Ma, 1999).
Beyond the development of competencies, the graduate program also has a core ideology, based on the non-negotiable belief that human potential resides in every single student, no matter what their history, no matter what their current status. We are guided by the Report of the National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability which notes, "academic ability is a developed (and developable) ability, one that is not simply a function of one's biological endowment or a fixed aptitude" (Learning Points, 2004).
Finally, it is important for candidates to develop a "critical orientation" (Feiman-Nemser, 1990). This orientation "combines a progressive social vision with a radical critique of schooling. One the one hand, there is optimistic faith in the power of education to shape a new social order. On the other, there is a sobering realization that schools have been instrumental in preserving social inequities." Cochran-Smith (1991) calls this "teaching against the grain." Much of the theory from sociology is specifically targeted at understanding schools as organizations, and in understanding the ways in which a school's context shapes the work of students and teachers alike.
Far from being blank slates with little knowledge about education, prospective teachers' prior beliefs, expectations and knowledge influence what they will come to understand, value, and use from courses in teacher education. Drawing on the work of Vygotsky (1978), and Gardner (1991), our program strives to have candidates respect the a priori schemas of their students, while taking seriously that candidates have tacit concepts of teaching and learning. In essence, there are two pedagogies at hand: a tacit and intuitive one with which candidates begin, and a disciplinary one provided by the teacher education curriculum. Such tacit notions, Bullough and Gitlin (2001) remind us, are deep in the biographies of our candidates.
An awareness of tacit notions shapes the design of individual courses as well as the programmatic design as a whole. Teaching for unlearning requires course designs that illuminate student thinking and provide multiple opportunities to integrate new thinking and a critical sensibility towards one's intuitive understandings. Further, classroom experiences aimed at unlearning must be matched with powerful field experiences that reinforce new ways of understanding. The standard socialization process of the school can pull candidates back into their original unchallenged assumptions. We view the competence of reflective practice as a step-by-step developmental process that builds from habits of critical analysis of classrooms to habits of self criticism to eventual action for improvement.