B.Ed. Cohort - Inner City Option (Elementary)
Course Offered: 2005 - present
CUS Associates: Beverly Caswell and Darlene Avis-Pottinger (Option Coordinators)
At the beginning of the 2005 academic year, the Centre for Urban Schooling facilitated a collaborative process with approximately fifteen OISE faculty and staff, in which the principles for an inner city teacher education program were developed. The Inner City Option (ICO) is now in its third year, with sixty-five teacher candidates from diverse backgrounds working to address the specific needs and challenges of inner city students, schools and families. This program is committed to exploring issues of equity and social justice, and to integrating research-based theory and practice in order to prepare teachers not only for teaching students in low-income, urban schools, but also for becoming advocates of change for students traditionally underserved by the system.
A strong focus is on the importance of setting high expectations for all learners and recognizing some of the internal and external biases that can interfere with this process. CUS plays an instrumental role in supporting many of these teacher candidates to find placements within TDSB Model Schools. The ICO offers an innovative program that is strongly linked to communities and schools in the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. This option focuses on social justice through an anti-oppression agenda, which addresses the systemic power imbalances both in the educational system and society as a whole. The ICO works to prepare teacher candidates who are ready to engage with the current reality of inner city schools and to arrive at an understanding of the many ways in which teachers can help to change this reality.
A unique feature of the ICO program is the community placement opportunity. Here, the teacher candidates develop an understanding of the importance of teachers’ and schools’ roles in building relationships with parents and caregivers of children in inner city schools, and fostering community partnerships to strengthen the supports for families that are living in poverty and attending public schools. ICO partnership placements include: Pathways to Education, Bloorview Kids Rehab, the Hospital for Sick Children, Alexandra Park Homework Club, Art Heart in Regent Park, Muslim Association of Canada, Frontier College, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Evergreen Yonge Street Youth Mission, involvement in the planning and coordination of a youth empowerment conference (Sister 2 Sister), the Geneva Centre for Autism, East Scarborough Storefront, Habitat for Humanity, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Imagine Native Film Festival, and the National Society of Black Engineers.
A number of ICO teacher candidates won an OISE Commendation Award this year for their work in organizing the First Annual Empty Bowls event at OISE, which integrated elements of the arts in connection with community agencies, students in the TDSB, teacher candidates, and the broader OISE community to raise funds for Sistering, an organization that supports women and children in need. The event brought together the OISE community for a communal luncheon, which featured crock-pots full of donated homemade soup and bread, and an open mic session for entertainment. Through the sale of over 1000 handmade clay bowls (made by teacher candidates in the OISE art class, and with TDSB students in their practicum placements), this group raised over $1000 to support the meal program at Sistering. This is an example of the intersection between school, community, and social justice activism.