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An Urban Partner

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Susan Fuhrman

"No school of education in the 21st century has an ivory-tower privilege. That is particularly true of Teachers College, situated as it is in the greatest city in the world."

Dear Friend,

This is my first opportunity to address the TC community from the pages of TC Today, and the stories in this issue provide a particularly apt context for doing so.

As I am quoted saying elsewhere in the issue, I believe very strongly that no school of education in the 21st century has an ivory-tower privilege. That is particularly true of Teachers College, situated as it is in the greatest city in the world. Our privilege--and our obligation--is to partner with City schools and improve their ability to do their jobs, in any way we can.

In these pages, the stories about the TC Student Press Initiative (SPI) and Principal Ira Weston of Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn capture two exemplary ways in which we are doing just that.

The magic of what works best in a classroom is among the hardest things for educational researchers to pinpoint. Yet one thing is clear: children must find relevance to their own lives, concerns and communities in order to become engaged in what they do. SPI asks students of all backgrounds and skill levels to make their own lives, concerns and communities the focus of what they write. It invests them in the process through their stake in that material and through the eventual prospect of publication. That it can do so even with young men in prison--perhaps the most disaffected segment of our society--is the ultimate testimony to its success.

Ira Weston represents an even more direct link between TC and the schools and teachers we seek to assist. He is an alumnus of the TC Peace Corps Fellows Program, through which returning Peace Corps veterans enter service in some of the most challenging and underserved schools in the City. Among these dedicated teachers, Ira Weston is the best of the best--a man who has stayed where he's needed most for more than 20 years and improved the lives of thousands of young people. The Peace Corps Fellow Program and SPI are models for the kind of work TC must do on every front. Ultimately, we must take efforts like these and weave them into a comprehensive whole that can help lift the performance of the entire New York City school system and, by extension, of schools everywhere.

For now, they are building blocks of which we can all be justly proud.

Sincerely,

Susan Fuhrman

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