Andrew DeMuro’s history students at Booker T. Washington Senior High School didn’t understand how learning about Napoleon Bonaparte, the 18th-century Frenchman, could be useful to them.
DeMuro, currently a senior in the University of Miami’s School of Education, taught his class that lessons about the historical French leader are still important because “that short kid in class you pick on in school, could one day grow up to be your boss.”
“If you can’t get them into what you’re saying, then you’re screwed for the rest of the day,” DeMuro said. “You have to think like them to understand them.”
That is just part of DeMuro’s job as a student-teacher at Booker T. Washington, which is located in Overtown, a poor area in Miami’s inner city.
His work is part of a breakthrough partnership between the School of Education’s department of teaching and learning at the university along with Booker T. Washington High School.
This partnership with an inner city school is the first of its kind at UM. The main goal is to develop an on-going relationship with the high school while providing participating UM students with the experience of working within a secondary school.
Although it’s relatively new, Wendy Cavendish, who serves as the liaison between the teaching and learning department and the high school, said their work is already making a strong, positive impact.
“It’s a partnership where the high school is very much interested in us working with them and in return there are opportunities for our students,” Cavendish said. “It’s important to recognize that we don’t just provide a service – the relationship is mutually beneficial.”
For the high school students, the benefit is not just in gaining new teachers, but exposing them to the college experience as well. For the student-teachers, there’s just as much to be learned from the mentors they work with and the students themselves.
“It’s the perfect combination,” said senior Kevin Cook, who is involved in the partnership. “It’s working with amazing teachers and the toughest kids.”
“If you can do this, you’re prepared for any other job,” he said.
Although working within the curriculum dictated by the public school system is a challenge within itself, Cook, DeMuro and Cavendish all see it as a chance to make a difference at Miami’s inner-city schools, and in the Overtown community overall.
“I’m excited to be part of a greater movement to fix a system that’s failing,” DeMuro said. “I can make a difference and watch it happen.”
They also hope the School of Education will expand its programs to other students, allowing more ways to experience working with the high school students. They said it’s an experience that will follow them further into their future teaching careers.
“They’re smart, they just need someone to tell them that,” DeMuro said. “When you see it work, it’s all the verification you need.”
The partnership and related programs are currently only open to students majoring within the School of Education. For information on the department of teaching and learning, visit education.miami.edu.