Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms

Multicultural education isn’t a specialty; it’s how teaching and learning should happen in all schools, with all students. Gloria Ladson-Billings, education professor at the University of Wisconsin, studies the habits of mind required of beginning teachers who are prepared to support diverse classrooms. Drawing on her own memories of her start in teaching and the experiences of eight students participating in Madison’s Teach for Diversity program, Ladson-Billings clearly defines multicultural education and forcefully raises expectations for teacher education programs.

Ladson-Billings observes, “Teaching with a sociopolitical consciousness is not easy.” Nor is the education that teachers need to become culturally aware, as the final chapter, “A Vision of the Promised Land,” reveals, describing the mythical Urban Teacher Academy. Briefly and inspirationally, Ladson-Billings points toward ways to make teacher education more challenging, prestigious and meaningful. Her vision of how teacher education ought to be conducted is tremendously exciting.

Crossing Over to Canaan establishes that multicultural education’s goal is to
use students’ experiences as the foundation for understanding and learning. Excerpting pieces from student teachers’ journals and interviews, Ladson-Billings demonstrates that novice teachers need coaching to understand both their own perspectives and their students’ cultures. Both new and veteran teachers will empathize with what it feels like when teachers challenge their own assum-ptions and acknowledge areas of needed growth as they seek to teach for social justice and equity. Ladson-Billings’ descriptions of the ways teachers skilled in multicultural education think will be useful to schools as they evaluate prospective teachers and help them embark upon their teaching careers.

reviewed by Jill Davidson