2016-summer-meg-white

NCU Graduate Meg White
Authors First Book on Education in Urban Environments

Written by Judy Tierney

Thirty years ago and fresh out of college, Meg White, 2012 NCU Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate, flew to a job interview at an urban Washington, D.C. public school. It was one week after school had started and she was hired on the spot. The next day she walked into the classroom and into a job that would shape her life, and lead her down a path to a dream that she never could have anticipated.

Meg White (EdD, Author and Assistant Professor, Teacher Education at Stockton University)

Meg White

“Growing up in a predominately white, middle-class environment in New Jersey and attending an all-women’s private, Catholic college couldn’t have possibly prepared me to be a minority teacher in an inner-city school district,” says White. “But it was probably the best experience of my entire career. It truly shaped me into the educator I am today because I had to learn so much about my community and my students.”

Today White is devoted to helping her own students at Stockton University in New Jersey understand who they are culturally and to examine the cultural lens through which they see the world. This enables them to better understand the students they teach and be more effective in the classroom. Along with co-authors Connie Schaffer, EdD, and Corine Brown, PhD, White has just published her first book on the subject, Questioning Assumptions and Challenging Perceptions: Becoming an Effective Educator in Urban Environments.

“If I place 50 students in the district, and 45 of them say this is absolutely not the environment I want to teach in, and the other five say this is absolutely my life’s work, then I’ve done my job.”

Meg White, EdD

Midway through her career, White realized she wanted to focus on higher education and that she needed to go back to school to earn her doctoral degree. As a mother of two young boys, she required a self-directed program that did not involve classroom work. NCU offered the flexibility to balance work, school and family, as well as to earn a doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching, which perfectly fit her career goals.

“I’d always been the classroom teacher, and the perspective I gained in my doctoral program was much more theoretical,” explains White. “It was the missing piece in my education, and that is 100 percent what the program provided me.” White also attributes her positive experience at NCU to her dissertation chair, Linda Collins, EdD, for providing the essential guidance she needed in her doctoral pursuit.

While finishing her dissertation, White was also serving as a full-time faculty member at Rowan University in New Jersey. It was there that she and Brown, a fellow teacher, began placing first-semester teacher education students in an urban classroom in Camden, N.J., to complete fieldwork hours. Back on campus, they worked with the students to help them understand what they were seeing in the classrooms and how to make sense of it all.

That summer, White and Brown got together and developed the draft for a book. Several months later at a Kappa Delta Pi event in Dallas, they met Schaffer, who was doing similar work to theirs at the University of Nebraska. Over the next six months, the three became a formidable writing team, and by late spring they had a book contract with the Rowman and Littlefield publishing house.

“You put yourself out there when you write, and the process is so vulnerable that without a trusting relationship it would have been very difficult.”

“If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be an author, I would have said there’s no way,” White tells me. “But the more I pursued this work and took my students into urban areas, the more I knew there was a calling, a drive, a push to get this message out there.”

White says that the biggest challenge for her and her co-authors was developing a writing relationship built on trust. “Research writing is different from dissertation writing, and book writing is different from either of those,” she explains. “You put yourself out there when you write, and the process is so vulnerable that without a trusting relationship it would have been very difficult.”

The process required each author to respect what the others contributed, and provide constructive, helpful feedback and suggestions. “Although there were three of us, we were always a team with one goal,” says White. “We were able to be honest with each other even when we disagreed on things, and we never lost sight of our goal to deliver our message.”

White is continuing her work at Stockton University, where her students are completing fieldwork in the Atlantic City school district. The pre- and post-perception data about what students think the urban school districts are all about is phenomenal, White says.

“If I place 50 students in the district, and 45 of them say this is absolutely not the environment I want to teach in, and the other five say this is absolutely my life’s work, then I’ve done my job,” she says. “I so firmly believe that urban students deserve the best that our profession has to offer.”

What’s next for White? Now that the book is out, the authors are focused on presenting at conferences and spreading their message. “We definitely want to write another book someday,” White says, “and we have lots of ideas.”

“My mother used to say, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’” she concludes. “Taking a shot at something is always worth it. Being in the game is better than sitting on the bench.”