My responsibility as an educator to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.

As an educator, I take great responsibility in the fact that in my classroom, and throughout the building, I am entrusted by my students to stand up for them in situations of exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I feel that, since students look up to their teachers so much, we should be held to a higher standard than most citizens when it comes to the rights and treatment of others. No matter what the socioeconomic status of an educators school is, they should be aware of the critical racial–economic issues that influence schooling and multiple strategies for addressing these issues (Rivera 2005).

In Struthers’ article, Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?, we see that teaching human rights education (HRE) is more beneficial to us as a society when taught to younger students. Struthers said “…the possibility that learners will have ingrained prejudices by the time in later education when these issues are traditionally confronted can be minimized. The provision of HRE is, therefore, important for shaping the attitudes that will contribute to the development of a human rights culture based upon the values of freedom, equality, dignity, non-discrimination and tolerance” (Struthers 2016). When we teach tolerance and acceptance to students at a young age, that becomes when they teach others. As educators we teach something called the “unwritten curriculum”. It’s not something you’ll see in your state’s Common Core standards, or in your districts individual curriculum, but it’s something that we all do in our classrooms everyday. By creating class environments built on support, love, and care, we are teaching a version of HRE to our students. When they see the way we treat others, it becomes the way they internalize is how they are supposed to treat others.

Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice,44(1), 27-37. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4401_5

Struthers, A. E. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education? Human Rights Law Review,16(1), 131-162. doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngv040

13 thoughts on “My responsibility as an educator to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.”

  1. Jess,
    I couldn’t agree with you more that we as teachers need to be held to a higher standard and expectations. As teachers we need to have are eyes open and look for situations and critical racial–economic issues that influence schooling. I feel that it is also important to start teaching this at a young age and continue it throughout the school career. This helps students recognize the importance. I also agree that environment plays a huge role in this. Environments in classrooms are suppose to be warm, welcoming, and supportive. It should be a place students feel comfortable. This content would help build and expand on this type of environment. I agree with so many of your points and really enjoyed reading this blog 🙂

    Shelby

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    1. I agree with your statement about an “unwritten curriculum” that educators are still responsible for teaching. If we take a moment to reflect on all of the things our students learn and pick up on by the time they get to kindergarten, we can probably assume that the prejudices their parents may feel are starting to rub off and become part of the child. It is important that educators realize how much students absorb from the outside world, and that we are able to intervene and create an environment where oppression is not tolerated and outwardly fought.

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    2. I love what you said about your students trusting you to stand up for them. That is so important. Your students should be able to trust that you are working for their best interest and that the classroom is a safe space for them to be themselves and express their ideas and feelings. It is also, as you stated, crucial for teachers to be aware of the cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic status of their students so as to best meet students’ needs beyond just educationally. If a student does not feel safe or welcome in their classroom, there is no chance that it will be a valuable learning experience for them.

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  2. I agree that it is crucial to begin teaching social justice and tolerance early on in students’ educational career. This way students will have a good foundation to build on in the future. This can limit the prejudices that might come later in life if tolerance has been a main idea from earlier on. I love the idea of the “unwritten curriculum,” that you mentioned, it is something that we, as teachers, need to put above the curriculum. The students will forget the fact but the life lessons they learned in your class will last forever, therefore, teachers must prioritize their values over the facts in the curriculum. The superintendent of the school I work told the teachers to place a higher worth on these crucial values and ideas than on test scores. He believed that if you teach with these values in mind the students will get the content all the same. This was amazing to hear coming from a superintendent because it shows that the students are truly the most important thing to the higher administration.

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  3. Jess,

    You raised many great points throughout your post. One piece I connected to in my own post was when you mentioned “No matter what the socioeconomic status of an educators school is, they should be aware of the critical racial–economic issues that influence schooling and multiple strategies for addressing these issues”. I believe that this is a crucial point in teaching about these issues. If you are unaware of the students backgrounds that you are teaching you may miss out on some very relatable teachable opportunities. Allowing our students to see how this content is connected to real life, and not just taught within the walls of a classroom is an important piece to this educational experience. These are issues that students can begin to develop opinions and stances on, and will be present throughout their own lives.

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  4. Jess,

    I also believe that teachers must be role models for their students, or, as you stated, “I feel that, since students look up to their teachers so much, we should be held to a higher standard than most citizens when it comes to the rights and treatment of others.” This is an important mindset to bear in mind as educators because we are in a unique position of authority and influence. We must use this position to raise awareness and present important issues of regarding social justice, prejudice, and exclusion. To achieve this, we must be working toward “building [a] community in the classroom [that] can create a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’ when examining social justice issues” (Storms, 2013, p. 38). Not only will this promote inclusion, but it will engage the students and allow them to feel that they have a voice and deserve to be heard. Furthermore, this kind of engagement makes these important issues real for them and motivates them to become agents of change.

    In addition, while it was a new phrase to me, the “unwritten curriculum” is something that all educators must promote and support. It bolsters our belief that teachers are role models and that students learn more from our behavior than we acknowledge. Therefore, as Poplin and Rivera (2005) state, “[t]eachers also need to acquire disposition about the importance not only of difference but of similarities and the need for collaboration among diverse groups” (p. 32). I believe that students, and society in general, would be more receptive to addressing issues of oppression and privilege if we focused on our similarities as people rather than solely on our differences. Our students need to see that different kinds of people typically share the same values, and, as teachers, we need to present these views in a fair and unbiased way. Not only will this give them common ground to help bridge the divide, but it will raise awareness about these issues and show them that these supposed differences are not as factual as we have been led to believe. We have an opportunity to create real change from the bottom up by being the role models that these students need and, ultimately, require.

    References
    Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified
    and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 27-37.
    Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education,
    20(2), 33-39.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Jess! I completely agree with your statement that, “When we teach tolerance and acceptance to students at a young age, that becomes when they teach others.” I think it is so important for teachers to implement HRE into their curriculum at the elementary level because students are still learning the difference between right and wrong. Students should be aware of the basic concepts of love, respect, and tolerance, and that we as human beings all deserve to feel accepted, especially in their own classroom communities. I love your comment about teaching the “unwritten curriculum” because we as educators do that every day within our own classroom communities on a daily basis. For instance, as a full time classroom teaching assistant, I spend half of my day in a 2nd grade classroom and the other half of my day in a co-taught 5th grade classroom. Last week was our first week of school and in both classrooms, we spent a lot of time creating classroom rules and class promises to each other. Although both the 2nd and 5th grade classrooms have different academic experiences and maturity levels, both classroom promises dealt with the same underlying values of respecting and supporting one another. As you said in your post, “When they [students] see the way we treat others, it becomes the way they internalize is how they are supposed to treat others.” When we teach students the basic forms of HRE, students are aware that they should treat others with respect and tolerance.

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  6. Jess, I really enjoyed reading your post! I absolutely agree that we as teachers should be held up to a higher standard to teach and demonstrate these issues in our everyday lives. Students look up to us, and if we are not teaching them what is right and wrong, we are failing them as individuals. I said this in a post earlier but one of my goals as a teacher is to create outstanding citizens. Practice what you preach is something I live by! If I want my students to be outstanding citizens, then I need to model what one would look like! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I completely agree with your statement that “when we teach tolerance and acceptance to students at a young age, that becomes when they teach others.” Though it is not in our curriculum we can find many resources online to help our students gain a better understanding. The website https://www.teachingforchange.org/ provides lessons and online resources and sites that students can be engaged in their learning. Finding time to incorporate these lessons can make a change in the way we all act towards one another.

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  8. I totally agree with you, I think it is so important that students are exposed to these issues, and injustices at a young age. I think it is important they learn how to treat each other at a young age because students need to know how treat their classmates and other people they interact with. I think as teachers we can help shape how students develop and interact with others. I do this in my classroom when students are working together in groups or partners. It is important that they are respectful of each other and their classmate’s opinions.

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  9. I totally agree with you that teachers should be held to a higher standard when it comes to exemplifying and supporting human rights education. Students look to us to provide an example of how to act everyday. By enforcing social justice and creating a supporting, safe learning environment, students learn what social equality looks like. I also believe that these good habits certainly impact the younger students the most, being that experiences during adolescence can stick with a student forever, whether these critical moments are positive or negative. I have never heard anyone call it the “unwritten curriculum”, but that honestly is a great way of putting it. Just because it is not part of the coursework, doesn’t mean that it is not important in shaping students to be better academically and socially. Great post!
    -Anthony

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  10. You brought up a great point in this post about the students looking up to the teachers and using them as role models for life. There are things in life that a teacher must act on and that action will domino effect the rest of the students. Every time a teacher combats bullying, name calling, prejudice, and exclusion the teacher is standing up for not just that student but any student who has ever felt that way. Creating a class environment that nurtures all students and their ideas and beliefs will create an environment where all students believe they have the opportunity to learn.

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  11. I absolutely agree with your statement that said, “we [teachers] should be held to a higher standard than most citizens when it comes to the rights and treatment of others.” Students truly do look up to their teachers, and other figures of authority in their schools. The teachers should not only feel a responsibility to immediately address issues of exclusion, prejudice and injustice, but should feel an innate desire to stop the situation and then educate those involved in the situation. The educational aspect of resolving injustice issues is very important in my opinion, because if students are not taught why their behaviors and attitudes towards another person are unacceptable, then the students are less likely to understand why their behavior must change.

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