Standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice

What do you perceive your responsibility as an educator to be to standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice?

I believe that as an educator it is one of my responsibilities to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice and to bring forth this knowledge to my students. My perception of this that empower my students to stand up for their own rights and for the rights of others. In today’s world we are enduring an issue of social inequality and it is imperative that our students’ understanding is strengthen through means of recognizing  the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all various groups (Struthers, pg. 134). I agree with Struthers in the fact that some teachers may feel hesitant in introducing and discussing this controversial topic. However,  it is possible and will benefit and pave a way for young learners to be capable in engaging tough situations and issues. As educator, I need to strip away the notion from other educators that this topic leads to shades of grey and is not appropriate for our students. Exclusion prejudice and injustice is certainly a heavy topic to discuss, however making educators feel self-assured in being able to educate others in this area is just as important as ensuring that others view human rights as a mainstream subject for formal education (Struthers, pg. 145).

In addition, I believe that as an educator I need to provide students with an open space of opportunities where they can share their lived experiences of social injustice. This supports them in giving validation as well as connecting students’ experiences to the social issues of power and privilege and access to equitable  schooling. Overall, my goal is to help them navigate in ways individuals can commit to social justice advocacy (Storms, pg. 37).

Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural      Education, 20(2), 33-39.

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

17 thoughts on “Standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice”

  1. I love how you mention creating a space where students can share their social justice experiences. Sometimes it seems that these first hand experiences to people that you know really open your eyes and put into perspective the issues that are occurring. I am not sure what grade level that you teach or subject area but in a course I took for my Undergrad degree we had a book club where we read the book Monster by Walter Dean Meyers and talked about race and social justice. It was very interesting to hear students perspectives and the book really encouraged discussions that might not have happened if it wasn’t for the book shedding light on those tougher topics. Just a thought as to incorporating some form of literature or article to spark a discussion instead of just posing a question to students. For example, I am a math teacher so instead of reading a whole book I could incorporate an article about gender discrepancy between males or females in mathematical jobs.

    -Natalie

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    1. Always remember that as teachers, we are partially responsible for how students see the world around them. Our students are in school for at least 6 hours a day for 5 days a week. That is a lot of time for them to develop perspectives on the world and it is our job to make the right impression. By educating them about the facts and leading them towards positive mediums for expressing their thoughts and opinions on social matters. I loved what you said about how you would like to provide students with an opportunity to share lived social injustices. Something like that would open the eyes of many students and help some realize that certain issues hit closer to home than they thought.
      -Anthony

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    2. Afternoon Everyone,
      I enjoyed reading the responses and experiences when it came to this subject. Having the students share their experiences is a great idea, it allows other students to hear what their peers have done through, which they may not have already known. It creates the hidden curriculum as they say, where the students become the teachers, and those around them may learn something about one another, but also about themselves.
      It is extremely important to understand that we as educators are the forefront of our students and can help in shaping their minds as they see the world. Opening up the discussion forum is important in a respectful way to understand the various perspectives of your students, while allowing the others to speak their minds in a safe and comfortable environment. Discussions like these are always important; again, not running from the issues but speaking about them in a way that all students, no matter what your perspective may be, can get their views and opinions out within the class.

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  2. ” As educator, I need to strip away the notion from other educators that this topic leads to shades of grey and is not appropriate for our students.”

    Agreed! And may I add that threading through ambiguity is not necessary a negative thing. Not all things in the classroom are meant to be over rehearsed and structured, open discussions may leave room for grey areas. These could serve as teachable moments to come back to the topic and resurface what was left unclear. This may give both the educator and the students some time to reflect on the topic and reproach the discussion on a different day from a different angle.

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    1. I love this idea, some of the best information I have ever learned has come from discussions that essentially got “off topic” but this information stuck with me longer that whatever it was that I was originally supposed to be learning. Teachable moments are amazing because they often translate into the “real world” better than the structured lesson, along with that it may in turn teach you (the educator) something you didn’t previously know. I personally hate when people will not discuss things because they consider them taboo, this just leads to more ingorance, if a topic can be discussed in a rational way (and people don’t get all weird or scared about it) than so many barriers can be broken down.

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  3. I enjoyed reading your post and I agree that it can be difficult to have these controversial but necessary conversations with our students. I really like how you want to give your students an environment where they feel comfortable to talk about the issues they face or see in public. It starts with us as educators taking that step and help our students make a change.

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    1. I agree with you triodl70! It can be very difficult, but also very necessary to have these kind of conversations with students. Educators have to be the ones to start the conversations, to make changes; in the students.

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  4. My favorite part of your post is where you said “As an educator, I need to strip away the notion from other educators that this topic leads to shades of grey and is not appropriate for our students.” I agree that we need to look social injustice in the face and stand up to it. If our students see their teacher modeling strength and empowerment, they will do so as well.

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    1. I loved this as well! I also think we should encourage students to try to have discussions like these outside of the classroom, like at home with parents or siblings. Especially if it is a touchy subject, students should feel comfortable discussing it with the people in their lives that they are most comfortable with, as it will only help them later on in life having these kinds of discussions with others.

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    2. I feel the same way! That part of really spoke to me. As a teacher, you can’t just skip over the important topics of discussion because they can be difficult. Instead, teachers need to learn how to approach a hard topics in a appropriate and positive way.

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  5. This week, in the middle of a lesson, one of my students called me over to ask why the back of my hand was brown and the front of my hand was white. I was unsure about how to answer his question.While I am teaching digital citizenship, my student is making observations and inquiring about his teacher. I have never noticed, I did not know and I had to be comfortable with telling him so. I conjectured about the role of melanin in my complexion but could not give him an answer. He was encouraged to search on his own and acknowledged for his interesting observation As stated in your post, it is important to create an open space for students to discuss their observations, understandings and questions. It is also necessary to be comfortable with not knowing and to continue searching. This is a part of the unwritten curriculum, things learned but not taught in class. While creating an open space is important, so is creating a safe and respectful space. As a teacher and an adult, I am better prepared to receive these kinds of questions. Children are not. In a class of children from diverse backgrounds, they must be taught how to question and respond to inquiries about their differences in a time where they are still developing and getting to know themselves.
    Great post,
    -Traci

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  6. I love that you spoke of creating a space for students where they can be themselves and feel safe in doing so. As both a mother and a teacher, I wholeheartedly feel that it is our duty to nurture and accept our students as well as help them to be confident and take ownership of their whole selves. I want to know that children, when in school, are in a place where intolerance, and intimidation have no place. It’s important that these ideals are well known and clear so students can focus on learning. When anyone is faced with fear, or preoccupied with being accepted, dealing with pressures and stresses just for being who they are, especially through no fault of their own, then learning is not at the forefront. Also, it’s part of our jobs as teachers to show them how to navigate through these experiences and through life, ultimately.

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  7. I agree that no matter how difficult it may be, teaching your students about social justice and issues with social inequality is essential towards progressing the community. A question I’ll raise though is how will you prevent your own possible biases from leaking into the classroom. What actions will you make to progress a culturally relative Classroom?

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  8. Loved the post! However it is very important to have this conversation with parents, family friends. So you can look at from different view points. Students around the world need as many opportunities as possible.

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  9. There are so many times as an educator that you have to watch what you say about your own personal opinions on topics and avoid imprinting your beliefs onto your students. So many times this happens by the pure fact that students are not fully aware of how they feel or understand it for that matter. Educating the students is definitely the key step to making them aware of what’s going on around them as well as to help them. My question for you is what time of day/during what course can this education take place. As well as, what material would you use to help the students to learn more. It is difficult to find information on some topics without the opinions coming through. A great resource could be newsELA. It is a source with articles at different age groups. Within these articles the students get three things. First they get factual, numerical data; then they get a pro opinion on the topic and finally they get a con opinion on the topic. Using all of that material they can make their own decisions.

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  10. There’s so many parts of this that I like. As an educator, there are times where it will be hard to bring up controversial topics in class because of the different backgrounds that people come from. You can’t avoid talking about the difficult things because they’re difficult, sometimes it needs to be heard and brought up.

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  11. I agree with kaciemiyama! You can’t avoid talking to the kids about it. We are a teacher, we need to teach the kids so they are prepared to know the knowledge outside of school.

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