Social Justice- The Divided States of America

This week I had the privilege of attending the forum, The Divided States of America. Before my arrival I did not really know what to expect or how discussions would take place, especially with a topic that can get sensitive very quickly. However, I quickly learned that even though we would be discussing a sensitive topic, that the room was a safe space where we were all willing to listen to everyone’s opinion, whether we agreed with each other or not. While I learned a lot about different perspectives, I was reminded that I want to create a classroom environment that mimics this type of safe space. As a teacher, we have the opportunity to foster a classroom environment in which students feel safe to be themselves and to speak what they believe. I believe that one way we can teach social justice is through modeling what it looks like to engage in civil discussion and understanding. Classrooms are mini communities that have citizens (students/teacher) and laws (class rules/procedures). We as teachers help model how to respond to actions or comments that we do agree with, which can be translated outside of the classroom and into the larger community. We cannot achieve social justice if we are not willing to listen to each other. Change cannot occur if we do not have open ears. As a teacher I want to model to my students how to listen to others and teach my students how to have open ears to all. All we have to do is listen to each other, no said we have to agree, but we have to listen and try to understand where others are coming from. When we start doing this, social justice occurs.

3 thoughts on “Social Justice- The Divided States of America”

  1. I agree that every classroom should be a safe space and one in which students are taught to engage in meaningful discussion and respectfully agree and disagree with the opinions of their peers. Respectfully disagreeing with others is a skill that should be modeled and actively practiced throughout the year. The following link provides ideas for how to incorporate this into the classroom and a lesson plan in which students define what respect looks, feels and sounds like before creating their own rules of respect. As teachers, we often use the word respect but don’t always discuss it’s meaning with our students.

    https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/agree-to-respectfully-disagree

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  2. I love your term “divided states of America” because that is essentially what is going on. I feel that it is our job as teachers to teach and stress the importance of effective communication skills. As a society, we don’t listen to each other as much as we should. We are very much focused on our own ideas and being right. The classroom is a great place to start with demonstrating positive discussions about tough topics. As you said, they are mini-communities, so it is a small-scale example of the real world our students will enter into.

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  3. Piggy-backing off of the previous comments, the understanding of respect and integrating the strengths of the individuals within the classroom setting makes for a stronger student/teacher connection. By educating the students to have an open-mind rather than “by the book” per say; can lead to greater discussions in social content and overall makes the class environment a better model for them to be vocal about their ideas and beliefs. Great insight!

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