Social Justice Reflection

1. Do you have any new insights after the class experience concerning social justice?

Absolutely. Starting from the very beginning, taking surveys and looking into our own biases and white privilege, I immediately knew I had a lot to learn this semester. Reflecting on my results from these exercises, I was motivated to use this to better my practice as a teacher. I have always felt that this is where I have been lacking and will always have room for improvement, but I do feel more confident in my ability to incorporate social justice into more of my daily lessons.

2. Do you have any new concerns about social justice?

The only issues that come to mind are mainly about what happens outside of my classroom. I try to create a safe environment for my students because the classroom is in my control. But it would be hard for me to do so beyond that for my students, especially on social media. I would also worry a bit about parents responses to what their children are discussing in my class. I fear that after a great social justice lesson, as student could excitedly go home and talk to their parents about it and could get a negative response. There are so many things out of our control as teachers, but we try our best with what we can control.

3. What is your philosophy of integrating social justice in the classroom?

Incorporate social justice in any lesson possible, but only if it provides a meaningful, real-world, relatable learning experience for the students. Students should be able to see how the lessons are applicable to their everyday lives, why it matters, and why they should care. These lessons should incorporate current events, local news and people, and allow for reflection and discussion among students.

Field Experience Reflection

The field experience was valuable for me in that I am always looking for ways to better incorporate social justice into my classroom. This experience allowed me to explore resources but also look deeper to find more concrete objectives for how I want social justice lessons to take place in my classroom. My group’s topic for the field experience was students of color. As my school district becomes more and more diverse, I felt that this was a helpful topic to explore further. I teach economics, so I feel that I can easily tie social justice into my lessons and even did so in my own classroom during this experience. I created a lesson using resources from Teaching Tolerance about the cycle of poverty. I was also able to incorporate some of the games that my group reviewed, such as Spent and Third World Farmer. Both are extremely useful games to help students understand the perspective of someone who is experiencing financial hardships, and quite often, they are students of color. During the lesson, students were given several tables of data, showing demographics about unemployment and AP class enrollment nation-wide. While designing the lesson plan, I tried to keep our objectives in mind because what would be the point of coming up with them if we weren’t going to put them to use. They made me think more critically about design and I was more thoughtful in what I wanted the outcome of the lesson to be. Ultimately my students created infographics that explained the cycle of poverty and they were really great! This field experience was helpful in providing me with more resources and opening my eyes to ways of finding more resources to use. My group worked well together over the course of the four weeks. We were all incredibly busy with outside work going on, but we texted as often as we could, providing updates on the status of our assignments. It seems like each of us just naturally took turns taking charge of each assignment, stepping up to lead the rest through, which was very productive. We were able to put our ideas together nicely through the class blog and sharing documents on our One Drives. Working with other educators is nice because we are all in the same boat and understand how busy we all are. Reviewing the social justice plans was the biggest challenge for us as a group overall. I think for me personally, I am more comfortable giving feedback to my students than I am to my peers. I know that I know what I am talking about when I give feedback to my students, but I definitely need to work on building my confidence up to the same level with giving feedback to my peers. That of course will come with time. I think it was very good practice because the purpose of the task was to prepare us for our future in aspects like tech coaching.

Social Media for Social Justice

As educators in the present day, we have (quite literally) endless amounts of information at our fingertips. As do our students. Technology has allowed this. It has also allowed for the rapid transfer of information, which has shown to be powerful when it comes to social-media-organized rallies and protests over the last few years. A nation-wide boycott of Starbucks was organized within a matter of hours through Twitter. I believe as educators, we can use this as a lesson for our students: using technology to make a difference regarding social justice. It is not hard to have your voice heard, when it is a click away from being retweeted onto millions of feeds. It is an important understanding for students to have, that they are creators on content online (Costanza-Chock, et al, 2018). With all of that power comes a lot of responsibility, and it should be used in the most positive ways possible. It should be a basic lesson with internet and technology usage that students are now digital citizens, and must be ethical in the content they post, create, or share (ISTE Standards For Students, 2018). This technology also allows for students to get more involved with their community. I have witnessed this firsthand when a 12th grade student of mine got involved in discussions online, which turned into meetings with groups of people with shared concerns, which then turned into this student speaking at the podium of the March for Our Lives Rally in Albany back in the spring. Her feelings of concern and worry for the safety of herself and her fellow classmates caused her to act, and with the help of technology and social media, it was able to snowball into something much bigger and more impactful than she could have ever imagined. This is something I will tell my students every year from now on. I want them to know that they may not think they can make a difference or be impactful, but it is far easier to do so than they think. While social media and other platforms have their downfalls, I think as educators, we need to make it a goal to use this resource as much as we can, because there is so much to learn about social justice through social media.

 

Costanza-Chock, S., Wagoner, M., Taye, B., Rivas, C., Schweidler, C., Bullen, G., & The Tech for Social Justice Project. (2018). #MoreThanCode: Practitioners reimagine the landscape of technology for justice and equity, 1-130.

Digital Literacy. (2017). Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved 12 September 2018, from https://www.tolerance.org/frameworks/digital-literacy

HENTGES, S. (2016). Toward #SocialJustice: Creating Social Media Community in Live and Online Classrooms. Transformations: The Journal Of Inclusive Scholarship & Pedagogy, 26(2), 230-238.

ISTE | Standards For Students . (2018). Iste.org. Retrieved 12 September 2018, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students

Lanae Spruce & Kaitlyn Leaf (2017) Social Media for Social Justice, Journal of Museum Education, 42:1, 41-53

Teaching Social Justice

As a social studies teacher, I find Struthers’ article about whether or not human rights is a “controversial” topic for the classroom to be a very interesting perspective (2016). There is a section of the NYS Social Studies curriculum that is specifically dedicated to human rights, so it is something I am familiar with teaching. I think what makes this different however, is that the human rights violations that are taught about in social studies are the large-scale atrocities such as genocides like the Holocaust or Darfur. These are horrific events in history that are well-known and generally regarded as crimes against humanity. Students understand that they are human rights violations. I think Struthers brings up a good point however, that maybe the small-scale, not so publicized human rights violations that take place all around us are not treated as such. The lessons on human rights that I teach are to 10th grade students. At this point, the students have mostly developed their values and ideas of basic human rights. So I can impact their perspectives, but only so much. I agree with Struthers that the ideas of basic human rights should be taught to students earlier on. The concept of genocide would clearly be too heavy for an elementary school student, but teaching about fundamental rights (food, shelter, water, an education) can lay the foundation for these students to be able to identify violations much sooner in their lives around them.

I feel as though I have the benefit of being able to easily work in discussion of human rights into my content that I teach. Nearly any history lesson involves some sort of relation to the subject. For other content areas, for example math, it might not be as simple to tie into a lesson. I think tying in current events to nearly any subject can be an easy bridge to relate your subject matter to an idea about social justice. A lesson about statistics can be used to talk about achievement gaps. A science lesson can be turned into an inquiry about Flint’s water crisis. What was the cause? Who is being affected? How can the problem be solved? Why hasn’t it been solved yet? I think any lesson where you can relate your content to the world around your students is the most effective lesson you can teach. It makes the lesson relevant and it makes your students care. This is not something however that may come naturally to teachers. As with everything, it requires practice and time to work at it. The more teachers are trained and prepared to teach about social injustice, the more they will teach about it and the better the lessons will be. This can start at the school level, with identifying the social justice situation within a school system. Identifying what problems lie within the school can be a great start, especially addressing achievement gaps (Poplin & Rivera, 2005). There is always room for improvement and always something that can be worked on.

 

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

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