Using Withitness to Create Social Justice

“Withitness” is something that I have learned about while crafting my Curriculum Design Project while using a reflective planning process. Withitness, as said from our Eby textbook, is basically thinking about what your students are best at and what they enjoy when creating a unit for them. It is essential in order to motivate students and ensure their success. Motivating students is something that I have learned while teaching in my Methods classes that is very difficult to do. It is hard to make sure that every single student is interested in the same lesson, so a lot of planning and knowledge must be used. It is best to think about Garner’s multiple intelligences when trying to think of what students are best at coupled with what you know students are interested in. For example, if I were creating a unit based on informational text, I might allow my student to pick between a few different articles about video games, basketball, dancing, makeup, etc. This is truly the best way to motivate students and create an equity in the classroom.

Social Justice in Literature

As I have been studying for my finals, the idea of a multicultural unit has been popping up again and again — I have had to create two myself. As I have been planning these units, I thought about it from a students point of view. This got me thinking. As a white female, I have never had to think about being able to relate to content seeing as most of the content is geared towards me. But, there are many students that are not in the position that I am in. Thus, the idea of a multicultural unit. However, I disagree with this. As a future English teacher, I strive to create units that are multicultural. I want to highlight authors of all types of cultures and backgrounds. I want my students to be able to find a piece of themselves in the literature that they are reading. However, I realize this may not be as easy as it sounds or else all teachers would be doing this, I imagine. I have not truly ever been in a classroom teaching and planning daily, so I will have to learn for myself how to create a perfect balance.

Equity in the Classroom

During class this past Wednesday, we were able to have a non-traditional class discussion using the ‘I see, I think, I feel…” class meeting. Everyone gets into a circle, and talks about things that have been bothering them using this method. Someone explains their problems, and then other members of the circle state what they see, what they think about, and how it makes them feel. This is able to give the people that are in an argument the ability to step back and see things from another perspective that they possibly have not thought about. This is perfect for the classroom, because it allows everyone to be on the same playing field. Those that are not usually able to speak up for themselves are able to do so. It allows equity to be present in the classroom.

Studio Based Learning and Social Justice

Studio based learning is a very interesting environment for learners. In my experience with it, it provides structured freedom in a sense. There is some lecture, but for the most part it revolves around whatever the student feels he/she needs to be doing. It is similar, in a way, to Montessori schools. This environment can promote social justice, in some ways, better than a traditional classroom. It allows the needs of many different learners to be met, because they are able to target different needs directly. This also frees up the teachers time, because he/she is able to almost float around. The teacher can help more students with what they need instead of deciding what he/she thinks that the entire classroom needs help with.

What I Know Now About Social Justice

I know a lot more about social justice than I did when I first started class on August 15th. This is not to say that I am finished learning about social justice, because is anyone ever truly done learning? This being said, though, there are three main things that I have learned throughout my experience in this class. The first is that there are many different factors that separate students. These factors can be things like ethnicity, culture and sex, but can also be learning disabilities, out of school opportunities, and family standing within the community. Secondly, there are many ways that a teacher can set up his/her classroom to engage with students in the most effective ways. For example, by providing extra vocabulary help for English Language Learners, the teacher is helping to level the playing field and give students the extra help that they need. Teachers can also discuss cultural issues in class head on, teach diverse themes and topics, and find connections to things that students are interested in. Finally, one of the most important things I have learned thus far, it is just as important to take into account a student’s life outside of school as it is to take into account class participating and grades. What is going on outside of the classroom could be, and most likely is, influencing everything that the student is doing. If they are not doing well in class, it could be because his/her parents are going through a divorce. If a student starts acting out during reading time, it could be because he/she does not know how to read because his/her parents do not spend any time reading with him/her. It is important to think outside of the box and try to understand things from the students’ perspective.

Motivation in the Classroom

As teachers, we need to make sure that we are motivating our students as much as possible in the classroom. However, it is easier said than done. Most teachers would be inclined to automatically turn to reward and punishment. As Carol Weinstein says, reward and punishment is a lot like training a dog. If we give them a treat for doing something, they will be more inclined to do it. While punishment and reward are very important, it is not always the answer though. Being able to motivate our students through self regulation is the goal, and the key to this is engaging students. By making class and school time all around interactive for the students in a positive way, they will want to keep coming back to class and seeing what they can learn and put into action next. For example, I am currently doing a project about motivating students to clean up after themselves. One of the solutions to this problem is to engage students in creating a technological solution, like a conveyor belt that students can put their lunch trays on. It will help get the lunchroom clean because they students will want to use their invention. Miracles can happen in the classroom when teachers make more effort to engage their students.

Power & Privilege

In class this week, we discussed power and privilege in the classroom and in America as a whole. In the classroom, I think that the teacher holds the power. He/she has the power to decide what the children in the classroom get to learn. However, another class mate pointed out to me that children also have power. Through learning, they are given power over their own lives. I loved her point of view, and I think that all teachers should try to instill this mindset in all of their students’ minds.

Privilege, however, extends outside of the classroom. In today’s day and age, how you are born dictates how you will be treated by certain people in this world. This means that being white means that you are automatically privleged  because you will not be exposed to discrimination based on something that you were born with. I think that as a teacher and a person in general, it is important to remember this. When you are teaching a classroom full of students that are completely different than you, it is important to remember their funds of knowledge, what culturally different students can bring to the table, and what they are interested in. This will take a teacher’s culturally diverse classroom to the top.