Why Educators Must Stand Up Against Exclusion, Prejudice, and Injustice

As an educator who actively seeks the best interests of my students, I believe that I have a personal responsibility to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice both in and outside of the classroom. I currently work in an affluent suburban school district where the faculty and student body are predominantly white. I believe that working in an environment that mostly consists of white students and educators, it then becomes that much more important for me to be an advocate for the handful of students who are of different races, ethnicities and abilities. In order to do so, I must educate myself on social justice issues, as well as take every opportunity to include Human Rights Education (HRE) in my curriculum.

While it may be argued that children in the primary grades are too young or too immature to learn about controversial topics such as issues in social justice or human rights, I think that such opinions can heavily underestimate the intelligence of students. Whether a topic regarding social justice is viewed as too broad or too complex for students to understand, children at the primary level still have a rather keen sense on the difference between right and wrong. “HRE in primary school is thus necessary for shaping the attitudes that will contribute to the building or a universal culture of human rights” (Struthers, 2016, p. 132). I believe that teachers have the responsibility to inform students of what their rights are and why those rights are important in their daily lives, as well as understanding that some individuals are denied those basic rights. To promote this pedagogy, I believe it’s absolutely necessary to have HRE mainstreamed and part of our teaching curriculum. If teachers are able to openly discuss social issues with their students, it sends a message to the students that HRE and social justice issues are not “taboo” or controversial and that we should be talking about them.

In terms of HRE in the primary grade levels, I believe that social justice issues of race and discrimination particularly lend themselves to many educational read alouds in the classroom. I think that read alouds are a wonderful starting point for teachers to use as a platform to advocate for social justice issues that are relevant and meaningful to their class, whether students are explicitly aware of it or not. Picture books such as The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derolf, deal with anti-discrimination theme. In the story, the Crayons prefer to be in separate crayon boxes with only their colors, but when a little girl buys the crayon box and creates a picture, the crayons see what beautiful things that happen when they come together.
Another great picture book is The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, which deals with issues of exclusion. In this story, Brian feels invisible and nobody seems to notice him in school. This changes when he meets Justin, a new student. When Brian and Justin work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to stand out. Although these picture books are simple, they both have prevalent themes that children can easily identify and elaborate on in a class discussion with appropriate facilitation from the classroom teacher.

With the responsibility of standing up to exclusion, prejudice, and injustice, I also believe teachers have the responsibility of encouraging students to work together to make a difference in their community. “It is critical for teacher candidates to move beyond “individual heroism” to collaborative action in order to enact change beyond the walls of their classrooms.” (Storms, 2013, p. 37) One personal example of students working together pertains to an inspirational event that happened in my school last year. As part of their persuasive writing unit, a group of 3rd grade students advocated for their peer, who has cerebral palsy and primarily uses a wheelchair, to include proper accessible equipment added to our school’s playground. His wheelchair was unable to roll over the wood chips because they would get stuck in the wheels, which made it nearly impossible for him to transport himself around the playground to play with his classmates. He also has limited ability in his legs and he gets tired very easily when using his walking sticks. The students realized that if their own classmate couldn’t participate on the playground, imagine how many other students with disabilities at the school couldn’t experience a fun recess. They decided to write persuasive letters to our principal, superintendent, and school board arguing for adaptive playground equipment. Students and teachers created fundraising campaigns and sure enough, their hard work paid off. Our school is now in the process of building additional adaptive equipment that is wheelchair accessible and can be used by children of all ability levels. Poplin and Rivera (2005) argue, “Students need teachers who are willing and able to teach them the common skills and concepts they will need to be productive citizens, as well as teachers who can guide them in developing personal perspectives and meanings through experimentations, dialogue, and creative opportunities” (p. 31). Without the implementation of Human Rights Education and dedicated educators who consistently encourage students to use their voices to make a positive difference in society, none of these changes would have happened. I believe that I have the responsibility to not only advocate for a positive change, but also to inspire my students to believe that their voices matter.

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.

Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 131-162.

 

Social Justice

 

As a teacher I think it is important that we are always modeling for our students. This is true whether it be for how we want them to complete an activity or assignment or how we want them to behave in the classroom. I think this is also a responsibility of ours as educators to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. If we model correct behavior on how to stand up to these issues I think it will help students realize it is an important duty of theirs as well. We can’t just tell students how to stand up against the inequalities we need to show them by doing it ourselves as well. “The primary goal of Social Justice Education is to prepare the students with knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to confront social inequality in society and promote equity within their sphere of influence” (Storms, 2013, p.33). The school district I work in has many students that come from poverty and from families that struggle with money. This school district is in an urban area. Poplin and Rivera (2005) state, “Teacher candidates need to study the principles, policies, and processes of schools achieving positive results with students of color and the poor” (p. 34). I think this is something my school district does very well. Students come to school and have the same opportunities as students at other schools that may have a wealthier population of students. Many students are provided free and reduced lunch and breakfast. Each student is provided their own ipad or chromebook for them to complete school work on. They are allowed to bring this device home as well. I have noticed that this helps with student engagement inside and outside of the classroom when it comes to completing activities. I think these types of things are so important for students to have access to, especially if they come from a poorer area. It allows for them to be successful in and outside of school.

References:

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

Storms, S. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy: Am I Walking My Talk?, 33-39.

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

As an educator, I think it is extremely important to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice myself, that way I can teach the students in my classroom how to do the same. “Teachers must be educated to understand their responsibilities regarding the content of their instruction and the results they are to achieve for all the students they teach” (Poplin & Rivera, 2005, p. 31). I think a huge part of doing this is talking about the different issues that are occurring around the world with my students on a daily/weekly basis. Having discussions with them will allow my students to understand that these are things we should talk about, so that we can hopefully work towards a solution. I think a great way to go about doing this is to pull different examples from global and local settings to talk with them about. Once we’ve talked about the situation, the students can then discuss what was wrong and how they would go about fixing it. “Social justice educators use culturally relevant content that examines multiple forms of oppression to increase students’ sociocultural awareness” (Storms, 2013, p. 33).

As a teacher, I will have students from all different types of backgrounds walk into my classroom. It is my job to know what rights they have, and to teach them those rights, so that they are protected and can fight for themselves if need be. “Ensuring young learners are aware of the rights to which they are entitled is also important for enabling them to recognize where those rights are not being met” (Struthers, 2016, p. 136). Some of these students’ parents might not talk about social justice with them, or they themselves may not be educated either, so creating a space where I know the students are gaining information on the topic is extremely important. Teaching my students about social justice is so important because it is something they are going to have to deal with every day, whether they are involved directly with an issue, or are a bystander. They are going to need to understand their rights, the rights of others, and how to properly defend those rights. From the moment they step foot in school these things should be taught to them so they grow up prepared to take on any possible challenges they may face.

 

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

Educators Standing Up Against Exclusion, Prejudice, and Injustices

As an educator, I consider it my responsibility to take actions to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I believe this starts with human rights education, for myself and my students. Alison Struthers states, ‘Human rights education (HRE) refers broadly to education and training that aims to contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights through teaching about human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.131).

I believe it is important to teach students, especially young students, about their rights, the rights of others, and what they can do to stand up for these rights. I believe students need to be made aware of the prejudice and injustices in our society; they should understand ways that exclusion, prejudice and injustices effect themselves and others, and what they can do to stand up to them in their daily lives. We should teach students various skills and strategies to aid them in advocating for equality and social justice. Furthermore, students should have opportunities to practice the skills and strategies in meaningful ways within the community. By doing so, students will learn how they can be actively involved in making social change happen, and develop an understanding that they are capable of making a positive difference in our society.

To be able to teach students about human rights and social justice, I feel it is critical that educators continually educate themselves on the concepts and values involved in human rights education. When discussing the subject of HRE in teacher training programs, Struthers states, “… teachers must themselves receive comprehensive training in ‘the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills, and competencies to facilitate the learning and practice of human rights in schools’” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.161). I believe it is important for educators to have a well-rounded and unbiased understanding of the concepts, in order to convey factual and relevant information to their students. Teachers should not convey their personal opinions as factual information; thus, it is important to educate ourselves from multiple perspectives on concepts and values. Beyond simply being educated about the values and topics concerning human rights, teachers should practice being social justice advocates, who promote change in their community. By taking actions outside of the classroom to fight injustices and prejudices, teachers develop a better understanding of the processes involved in social action, which better equips them to teach student how to implement these processes for change (Storms, S. B., 2013).

I believe it is educators responsibility to include human rights and social justice education in the classroom, through meaningful, relevant, and respectful instruction. Human rights education can support students in developing into responsible citizens, and aid our society in moving towards a ‘human rights culture based upon the values of freedom, equality, dignity, non-discrimination, and tolerance’ (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.134).

References

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

Category #577

EDUC 577-

After reading the three articles posted on Blackboard you will respond to the following prompt:

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

Be sure to include the readings in your post. You should adhere to APA guidelines and add your references at the end of your posts. You will post an initial post of no fewer than 250 words and respond to two of your peers’ posts by Thursday 9/13 and two additional responses will be due on Sunday, 9/16. There will be a total of 5 posts for the week. You may edit your initial posts throughout the week.

Make sure to watch the short video on Blackboard for instructions on how to post on Word Press. It is important to add the #577 hashtag.

I look forward to your posts!

Dr. Waid