An Educator’s Responsibility to Stand Up Against Exclusion, Prejudice, and Injustice

As an educator, it is imperative to be a role model for students, inform them about human rights, and support them in developing ways to enact change in their environment. Teaching young children about human rights and fundamental freedoms helps them to understand that all people should be treated equally.  Although unfortunately, people are often not treated this way in our society (Struthers, 2016).

Struthers (2016) said, “HRE (Human Rights Education) is important not only for allowing people to recognize rights violations in their own lives, but also empowering them to stand up for their own rights and for the rights of others” (p. 131). This notion of standing up against injustice is important to instill in children, as they are more capable of understanding complex issues than some adults give them credit for. Struthers (2016) mentioned that “…particularly in the modern Information Age where ‘media images in such a readily accessible global age allow young children to see [controversial] issues, and…they are keen to discuss and try to understand them’” (p. 145). If children are already being exposed to a world of prejudice, injustice, and exclusion, it is important that educators help them to make sense of it all and encourage students to reflect on ways people can work towards changing a system of oppression. Although Human Rights Education can appear to be a controversial topic, in order to see a cultural shift and awareness of these issues, we must start with educating children (Struthers, 2016).

Related to Human Rights Education, Storms (2013) writes about the importance of Social Justice Education. Storms (2013) states: “SJE (Social Justice Education) examines the impact that power, privilege, and social oppression have on social groups and promotes social and political action as a means to gain equity all citizens” (p. 33). Social Justice Education promotes critical thinking and reflection while promoting social action (Storms, 2013). Action is an important piece to consider when educating students; one cannot expose students to the downfalls and inequalities of our society without helping them discovers ways to work together to enact change.

It is also the responsibility of teachers to choose appropriate and factual texts from a variety of sources and authors. Issues such as oppression and racism, must not be presented from only one viewpoint. When children are only exposed to one way of thinking, they are not able to think critically about subject matter (Struthers, 2016).

Lastly, it is important for teachers to promote an environment of unity and inclusion. Poplin and Rivera (2013) write that it is crucial to teach about diversity without excluding or demonizing groups of people. This can be reflected in a classroom environment by creating a room where symbols of equality and cultures are displayed. This type of inclusive environment can help children to feel comfortable to be themselves and also helps to create a sense of togetherness.

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

Standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice

As a society, we have a huge responsibility to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. Although, as teachers, that responsibility grows as we are on the front lines of ensuring that the next generation is also able to stand up against these injustices. Allison Struthers (2016) states that teaching about human rights in our classrooms is “necessary for shaping the attitudes that will contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights” (p. 132). It is easy for children to accept the things they hear around them about human rights, whether they be positive or negative, and turn them into their own thoughts and feelings on the topic. With this in mind, we need to ensure that we are also providing our students with accurate information about how exclusion, prejudice, and social injustices are all things that they need to be aware of everyday and that they can be the solution to these problems by using their voices and taking a stand against any type of oppression.

While it is important that we educate our students about how they can either continue to contribute to these problems our society has created or they can be the part of the solution, we also need to ensure that we are prepared to have these discussions and that we ourselves are educated enough on the topics of exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. Poplin and Rivera (2005) state that teachers must “understand, choose, and apply multiple pedagogical strategies in the teaching–learning process. This includes all pedagogies and learning theories from behaviorism to critical theory” (p. 31). It is important that teachers are aware of the different methods of teaching and how different methods may be necessary when discussing these topics with our students.

Once we know that the information we are teaching is accurate and represents the struggles of those who face exclusion, prejudice, and injustice each day then we are ready to have these talks with our students. The point of teaching about social justice issues is to, “increase students’ sociocultural consciousness and help them understand why change is necessary” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p. 34). In order for the society we live in today to make any type of changes, we need to ensure that our students understand the value of their voices and that they can make a change even at a young age.

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

Why must educators stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice?

I believe that educators naturally play a large role in standing up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I strongly feel this is something educators do on a daily basis and may not even realize it. Educators are the first line of defense when it comes to educating our youth about society, the way it functions, and what should and should not be acceptable. The article Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education? states, “It is our job as educators to help children understand the concepts of 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.” (Struthers 2016,p.131).  If we educate our children on topics such as human rights, and the culture behind that topic, we begin to get their minds thinking and developing on such a concept. If we do this at the right age, it will likely stick with them, and they will carry these opinions and ideas into society when they are grown. This is the first step in making a change, we cannot expect people to push for change if they are not educated on what is going on around them. That is why it is crucial for educators to start with the children.

By teaching students about issues like injustice, prejudice, and exclusion, not only are we exposing these issues early on, but we are giving the students time to process and reflect on the topics as they are being educated. It is also important for us as educators to reflect on our own teaching practices, and evaluate if we are modeling what we teach. When we see injustice happening around us are we acting on it? When we see exclusion, are we standing up? Modeling what we teach is an important factor in students connecting the material they learn to the real world. When we lead by example and reflect upon our own actions, this hopefully will also lead to our students reflecting upon themselves. As mentioned in the article Preparing Teachers for School Justice Advocacy I am Walking My Talk Storms states “Using reflection to help students increase their self-awareness during the learning process is another component of social justice pedagogy” (Storms, p.6 2012). Modeling and teaching students the importance of reflecting on themselves and their actions, is important in helping them realize where exactly they fit in within these social issues.

It is also crucial for us to look into the presentation of these topics. It is not always the easiest subject matters to teach, especially depending on the class you are teaching it to. You must take each students culture, and diverse background into account, and tailor your lessons on these topics to meet each of their needs. “Diversity must be taught in such a way that it does not overly romanticize or demonize particular groups of people.” (Poplin and Rivera 2005 p.32). If we not only address the topics of injustice, exclusion in prejudice, but are aware of how we are presenting it, and are modeling the expected actions, students will be well educated for their future.

References:

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

Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education.

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

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