I believe in place-based education to develop student’s sense of self, community and place.
Lately there has been a lot of buzz around social justice issues such as Kony 2012. When I think about social justice in the classroom, many things come to mind. First of all, I think it is really important that we take the approach of thinking globally and acting locally. Social justice issues are many and wide, and as teachers we need to expose children to as many of these as possible. There are so many resources available for children of all ages to bring these issues to their attention. Once we have discussed, examined, and learned about these issues, we then need to make relevant connections for our students. This is where place based education becomes important. For example, a middle years classroom might watch a video about starving children in Africa, after doing so they might be inspired and wish to help. It is my opinion that volunteering at a soup kitchen in Regina would be more relevant and effective than raising money to send to an organization in Africa. A few months ago a stumbled upon this website that suggested 10 strategies for integrating social justice in the classroom. These provide many great starting points for teachers looking to integrate social justice.
- Include in the syllabus guidelines for respectful interaction among everyone and model that respect.
- In the first few sessions, take time to solicit from students what they perceive as justice or equity issues related to the subject of the course and invite them to identify which ones are the most urgent. Use this information to develop subsequent lessons and student assignments.
- Create community service components as requirements for the class, and ensure that reflection on experience is a critical part of the assignment.
- Compare and contrast notions of justice historically and geopolitically.
- Investigate and discuss those agencies or government offices that hold responsibility for ensuring justice is administered in business and society; examine and evaluate the effectiveness and limitations of their work. Focus on those entities that relate most directly to the concerns initially identified in class.
- Profile biographies of individuals who have exemplified social justice, trace the development of their concerns and efforts to advance justice, identify any obstacles they faced. Examine the implications of these lives for students today.
- Construct a visual representation or graphic organizer that identifies the shared beliefs about justice expressed by various cultures.
- Create profiles of local, state and nationally elected leaders and identify their positions on social justice and equity issues.
- Invite local leaders and advocates into class to address social justice from their perspective and experience, or attend a session of the local assembly or city council and conduct a content analysis of social concerns and the leadership’s response to them.
- Acquaint yourself with current research on controversial issues in your field, and articulate how these relate to equity, democratic principles and social justice.
What do you think? Is teaching for social justice worth the risk of offending others?