Dear Future Teachers,
If you've been following this blog, or know me outside of the website, you probably know that I am an advocate for social justice in education. I even took a class on the subject last spring! When I first heard of teaching through a social justice lens, I believed you could only incorporate social justice through classes such as history. Throughout the course I took, we learned that you can transform any classroom into a social-justice oriented space through your curriculum. When I worked at Student U over the summer, I taught 6th grade science, and I constantly reflected on what I could do to turn my science classroom into a social justice classroom. Recently, I've began following different Instagram accounts geared towards educators, and one of the accounts posted about social justice in all kinds of classroom contexts, and I wanted to share those ideas with you today!
What is social justice in education?
Social justice in education is defined as "standpoints and scholarly traditions that actively address the dynamics of oppression, privilege, and isms, recognizing that society is the product of historically rooted, institutionally sanctioned stratification along socially constructed group lines that include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability." It also consists of "distributing resources fairly and treating all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure- physically and psychologically." (https://education.csuci.edu/justice-conference/faq.htm).
Essentially, social justice in education is providing an equitable academic environment for all students, which requires awareness and action in addressing different factors that influence each student. Teaching through a social justice lens helps students develop critical thinking skills, encouraging them to ask questions and challenge their curriculum. For example, in an earlier post of mine, That's Not The Real Map?, I talked about introducing the Gall-Peters map projection to spark conversation around the maps students are used to being exposed to. An activity like this one causes students to ask questions, to think about what they've learned more critically, and understand how they fit in the space of social justice. As described by Merrimack College, "social justice knowledge helps students better tackle real-world problems by looking at them from multiple viewpoints." (https://online.merrimack.edu/social-justice-in-the-classroom/).
How to implement social justice in your classroom
As I mentioned earlier, I've become more involved in education accounts on Instagram. The one that I will be referencing in this blog can be found using the handle @socialstudies4socialjustice or by clicking here. I've come across one of their posts that stuck out to me and I just had to share with you all! With permission from the SocialStudiesForSocialJustice account, I am going to share their posts with you today.
Social Justice in Core Subjects
My thoughts: Social justice is necessary in every aspect of our lives, so why not in our academic classes as well? I think all of the ideas listed are extremely helpful and realistic to implement in the classroom setting. There are still things that I am learning today that I never talked about in my K-12 career, but are important parts of our history! For example, I am extremely proud of my Puerto Rican background, however I never knew about the unethical trials using Puerto Rican women to test out birth control. (Learn more about this particular subject here.) I also never saw math as a place where social justice education could be explored, however I recommend checking out "Reading and Writing The World With Mathematics:Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice" by Eric Gutstein. I read a few chapters for my SJ in Education course and feel like it is a great way to see examples of how to implement social justice in your math classroom! You can find the book here.
Social Justice in Electives
My thoughts: Another great set of ideas for elective courses! These suggestions are creative and can easily fit into the context of the classroom. Even though these courses aren't the "main" courses of a students' day, it's still important to create social justice spaces for all students! If you're wondering how social justice could possibly be relevant in P.E., I have a story for you. Just a few years ago, my younger sister was in P.E. and asked the coach if she could be one of the captains of the kickball team. The P.E. instructor looked at her, told her a girl had never been a captain before, and then dismissed her, choosing two male classmates of hers instead. Moments like these may sound small, but they DO make an impact, and for my sister, it's something that still annoys her to this day.
Social Justice in Language Classes
My thoughts: Finally, most schools require students to take courses in a second language and/or have an ESL program. There is so much culture tied to every language, it's a door just waiting to be opened when it comes to implementing social justice techniques in the classroom. I especially resonated with the suggestions to introduce vocabulary in the target language to talk about social justice. This summer has been filled with social justice and Civil Rights action, and for people with parents who don't speak English in the home, it's hard to convey what is going on. I found another post on Instagram (@djalibc) that specifically translates social justice terminology into Spanish; you can find more of these translations here.
I highly encourage you to read more about social justice and how it is important in the field of Education! My class opened my eyes to a lot of issues I would not have considered on my own, and I feel that it is always beneficial to learn how we can improve our classroom to include and accept all students. If you currently practice social justice in your classroom, send in some ideas that you use! I would love to hear about them and share them with those who read my blog! You can send them to me through the Contact Form on my Home Page or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking to follow more Instagram accounts regarding Education? My suggested accounts are listed below!
@teachersforblacklives (Click here.)
@educatorsforjustice (Click here.)
@socialstudies4socialjustice (Click here.)
@black_education_matters (Click here.)
@educationpowered (Click here.)