Leslie starts of by saying, ” In the face of current incidents, it is evident that teachers have a responsibility to educate students by engaging with them to bring meaningful progress to the world, address real-life issues and different points of view, and build a classroom environment that fosters genuine empathy.”
She goes on to say, ” A lot of discussion has been generated about being a ‘social justice educator.’ What does this mean? I suggest it means taking action with a few basic classroom practices that allow educators to engage in unique teaching approaches while advocating for social justice in the classroom.”
The argument here is that social justice is an avenue to create change and is appropriate to engage in across all classrooms. As such, teachers play an important role in creating a culture of consciousness by developing rules which teach justice in both conversation and action in the classroom.
Teachers can enhance classroom culture by creating learning opportunities built from their students’ varied backgrounds. Providing different viewpoints helps align new learning with the experiences of students.
Teachers should use books, articles, and lesson plans, which include diverse voices and cultures when choosing class materials. Educators may need to call on colleagues or community members from particular backgrounds to better understand student’s culture. As the adult, working to understand your students, creates opportunities for students to feel comfortable and confident to develop critical thinking, collaboration, and self-reflection skills necessary to foster a better society.
Within history lessons, useful discussions can be generated by encouraging students to express their ideas and react to other ideas that allow for disagreement, while equally respecting the viewpoint of their classmates, based on what is being taught and its relevance today. Teachers can model questions and answers which illustrate how to engage in thoughtful conversation, rather than making their classmates feel badly or devalued. Teachers can also explain to students by presenting model responses that equip students to engage in critical discourse.
THE COMMUNITY WITHIN THE CLASSROOM
There are many different ways for you to be a champion of social justice in your classroom. It is also important to note that you do not have to do them all to orient yourself towards social justice. Try to find small ways for you and your students to incorporate the ideas in the practices that you know will work best.
Every member of a just society should have their basic needs fulfilled. They should be physically and mentally stable and secure, be able to develop their natural talents, and be willing to interact openly with others. Therefore, social justice is incompatible with prejudice or bigotry centered on ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, or capacity (Wade, 1997).
Criticism is an important element of social justice in the classroom, especially when addressing the origins of injustice in pedagogical practices, the school system, and community. Do not steer away from incorporating social justice because it makes individuals uncomfortable. After all, from being uncomfortable, you ultimately grow.
Your students might investigate the following types of questions in understanding how social justice works:
- ‘Who is involved in decision making?’
- ‘Who succeeds, and who does not?’
- ‘What is a reasonable or unfair practice?’
- ‘What options can we envisage to improve conditions?’
Progress will also occur from the development of tangible, meaningful and real democratic coalitions and the widening of one’s understanding of the effects of racism, and how it affects not just Blacks and other communities of color, but also how it affects white citizens and how these things intersect (Adams et al., 1997).
Ultimately, social justice will not be taught in one lesson. It is a concept that is embedded throughout pedagogical practices and the action of educators. IT’S ON US. Educators can help students start asking the right questions by making them feel comfortable, motivated, and engaged in purposeful and constructive dialogue.
Leslie Ekpe has in her article given us something to think about, and as far as I am concerned, act upon. I do hope the Pan African community is inspired by yesterday’s march to activate themselves, and create structures that assist in the fostering of African centered social justice in Barbados.
On another note, the call for the removal of Lord Nelson from Bridgetown has been made and an ultimatum given. August 1st is the date BLACK LIVES MATTERS protesters gave the government to move the statue or else. Will international activism continue to influence local action in this regard? Statues of colonial oppression are coming down by the hook or crook. What will the fate of Nelson be in this interesting year 2020.
I close with a news report on the battle in Trafalgar Square to safe vs pull down monuments to a colonial past. Barbados get ready.
Have a blessed evening, and please share this article if you agree.
Simba – African Heritage Foundation