Classrooms have historically been the platform for social change. They have always provided an avenue for accelerating and promoting new ideas.The most important roleof teachers in addition to academic instruction is to assist students to collaborate as they develop the much-needed self-reflection and critical thinking skills that are necessary for fostering a better society.
Although education isa great equalizer, it cannot deliver the promise of equality when school systemsare victims of fundamental injustice. This is why teachers should promote the greatest acts of social justicein schools. Due to an increase in student population, some successful leaders in the educational sector are evading universal approaches to education. Instead, they are actively engaging themselves in political issues involving class,gender identity,sexuality, and race.
With an increasingly diverse student population, a teacher’s job shouldn’t end at basic teaching. Teachers must now overcome deep-seated barriers and take action to ensure that all students have a chance to be encouraged, safe, and inspired at school.
What is social justice?
The term‘social justice’ calls for all individuals in society to be treated equally.It means having educational equality in schools, promoted by educators who have dedicated themselves to implement change and reform.
In education, social justice also yearns for growth provoked by student diversity. The personal values and experiences that arise from ethnicity, race, spiritual and religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, and color enhance the potential of creativity and learning. Rather than viewing students’ experiences and backgrounds as hurdles to overcome, education works very well when teachers are empowered to incorporate them as strengths.
In education, social justice simply refers to a commitment to challenging cultural, economic, and socialinequalities imposed on students from adifferential distribution of privilege, resources, and power.
Social justice in the classroom
Teaching social justice means training students a reflective model of leadership to encouragecollaboration, information sharing, and openness.
Social justice is a mindset, and a teacher’s responsibility is to createa meaningful change. This is because students can only implement it through learning, but not reciting it for a test. When students learn in a social justice-oriented setting, they can overcome the complexities of the educational landscape as this pedagogy gets imparted in them.
Teachers can connect social justice engagement by encouraging students to follow Bree Picower and read some of her books, such as Practice What You Teach: Social Justice Education in the Classroom and the Streets.This will help students reflect upon how their actions can potentially evoke social change.Social justice classes can also raise awareness of an issue through activist strategies such as social media campaigns to build support for positive change.
Social justice in the classroom will encourage:
- Constant comfort and discourse with dissent.
- Solid connections between teachers and students.
- Active classcontributions from the students.
- Implementation ofmeasurable and actionable curriculato help track improvement.
After fostering a learning environment that promotes thoughtful discussions with a variety of perspectives and opinions, teachers can facilitate conversations on real-world issues that affect the lives of students. This helps to mold students for the future by helping themto recognize and critically engage with real-world problems such as sexual harassment at work.
Racism and social justice
In the US,racism has been the focus in several incidents of cruelty against people of color. To help students overcome these menaces, such issues should be brought up and explored in class discussions. This will place students in a position of recognizingwhen racism is treated normally, question and help resolve such issues.
Bullying can manifest itself in very many ways, but young people are just fairly adept at recognizing undisguised bullying in the form of online harassment, assault, or name-calling. Social justice classes teach students about the negative impact of small behaviors that usually get normalized as adolescent experience.Examples of such could be boys who prove their masculinity by controlling and dominating others, ora group of girls who mistreat or exclude one member, or students bullying a peer due to their perceived sexuality or gender.
It is a teacher’s responsibility to turn learning social justice into community action and service.After students are able todiscuss and recognize social injustice, they can act upon the issues they experience and see. The surrounding community can be connected to the classroom through service learning projects. Through short- and long-term projects, students can participate in food and book drives, park care or gardening, or mentoring at-risk students tomeet specific needs.
Ultimately, it’s not easy to teach social justice in one simple lesson. It’s a value that teachers should integrate into the actions and philosophies or teaching. By doing so, they can help students ask the right questions and participate in productive and purposeful ways so that students can feel encouraged and safe.