Social Justice (Blog #1)

There are many key factors involved in creating a supportive, organized and just classroom environment in which all students can feel welcome and appreciated for their unique strengths and talents. Truthfully, many students do not feel safe in voicing their beliefs, theories, and unique ideas in the classroom or otherwise, and this is an epidemic that must be put to an end. For too long, society has allowed the curtain of uniformity to fall on all students, creating false ideals that all children, students, and people in general are equal, with equal backgrounds, needs, cultures, and personalities, and all which could not fit into the “perfect” mold created by those in power was hushed and swept under the rug.

Today however, we live in an era where it is not only encouraged, but it should be absolutely essential for educators, entrepreneurs, and all other in our society to see students as they are, with their full potential. Each individual student that crosses the threshold of a teachers’ classroom should feel encouraged and welcome to share all that makes him or her a unique individual composed of culture, personality traits, socioeconomic status, language, gender, beliefs, values, and his or her own identity in each of those realms. As educators, we have a need and a responsibility to teach our children much more than just the history of those who currently hold the power in our society. It is our responsibility to teach them not what to think, or what to see when they look out into the world, but instead just to look, with their eyes wide open, at the beautiful tapestry that is the polychromatic universe we live in. Our history is not something that is read in a history book, but instead something that was lived, by a billions of different lives, and seen with billions of pairs of eyes, felt with billions of hearts and thought about with just as many minds. It is impossible to teach our children the entire history of every single historical moment, and every perspective in a sixty minute class, repeated a mere one hundred and eighty days a year. Regardless of this, we must instill a thirst for true knowledge in our future generations, to allow them to become impassioned with a hunger to make the world a better place by embracing the different bits that create the mosaic of our human existence.

When we are in front of our students on a daily basis, we are so often consumed with worries about teaching to standards, raising test scores, and managing the classroom that we forget what is most important. By creating a classroom environment where every race, gender, and person has a say, we can help create a better future. By accepting that there are more than just the two languages we will be practicing with our students, we instill the belief that all languages and all cultures are important, even if they are not being spoken in the classroom. Whenever possible, we must ask students questions to allow them to make known to us the knowledge specific to their unique backgrounds. Students must be supported emotionally, intellectually, and in every way possible to allow them to succeed. Scaffolding lessons for those who need a bit more support in making their voices heard, and for those who simply need help jotting their ideas down on paper. Only by creating this open environment, in which every human feels appreciated for his or her uniqueness, can we hope to begin to eradicate closed-mindedness and prejudice that comes with not knowing how beautiful every unique thread in our humanity’s tapestry can be.

References:

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Gibbons, P. (n.d.). Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning: Teaching English language learners in the mainstream classroom.