DLE 931 Blog 1 - Social Justice

In “The New Teacher Book,” Herbert Kohl asks “So what are social justice teachers-those who care about nurturing all children and who are enraged at the prospect of students dying young, going hungry, or living meaningless and despairing lives-to do? How can they…use their classrooms to work in the service of their students?” (Kohl, 2010) This question is a summation of things that should be cared about in our classrooms in order to make them supportive places of learning. Nurturing all children regardless of (fill in the blank) results in a positive learning environment. One way in which we can nurture all of our students is valuing their funds of knowledge, including, but not limited to the language(s) they speak other than English. “Immigrants or speakers of nonstandard language varieties are expected to learn the standard variety used in school. The pressure put on these speakers is often to shift to the dominant societal language and to give up their native language.” (de Jong, 2011, 29). A safe classroom is one in which no one is chastised for speaking the language of their choice. Community inclusion regards every member of the class as a part of the whole, bringing their funds of knowledge and community values with them. “When language environments are planned so that all languages are understood to be resources that can be accessed and invoked strategically, in service to language and literacy acquisition, space is created in which the deliberate and purposeful use of Spanish and /or English facilitates accelerated learning.” (Escamilla et al., 2014, 73). I believe this is an important fact that should be utilized in practice and explained to students. If students view each other’s languages as valuable resources, they are more likely to support and value each other. Another important dynamic to promote equality is giving the impression that the students have valuable information that they can offer the class and the teacher. If we validate the views of our students by displaying them in our classrooms, they are more likely to feel invested in the learning environment. I also believe that empowering each of the students to be the teacher imbues the sense of equality among a community of learners, versus a strict “empty vessel” approach to teaching. When a student knows a topic, it is a good practice to ask them to explain their reasoning. This presents the material in the voice of someone besides the teacher and builds confidence in the students. Valuing students for their funds of knowledge and as members of their home and school communities will lead to a strong class community in which both the students and teacher can feel comfortable and safe.

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