Over the weekend, I’ve been trying my hardest to figure out what’s been going on in the world. The events in Charlottesville really got me thinking about how I approach social justice in my classroom. Last year, the day after the election, I abandoned my lesson plans and had a community circle. I allowed my students to vent about their reactions. We talked. We passed around a box of tissues. We cried. We planned. We made decisions. My students are my babies. I try to make sure that they’re loved.
This year, my school added a seventh-grade elective class, Social Justice and Literacy. While I am more than happy that this class has been included, I also believe that students need more than just 1 hour and 45 minutes of social justice instruction. I incorporate social justice in my class every chance I get. Whether it’s assigning books like Wonder or The Giver, facilitating community circles, watching TED Talks or hosting a debate about bullying, my students will know all of the buzz words and know how to argue on someone’s behalf.
The day after the election, I had no idea what to say to my students. I just knew that they needed to know how disappointed I was with the result and that I’d try my best to protect them from any subsequent actions that directly affected them. With last year’s students, I didn’t have to say anything. As soon as the bell rang, students read the warm-up activity on the board and knew exactly what to do. The board read, “We already know what happened. Write how you feel.” As I walked around, I read the words of my students. Many of them wrote about how mad and sad they were. I remember one student’s paper very clearly:
“I’m mad. Like really mad. How could they do this to us? My parents hated Hillary, but they voted for her anyway just so we wouldn’t have to deal with Trump. Who decided he was a good fit?! I hate these racists sooooooo much…”
While I didn’t know who “they” were, I have a feeling that they might be the same ones who voted for 45, a person who wouldn’t criticize them or call them what they were, cowardice white supremacists.
When I go to work this week, I’m not sure what I will say, but I will be truthful. I’m upset, but I’m not surprised. I wish America was better, but it’s a long shot that racism will ever be eradicated. However, as I’ve stated before, it is up to us to change ourselves on the individual level… and never be silent.
“Your silence won’t protect you” (Audre Lorde).
I may not always know the words to say, but you can bet that I will never be silent about injustice in the world, especially not to my students. I owe it to them to be honest about it.
How do you handle social justice in your classroom?
xo, Miss B.