- In two pages, write your own personal definition of social justice. Bring in some of the characteristics of social justice education discussed in Wade, chapter one.
Social justice to me, is giving everybody a fair chance to succeed. However, what does successful mean? There are varying degrees of factors that hinder or promote people to be successful. Socio-economic status, family status, and health are just a few. How can the world make it fair for everyone?! As teachers I think we can start in the classroom. I have the chance to influence 30 children in the school and make a difference in how they can live in a socially just way.
The point that Wade has in chapter that has the most impact for me is that not all students will be treated the same. Some specific students may need to be given more attention to be successful. When I was a kid, I was always mad when the teacher did not choose me when my hand was up, or always helped other students. I did not understand social justice. I was privileged and did not need the extra attention, but when I was in the classroom the teacher did not teach in a way that helped me understand that. Even now in my pre-internship experience I see it with my kindergarten students. There is one particular girl who is very bright and does not often need academic support, but she is constantly pretending she “can’t do it” because she wants the same attention I give to the under-achieving students even though she does not need it. In one specific situation I struggled with how to tell her the truth that my teachers never told me. I think a solid lesson on social justice would benefit a young student like her and perhaps give her the enlightenment on social justice that I was missing. Kindergarten is not too young to start creating awareness around social justice issues.
In his preface, Wade (2007) writes that social justice is “preparing [children] to be stewards of their world, develop the skills, knowledge, and values to make our world a worthwhile and livable place for everyone, regardless of one’s ethnicity, gender, age, size, sexual orientation, religion, social class, or physical ability” (pp. xiii-xv). Children can learn to be aware of social justice at such a young age. I recently watched a Youtube video of a Kindergarten class that designed wheelchair ramps for the businesses in their town because they went for a walk and discovered their peer in a wheelchair was unable to go some of the places they passed by. They noticed that something was unfair to one of their classmates and they wanted to do something about it. Such a beautiful story about social justice! The teacher empowered the students to make change at the young age of five. They began to understand the difference between equity and equality. This is only one story of so many young activists there are in the world.
Caring about the students in my classroom will be easy because that is one of my natural abilities. That is why I am choosing to become a teacher. I also believe that creating a caring community in my classroom is creating a socially just community as well. Teaching my students to care for one another will in turn be teaching them to care for those outside of the classroom community as well. Social Justice needs to happen right at the school level to even plant the seeds for social change, as Wade mentions. (2007, pg. 3) Although I am quite comfortable with classroom and school level change, it seems overwhelming to me to get primary students on board with world level change. How can a group of grade one or grade two students affect poverty in third world countries or find a cure for Aids? I think if I at least make my students aware of social justice issues and prompt them to think about possibilities then I will be creating a social just classroom. I will be giving my students the tools to possibly develop into adults that can make big change. My only hope is that after they leave my classroom they will be able to carry their ideas and thoughts with them to their next classroom and eventually into their life after school. I hope to plant the seed for greater social justice in the future.