Social Justice in Omaha Part II

Here's the second part to my previous post:

Q: What kinds of social justice issues do you face as an educator? What does that look like?
A: One big issue that I think all teachers face is that our classrooms are diverse, but the tests were so bound to by the government don’t take these diversities into consideration. While there is a need for standards in education, the current method of assessing these standards only looks at a very select skill on one particular day of a student’s life in order to determine if this student is “proficient” and if teachers are “proficient”. These test don’t take into consideration the whole student. They don’t reveal how far a student really has come in his/her learning. Our current assessments are stifling for both teachers and students (they often result in canned curricula that is separate from the real world) and the consequences of these assessments on districts often cause districts and teachers to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Q: Are these issues specific to your classes or are these issues that most educators face?
A: I think this is an issue most educators face. Unfortunately some are just not aware of it. They haven’t been encouraged to be critical of these practices.

Q: Why should these matter the Omaha community? Why is this significant for the Omaha Metro Area?
A: As I mentioned, I’m new to Omaha---so I’m coming at this with a pretty limited viewpoint. However, a more equitable society should be important to each community. If we don’t learn to see the potential in all people, then we will continue to commit acts of injustice. We’ll continue to treat people unfairly, we’ll continue to remain divided by class and race...injustice is a vicious cycle. Omaha won’t reach its own potential as a community if we don’t learn to value one another’s potential.

Q: How do you approach the issue of social justice in your classroom? Why does this matter to you and your students?
A: I’m not perfect, but I try to set up a just classroom; one that is nurturing to all students and is a safe place for them to grow, create, and engage. We do a lot of character building activities and character study through the literature we read, the essays we write, and the disscussions we have. I always tell my students that I want them to leave my classroom a better person. I try to treat them fairly and I expect them to offer this same courtesy to their classmates. And I want them to be critical, so in relation to the literature we read, we discuss a lot of current events and socially relevant topics that explore injustice. Of course, I have to teach them how to discuss how to challenge one another civilly. We also discuss what might be the most effective way to speak back to injustice. It’s important me to teach this way because, it’s the right thing to do. Many students don’t learn these skills at home, and these are skills necessary to be a critical and participatory adult. I don’t want them to get caught up in a circle of apathy because that’s no way to live. I want them to learn how to live well in their communities (wherever they end up).

Q: What might justice look like in education? Can you paint me a picture of that?
A: Going back to one of my teaching role models, Linda Christensen, I think justice in education or life in general, might start with believing in people’s potential. When we are able to look past surface level and when we look at each person (no matter their appearances or their past) and truly believe they have potential and value, then our actions will change. We’ll start treating people more fairly. We’ll start teaching to each individual student, we’ll make education relevant to students’ lives and the lives they’ll take on in the future, we’ll start trusting our teachers more, and maybe we’ll begin to eliminate draconian educational policies.

1 comment:

Heart's Cry said...

Believing in people's potential... That is the key!! Isn't it amazing the role model we have in Jesus who spent time with the prostitute, murderers and those on the edge of society? I love imagining the look he must have had on his face as He lovingly and intentionally and brutally direct..showed them their potential.

I love the interview!!!!!!