Teaching social justice in your classroom
Social justice is about reciprocity between the individual and society. Individuals owe the society in which they live, and the society owes individuals certain benefits.
It begs the question, how should opportunity be distributed among everyone?
That’s a topic ripe for exploration in classrooms.
By teaching social justice in your classroom, you afford your students the opportunity to engage in authentic examination of their world and make positive changes. Your classroom, regardless of the content you teach, can be an incubator for social justice discussions.
Almost any controversial issue can be an opportunity to discuss and understand its implications through the lens of social justice. These issues could be localized, like which students should be selected for participation in the talent show, or they could have a broader scope and impact, like whether countries should control immigration.
Exploring events through social justice requires that your students apply critical thinking in authentic scenarios. Students make connections to real-world challenges using skills learned in class.
Some of the skills required include:
- Differentiating between fact and opinion to determine what is true.
- Examining diverse points of view to look at an issue from all sides.
- Developing a personal perspective based on accurate comprehension
Social justice activities
Children often have a keen sense of fairness. You can use social justice lessons to help them call out what’s fair and what’s not. Try lessons like these to get your students thinking about social justice:
- Outside-inside. Give pairs of students a piece of fruit. Ask them to describe the outside, including any distinguishing marks. Have them peel their fruit and toss it a large bowl with all the others from class. Encourage your students to find their fruit. The object of the lesson is to show that people are like the fruit. Our exteriors are different, but the insides are the same.
- Who’s job is it? Teach gender and racial stereotypes by talking about different careers. Who traditionally holds these jobs? Have students explore salary differences between genders and discuss whether the differences are warranted.
- Seeing both sides. Bring a current policy or law into the classroom for discussion. For example, have your students consider bicycle helmet laws, the dress code policy, or a contentious state law. Talk about the facts and opinions surrounding the law or policy. Consider all points of view as you have students look at multiple points of view. Ask your students to develop their own stance regarding the issue.
A caveat when teaching social justice
Remember that lessons on social justice are less about your opinions and more about helping your students uncover and express theirs. Because the topics you discuss may be controversial, include your campus administrator in what’s going on. They can help to identify possible challenges and work with concerned parents.
As you begin to incorporate social justice connections in your curriculum and lessons, you may begin to see the world with changed eyes. Teaching social justice in the classroom may change how you and your students perceive the world or even the slant in teaching materials.
From there, you and your students can decide how you want to be the change in the world.