Classes started last week. Once again, the procrastination monster rears its ugly head. I waited until the last minute to work on my assignments and only put energy into completing “to turn in” assignments. I never was a very studious student. Which is a shame because one day I’ll expect my students to complete their assignments on time and come prepared for class. May I be a compassionate teacher!
In any case it always gets me excited to talk with others about social justice in Education. But how practical is it? Most first year teachers are just trying to survive their first year of teaching. Many teachers quit by their third year. Outside of my courses, I read about the various strategies that teachers employ to make sure that all voices are heard, all stories told, and the status quo subverted; but the day-to-day practice of teaching for social justice isn’t often discussed in class.
Yesterday, in one of my classes the teacher said something that at first shocked me. She said, “Don’t try to incorporate all these strategies in your first year. Just do one, then the next year you can try more.” Now, after cornering my teacher after class asking her if she really believed that incorporating social justice in the classroom was something that teachers should wait on. This was especially in light of the fact that we had just finished a conversation about how it’s so easy for teachers to fall back on ye olde tried and true inequitable teaching methodologies that make students into docile automatons.
It seems (as it often does), that I was mistaken about what my teacher meant. Our reading assignment (which I didn’t read) was about the use of alternative teaching methods such as “no hands” to answer questions, pausing and giving students time to mull over problems and ideas, providing more written feedback on assignments and less emphasis on grades, etc. Consequently, we spent a good chunk of class talking about Montessori education.
Back to the subject at hand, what my teacher was referring to with her earlier remark was that first year teachers shouldn’t worry about giving more written feedback when they are still struggling with the every day practice of teaching. Of course, I believe that using these methods to teach and assess (which is what this class is about–Classroom Assessment) student learning, is all a part of teaching for social justice and that one cannot separate them.
After having a good laugh with my teacher–’cause she knows how I am from a previous semester and knows that I’m going to use every toolbox in my disposal and that I’m going to do it from the get-go–I was still disturbed by what I had thought that she had said (’cause I’m neurotic like that). I think that what deters a lot of teachers from taking on the challenge of teaching for social justice is the fact that it’s a lot of extra work. Which is actually what my teacher was saying and why it bothered me so.
Something I think education should do is inspire, and when my teacher went over the very real and trying day-to-day issues of teaching and why is it difficult to do too much too soon, she really brought me down. Although, I know that wasn’t her intention and she was just trying to be real with us about our expectations for the classroom, I still couldn’t help but wonder what my fellow students were thinking. Talking about social justice in education is one thing, but actually doing it is another. How can we unite theory and practice?
Sometimes I get so tired of talk…I want to see some action. My student teaching can’t come soon enough. I’m ready to see what I can do. I’m ready to make a difference.