Stephanie Castaneda, Round Rock, TX, email@example.com
To reflect an image is to move many points across a line of reflection. Not all of the points move the same distance, but collectively they accomplish the same goal. Teaching a social justice lesson requires a great deal of reflection. In some instances, we have a lot of work to do, and in other instances we are not too far from where we need to be. In the end, we look the same but we are in a different place than where we started. I challenge you to engage in reflective practices to become a more effective facilitator of social justice lessons and an advocate for social justice on your campus.
Use reflective practices to get to know yourself.
Reflection is a great way to get to know yourself. Your beliefs send messages to students about who is valued and who is not valued. How do you know if you are sending subtle messages to your students? Make a list of your core values and beliefs. Then ask yourself, Why are these my values and beliefs? Where do they come from? To answer those questions, interview family members and research your family history. The more you know about the origins of your family traditions and roles, the better you will understand your values and beliefs.
This is a time-consuming process intended to help you connect with the greater world and people from other cultures. Consider this an informal autoethnography. Most people have heard of research, but an autoethnography is mesearch, a process of getting to know yourself and your culture through interviews and reflection. For a greater understanding of yourself, recruit colleagues of different backgrounds to go through this process with you. Check in periodically to share and discuss your findings. If you choose to engage in this process with others, you must be willing to listen without judgement. The purpose of the conversations is to better understand yourself and to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of others.
Use reflective practices to improve your interactions with students.
Periodic student surveys allow you to compare the classroom environment you want to create to your students’ perception of the environment. Keep your surveys short and questions direct. Sample questions include: Do you feel valued? Explain. and How are you able to share your voice and perspectives in class?
A trusted colleague or supervisor can also perform an observation for non-evaluative purposes. For example, you might want to compare your interactions with Black and White students. Consider a simple observation form. Instruct your colleague to look for specific interactions and provide constructive feedback.
Influence campus reflection.
Opportunities for campus-wide reflection include:
|Date||Number of Interactions||Who initiated?|
- Encourage campus administrators to engage teachers and staff in a book study of critical race theory (CRT). This theory challenges your ideas about what role race plays in the education system. Critical Race Theory in Mathematics Education by Julius Davis and Christopher Jett is a starting point for you and your math department.
- Call for administrators to consider restorative discipline. This practice turns the focus away from punishment and moves toward identifying the problem and uses relationships to establish an inclusive community and resolve conflicts.
- Identify and meet the needs of your students with action research. Action research leverages local data and human capital to identify opportunities for improvement. After an action plan is developed, data analysis and regular reflection are vital in making necessary improvements to the plan. If you have never heard of action research, watch this short video. This is one example of how a school in Maryland used action research courtesy of Edutopia.
Social justice is not a lesson or a series of lessons. It is a mindset shaped by critical reflections.