What Keeps You Engaged in Social Justice?

Posted by Mary Hendra on July 2, 2014

What helps you stay committed to social justice and/or to the field of teaching?

Many Facing History educators and supporters think often about issues of social justice. It is something which cannot be achieved with a single act, but requires an on-going commitment and willingness to question. Several Facing History educators now at the university level are involved with a new book encouraging experienced social justice educators to share their ideas on this topic with those new to the profession.

"Preservice history/social studies teachers may leave their social justice-oriented programs feeling prepared and committed to teach for social justice, but frequently struggle to build, integrate, and enact social justice pedagogies in their first classrooms," writes Dr. Nick Henning, one of the creators of this project.

What are your thoughts? What keeps you engaged with social justice in education?

Here is what a few of our teacher leaders had to say.

The students themselves are my biggest motivation for staying committed to social justice and teaching. In previous years I used to wonder if I "really" made an impact on my students lives, however through the magic of Facebook and other social media- I now hear back from so many of my past students. They've reached out to say that they've become teachers, lawyers, social workers, etc and expressed thanks and gratitude for opening up their eyes to certain ways of thinking, certain levels of awareness. The biggest reward is knowing that you are helping a student to see him/her self differently: that a student can move from believing he/she is a person without power, without options to discovering he/she is an agent of change with an endless world of possibility ahead! As an educator, once you see passion and promise take root in a young person's life, you want to keep planting those seeds and nurturing the "tender shoots" that sprout up in your classroom each year." - Stephanie Carrillo

I am committed to social justice and teaching AND using Facing History in the classroom because I want young people to learn how to be aware of what is happening around them and provide them tools to make proactive choices (not reactive choices) based on what is happening around them, around the US and around the world. Young people are not afraid to take risks. Educators need to give them the tools to ensure that the risks they take are taken with care and knowledge." - Merri Weir

Staying connected to social justice is really about a commitment of values and beliefs towards those who seek empowerment. So, I try to remember this in teaching about the events and issues of World and U.S. history to my students. Instead of only focusing on the facts or the major movements of history, I also challenge my students to ask tough questions about the needs of human beings in the world community. I want them to challenge their own assumptions about how they can be a part of solutions to help those who face injustices. This requires a classroom built upon respect, honesty, tolerance, and an embracing of all opinions and stories as a necessary part of an ongoing dialogue about justice." - James Zucker

What helps you stay committed to social justice and/or to the field of teaching? Share your comments below.

More about this project:
Social Studies for Social Justice in the Common Core Era: Letters to New Teachers

  • Dr. Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath is an adjunct professor in Elementary Education at San Francisco State University.
  • Dr. Alison G. Dover is an assistant professor in the Secondary Education Program at Northeastern Illinois University.
  • Dr. Nick Henning is an assistant professor in Secondary Education at California State University-Fullerton.

How do you translate your vision of social justice into practice? (E.g. How do you set high expectations for your students? What steps to do you take to connect with the community? How are social justice themes integrated into your lessons and/or curriculum?)

What advice would you give to new teachers to help them uphold their commitment to social justice? (E.g. practical and conceptual suggestions)

We are seeking letters/essays from justice-oriented social studies/history teachers with at least 5 years of experience teaching grades 6-12; the audience for the book includes both novice teachers and teacher educators seeking to support candidates in teaching for social justice. Submissions are due by August 1st (1500 words max). Click here to read more detail about the project and consider writing your own letter.

Topics: Teaching

Welcome to Learn+Teach+Share

This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

Learn More:  

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts