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Antonino Giambrone

Title: Teaching for Global Justice – Some Curriculum-based Ideas

Session presenters: Antonino Giambrone

Organization: City View Alternative School, TDSB           

Contact information: antonino.giambrone@tel.tdsb.on.ca

Brief description of workshop:

This highly interactive workshop shares ideas and strategies that can help teachers use mandated curriculum in a subversive way to teach for justice. This involves taking expectations that teachers are expected to meet by administrators, school boards, etc., and going beyond them in ways that challenge the status quo, and effect positive change in students and teachers, and hopefully, in society.

Workshop goals:

  • To expose teachers to a variety of hands on strategies that explore power within local and global contexts.
  • To explore ways of thinking about constructive hope, particularly when teaching for justice necessarily addresses issues that can evoke sadness and futility in teachers and students. Social justice educational activism must teach for justice – that is, with the explicit goal of action. Hope alone implies passivity, whereas constructive hope exclaims that as humans, we create our world through individual and shared action - we must actively pursue what we hope for.

Strategies used:

  • The Power Checklist: an analysis of who we are relative to others and our place in our more immediate environment, and in the world. Social identities are specifically addressed and participants think about what makes them feel more powerful and less powerful in our society.
  • Mapping and Perspective: how do we see the world through maps, and is the world actually as we have been taught to see it? How maps are made can reflect who has power in the world.  Is there an actual top and bottom, above and below, on the planet and in the universe?  Is there such a thing as a fair map of the world?
  • Going Dotty: A different colour dot sticker is place in the facial area of each participant while their eyes are closed. When they are asked to open their eyes, the ambiguous instruction of “organize yourselves without speaking” is given. Participants usually organize themselves by colour, and usually at least one participant is left without a dot. Some issues that arise include: conformity, comfort with those similar, immigration, categorization connected to racial or religious categorization, being told what to do or where you belong.
  • Fair Trade Simulation: In groups, participants are assigned various roles involved in the growing, transport, roasting, and selling of coffee. In these roles, participants negotiate how much of the profit that comes from coffee sales each should receive. Participants experience roles of power and less power.
  • Hypnotizing Hands (adapted from Augusto Boal’s Columbian Hypnotism): In partners, participants take turns leading each other with their hands as though they have their partner hypnotized. Issues of power, focus, listening, giving and taking, and trust are explored. The activity is used as a metaphor to describe teaching, particularly being an activist educator).
  • Sharing of Curriculum Related Action: Examples of authentic student action are provided from what I and my colleagues have initiated and facilitated at City View Alternative School, and participants are invited to share their own experiences and ideas, as well as struggles.

Two key resources that support our work:

Pike, Graham and David Selby (2000). In the Global Classroom1 & 2. Toronto: Pippin Publishing.  A set of global education activities based on Pike and Selby’s dimensions of global education, central to which are interdependency and worldmindedness. The activities are organized by themes, such as peace, development, human rights, and environment.

Bigelow, Bill and Bob Peterson (Eds.). (2002). Rethinking Globalization. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools Ltd.  A collection of essays and activities that address wealth, poverty, corporate power and resistance movements.

Issues which we continue to struggle with in our own pursuits of educational activist goals:

  • Currently, my main struggle involves addressing the number of issues that arise in the world that I think need to be addressed in the amount of time actually available in a school year. Thus, the main issue is one of time.
  • In the past, I have struggles with how to “sell” an activist approach to education to administrators given the mandated curriculum expectations. I have, therefore, explored ways to use mandated curriculum expectations to lend administrative credibility to what I see as acts of resistance in the classroom (i.e. teaching issues of global justice and facilitating student action on those issues). I feel I have had some success in this endeavour, hence my desire to share strategies for success in this area with other teachers and teacher candidates, and to hear others’ ideas, through workshops at conferences such as this. 

Next steps (E.g., Supports [theoretical or practical] that may enhance our ongoing or future practice):

Board and department support for such approaches, as well as an organized sharing of classroom ideas for activist social justice educators.

“Big idea” that we want people to walk away with:

Educators have the power to implement activist approaches focused on justice regardless of the mandated curriculum. This notion of power is integral for the teacher in thinking about not only their own privilege in society, but the inherent power of the students as change agents. This involves exploring the tools student may need to “make” their world given not only their own situation, but their sense of justice. Hopefully, people walk away with the idea that such conversations are critical to education.

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