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Educational Activism
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Jill Goodreau and David Montemurro

Title: Tools for Equity – Strategies for the Beginning Secondary School Teacher Activist

Session presenters: Jill Goodreau (Teacher, UGDSB) and David Montemurro (Lecturer, Dept. of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, OISE/ UT)   

Contact information: jillgoodreau@yahoo.com, dmontemurro@oise.utoronto.ca

Brief description of workshop:

This interactive workshop highlights some of the most commonly used equity/social justice/activist strategies that can be modified for classroom use across subjects and grades. Modelled activities include: The Power Triangle, If The World Were 100 People, The Power Flower, Where Do You Draw The Action Line? Musical Chairs, and more….

Workshop goals:

  • To share learner-centred, equity-focussed classroom tools that can be adopted/ adapted for a range of classroom practices.
  • To model process facilitation. The idea is to recognize that although content is important, how we are teaching and are engaging in and defining educational activism is equally important.
  • To investigate how teachers’ daily work (e.g., Raising questions about power) can constitute educational activism.
  • To make educational activism accessible, tangible, and viable – something that can be realised in multiple educational spaces.

Strategies used:

  • We begin by modelling a series of activities that involve all the participants in a range of roles.
  • Next, we explain specific process design decisions, the purposes for each activity, and a range of potential classroom uses.
  • This is followed by an activity where small groups are given different “tools” and invited to present: an overview of the tool; a variety of uses in different subject areas; how the tool promotes educational activism; and possible extensions.

Two key resources that support our work:

Adams, Maurianne, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin. (1997). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice:  A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge. This wonderful book uses an integrated approach to studying social justice.  It provides a theoretical framework for the "isms” as well as practical modules of study. These modules are units full of activities and information about sexism, racism, heterosexism, antisemitism, ableism, and classism. The last three chapters of the book contain a wealth of practical tips for facilitating social justice issues (including information on facilitating discussions, responding to common student reactions, and using personal experiences).

Arnold, Rick, Bev Burke, Carl James, D'Arcy Martin, and Barb Thomas. (1998). Educating for a Change. Toronto: Between the Lines and the Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action.

The authors of this powerful text have worked in community and solidarity groups, unions, boards of education, anti-racist and human service organizations for more than 25 years.

Drawing on these extensive experiences, they offer theoretical and practical tools for consciously applying the principles of democratic practice to daily social change work. Sections include: Educating Strategically; Working by Design: Putting a Program Together; Shaping our Tools: Developing and Using Activities; Working on our Feet: the Practice of Democratic Facilitation.

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

  • Creating time to be strategic about how to integrate educational activism goals into course, program, school-wide and/or year activities.
  • Making connections with and between other activists and organizations.
  • Structuring time and sound processes in order to engage in strategic actions while sustaining our energies.

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

  • Broaden our network of educational activist allies (across the district and province) – we can’t do it alone.
  • Participate in a community to deepen research and shape actions (e.g. study groups).
  • Witness and learn from the successes others are having – taking time to regenerate enthusiasm.

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

We would like people to walk away with the idea that educational activism can exist in many forms and that it is possible for anyone to be an activist educator. Participants should also understand that it is not enough to have the ‘content’ and the ‘talk’. They must also work on being able to ‘walk the talk’. In part, this aim requires a faith in the process – a willingness to relinquish control as one invites students to share power in the classroom. A more fully democratic process requires educators to find comfort in ambiguity – and perhaps to discover solace in knowing they need not do “it all” alone.

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