Monday, April 4, 2016

Social Justice Event

Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations
Dr. Sonia Nieto

For my social justice event I attended a talk by Dr. Sonia Nieto. The talk was called “Transforming the Teaching Profession: Learning from Teachers of Diverse Populations”. The event took place Monday April 4th in the Student Union Ballroom, and there were probably about a hundred people there. This was a really great talk, and I’m glad I chose this as my event to attend. The event was a 20th anniversary lecture since Dr. Nieto spoke on diversity at RIC 20 years ago. At the beginning of the presentation, a video was shown of her lecture 20 years ago. The topic then was also about social justice in education, and the topic today was about how social justice in education has changed since then. Dr. Nieto discussed social justice in education is “a set of beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors about teaching and learning and about students.” Social justice in education is needed now more than ever in schools, but it is hard to accomplish and it takes commitment. Dr. Nieto said there are three barriers of social political context of schools and society. These include, societal barriers, school-based barriers, and ideological barriers. I agree with her because without these barriers, there would be a much greater chance at social justice in education. From the readings we have done in class and from my service learning experiences, it is obvious that these barriers exist. Dr. Nieto talked about two of her books, “Why We Teach” (2005) and “Why We Teach Now” (2015). In both of these books, she had various teachers write essays about why they teach. The responses ranged from teaching to define identity to teaching and fighting back. The responses and the teachers that Dr. Nieto talked about were interesting to see how social justice in education has changed over the years. One of the teachers that Dr. Nieto spoke about was Mary Ginley. Many of the comments that Mary Ginley made really stood out to me. Specifically she wrote about her experiences with a fifth grade boy who told her he was going to be a good dad because he had her as a teacher, after his own dad had been physically abusive to his mom and verbally abusive to him. Mary Ginley recounted this as a reason that she teaches. She said, “There are kids who need good teachers.” These kinds of stories also help me realize why I want to be a teacher.

Dr. Nieto talked about what is the same and what is different in education since her first lecture 20 years ago, and I found it really interesting.
What's the same:
- A sense of mission
- Empathy for students
- Courage to question conventional wisdom
- Improvisation
- Passion for social justice
What's different:
- High stakes testing frenzy
- A changing vocabulary
- Blaming
- Privatization
- Quick teacher prep
- Abandonment of public education

So I could probably relate this lecture to every author we have read this semester, but I’m going to focus on Finn, Johnson, and Kozol. When Dr. Nieto talked about school-based barriers, she mentioned how resources in schools are not based on need. Those schools that have the opportunity to attain resources do, and those who don’t have those opportunities don’t have the resources. In Finn’s article he talks about the differences in social classes in schools. Obviously, the working class schools don’t get as many resources as the AP or EE schools, when sometimes the working class schools are the ones who need the resources the most. At the end of the lecture, Dr. Nieto talked about how future teachers cannot go in with “rose colored glasses”. They need to know what they are getting into. I related this to Johnson. Topics of diversity and social justice are ones that need to be talked about in order for any change to be made. Johnson would argue that we need to “say the words” and talk about the issues if we want to see positive changes around them. When Dr. Nieto discussed ideological barriers to sociopolitical context of schools and society, she mentioned that they are both individual and institutional. Kozol talked about both the individual and institutional problems in education. Dr. Nieto and Kozol would agree that these include biases and stereotypes about race, ethnicity, culture, social class, and ability. Dr. Nieto discussed how there is an idea that intelligence is fixed and unchanging. They would also both agree that this is an idea that needs to be changed.

This is a link to Dr. Sonia Nieto’s website where she has information about herself, information on her books, and educational resources.

This article is about how teachers can be advocates for social justice in the classroom, while still engaging in best practices in teaching core subjects to their students.

This is a clip of a talk that Dr. Nieto gave a few years ago on diversity and thriving in schools. Seeing her in person, I think she was a great speaker, and I’d be interested to hear another lecture from her.

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