An educator has a big role in promoting justice and equity in the classroom. Preschool age is an important time to begin to teach social justice as at this age children begin to construct difference of their worlds, they have the capability to distinguish racial differences and to develop negative attitudes and prejudices towards particular groups (Hawkins 2014). As an educator, I will foster an anti-bias curriculum. I will educate children against any form of prejudice and oppression. This can be done through discussions which will help children to listen to others, clarify and justify their preferences, ideas. Another way is by using picture books to heighten their awareness and understanding of social justice issues related to difference, diversity, and encourage them to identify social injustice (Hawkins 2014).
It is also my role as an educator to make sure that Aboriginal history and culture is part of the teaching. I will provide different materials, such as books, documentaries, pictures etc Children need to know and to understand the unfair treatment Indigenous people passed through. They need to recognize and respect their own cultural heritage as well as that of others.
I strongly believe that our role is pivotal in mainstreaming inclusive education. We need to take into consideration the children with disabilities that we may have in our classroom. They need to be included in meaningful ways in natural settings. Our role is to arrange the classroom environment to meet all children’s needs and to implement IEP goals and objectives into the curriculum (Bruns 2007). Additional training will reinforce the needed skills and will help to become prepared for working with children with disabilities. The quality of inclusion is also related to the center, supervisor and staff characteristics that form a web of resources. Working together we will be able to ensure quality inclusion and to sustain it over time.
2. Strong communication between family members and teachers is very important in promoting justice and equity as well as anti-bias education. The communication built on misinformation, stereotypes or assumptions can create distance between families, school, and students. A good communication will provide a chance to live out of the values of inclusiveness and equity. As a future ECE, I think it is important to approach all families as partners, to invite them to share their knowledge about their children’s lives, interests, and hopes. According to Maori believes, we all are born with a spiritual essence known as mana which is our portion of power. We are all significant inhabitants of the Earth and excluding someone means excluding a part of the life force, as we are all united and bonded together through mana. That is why it is so important to uphold the mana of everyone, children, families, communities, and self (Dachyshyn 2015).
Integrating family and community knowledge increases children’s learning. Children possess enormous experience about, culture, identity, history, and justice. They learn them from their parents, relatives, friends, community leaders who frequently share stories about their lives. Children carry this knowledge inside themselves. Encouraging them to share this knowledge contributes to the development of children’s identities. Hearing about different communities will expand the understanding of other groups, communities, and cultures. It will deepen students’ understanding of social justice issues. Organizing different events will bring the families together. For example, potlucks or picnics, film nights, cultural and multicultural events etc.
I believe that the collaboration between teachers, parents, and community is very significant. Teaching for justice, gather knowledge from each other will benefit children’s learning against exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination.
3. With the right tools and resources, using developmentally appropriate language and activities, teaching about social justice and equity can be engaging for children.
One way to do it is by using children literature. The books can be read aloud to approach such topics as biases, diversity, and social justice. Whether the books are about people who are different, people who expose bias or people who share stories about those who stood up to injustice, reading books is a significant part of our curriculum in the classroom and a good way to address these topics.
Taking advantage of children’s interest in toys, books, TV shows, can help to explore bias, diversity, and social justice. Whether it is about toys and gender stereotypes, or speaking about dolls with disabilities, I can provide openings for them to see how bias take place in media. Then, I will include discussions with children about the inequities that trigger the problem and encourage them to come up with ideas how to solve the problem.
When choosing materials, the important thing is to include diverse voices and cultures. I may need to call upon colleagues or community members with specific backgrounds to understand their cultures. Workshops with guest speakers may be a wonderful idea to promote social justice and equity. I really enjoyed Andrea Williams, when she came and spoke about the Aboriginal pedagogy in early childcare programs. It was very informative, and she also gave us suggestions where to find books related to the topic, to use in the classroom. An important topic to introduce to children is Aboriginal people and their experiences with racism and its impacts (Loppie 2014). Children will identify the injustice that they passed through and will strengthen the knowledge about justice and equity. The way to introduce this topic is by telling legends as fairy tales or myths, adding morals, to sum up the story. Then, we will discuss everything, in order to see what children understood and what they didn’t, so that I could explain more.
4. Educational environment should reflect a rich diversity of the community, which will engage children in their learning. Creating an inclusive and a respectful classroom is a continuing effort, and teaching for social justice is a life-long attempt.
As an educator, I will need to become a role model for children as they base their concept of what is right or wrong according to what adult around them is doing and saying. I will integrate culturally diverse information into all the aspects of teaching. Children need time for a process to develop, that is why it is better to introduce less complex topics at the beginning. This will allow to establish trust. Establishing an environment that allows for mistakes is also important because many children can unconsciously have prejudicial thinking, and they may not be aware of certain behaviour being hurtful. They will need time to acknowledge this. To help them, I will teach them to practice mindfulness, which means being fully present, open, aware, trusting, prepared to take in new information, accept other people’s perspective on a problem, and change their mind because they have a fuller picture. It is a practice that helps not to be judgmental (Dachyshyn 36).
Another way to teach for social justice and equity is by teaching the children being heartful, compassionate and empathetic (Dachyshyn 36). I will expose children to critical literacy experience where the characters in books can show different situations, and the teacher can guide the children by discussing about the emotions as well as children’s personal understanding about conflicts or characters in the story. The right objects and materials will allow children to explore new methods of problem-solving, create opportunities for positive communication, socialization, which are significant in building self-awareness and respect for other children. Have an elder person from the community coming to speak in the class will enrich children’s understanding of the community, the resources they can use and will strengthen the sense of belonging.