The Social Justice Curriculum Fair was just the day that about 120 K-12 teachers, education workers and allies needed. Burdened with the everyday problems like full schedules, organizing or administrative pressure, teachers miss the opportunity to socialize with each other and with their students. On October 19, the Twin Cities Social Justice Curriculum Fair offered them an opportunity to get together, attend workshops around the topic of social justice and share thoughts and experiences.
The fair focused on 11 workshops about topics such as “Mathematics and the Community.” Math classes tend to be very logical and dry but this workshop demonstrates the possibility of involving social justice even in math and science subjects.
Other workshops treated topics such as “Electric Bills, Waste Paper Baskets, and Social Class-Sensitive Pedagogy” and “Collective Memory Work as a Classroom Tool: Exploring Gender and Sexuality through Critical Literacy.”
After the workshops, a panel of four teachers talked about their experiences with social justice in their school, including racism, packed curriculums and identity problems. The audience was very attentive and seemed to understand the discussed experiences. For example, a young black teacher talked about his experiences that young black male students have problems with identity at their schools. He said that the boys were missing a male black teacher with whom they could identify and talk to freely. When all of their teachers are female or white males, he said, it is harder for these young men to feel a connection with their school.
After the panel, the attendees got together in small groups to discuss the panel and share their thoughts about the day. In the discussion one teacher said, “How crazy is it that you even don’t know your fellow staff members?”
The conversations were really intense, and the teachers and education workers enjoyed the open environment.
Shannon Edbirg, one of the organizers and a teacher at Anthony Middle School said, “This was a special and unique day and the people really appreciated the open atmosphere so they could speak without fear.” Edbirg explained that there will be an email list and a Facebook group, so people can connect and stay in touch.
To connect and share thoughts, the organizers put up big posters on which the people wrote their ideas, resources, challenges and needs.
This Social Justice Curriculum Fair was not just an opportunity to learn but also an open environment to discuss. It really seemed that the organizers hit the spot of the people, so there will definitely be a second fair next year. The organizers hope to create an annual event with more time, more variety and more participants to speak.