social justice + personalization

I had been in foster care along with my older sister and my brother. We all were in foster care for 3 years. I actually still know my foster sister. ~Madeline, 11 years old

From the list of social injustice topics (see social – justice = injustice) , students chose an injustice to explore more deeply through a mathematical lens.  However, before exploring the mathematics, students worked to define their chosen issue.  As students chose their social injustices, I quickly realized that many of the topics they chose were ones where they found a personal connection.  After researching their topic, I asked students to privately email me about their choices.

I wanted to learn more about [depression] because maybe I have it. I know close friends and family of mine who might have depression. I wanted to learn about it so I could know how to solve it, how to make it better. Researching this topic about depression made me realize that I’m not alone with this problem. There are millions of people in the world who deal with depression and now it doesn’t make me feel so alone anymore. ~ Hope, 12 years old

Students revealed that even if they had not experienced the issue, they chose it because of close friend…

Well, one of my friends almost got raped by one of her friends. But I’ve gone through depression, child abuse, self harming,  and I’m also bi. ~ Aria, 11 years old

or family member…

My aunt is a lesbian and has a partner, my auntie-aunt.  I’ve always known about my about my aunt and my auntie-aunt being together.  It’s not weird or anything.  It’s just what it is.  ~Michele, 12 years old

or a neighbor…

Something I realized was the proliferation of animal abuse. I have a neighbor who never takes their dog for a walk and leaves him outside even when he shouldn’t. They have gone through 4 dogs in the last 2 years. ~ Troy, 12 years old

As I embarked on my journey into exploring social justice with my students, I initially shied away from heavy hitting topics like rape, sexual orientation, child abuse, or human trafficking.  As my students were the ones to bring the injustice up themselves, I realized it was my own fear keeping me from delving into such deep issues.

I worry about my students, who–in my mind–are just still “kiddos”, too young to be troubled with such deep issues.

I worry more that exploring such difficult, complex issues may propel my students faster into young adulthood.

I worry most that by not exploring the issues, students would not have the opportunity to voice their opinion on topics they clearly are already exposed to.




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