Doing something outside the “safe zone” is always difficult. I am lucky enough to work for an administrator named Craig Vaughn who not only believes in social justice he supports it with his authority and power. I am able to teach about intersectionality in large part because of his support. A lot of teachers are starting their own journey into how they can #DisruptTexts, #TakeaKnee in math, or #ClearTheAir of their school’s culture and climate. Mr. Vaughn was gracious enough to write how from an administrator’s view you should go about bringing social justice into your school and class.
If you’re trying to bring a new program to your school, regardless of the needs it may serve (educational, physical, social-emotional), be prepared to back up your idea with evidence or projections on how it will benefit the students. Ultimately, you’ll want to tie this to student performance because, like it or not, that’s how administrators are judged.For social justice, it’s an easy connection to school safety for which there is myriad research suggesting students perform better when they feel safe. Beyond the connection to safety, you’ll obviously need to ensure any social justice program is aligned with standards as this will be your administrator’s safety net when parents or guardians feel that you (the teacher) are pushing personal beliefs on their children (even though we both know you’re not, and so do the kids).Armed with information on how your social justice initiative will be a positive impact on the learning environment and help improve student academic performance, along with a clear connection to the standards of your state, you’ll be prepared to make a final and crucially important step towards getting your program in place: appealing to your administrator’s ego. For this, you’ll need to understand just what type of ego your administrator works with; is he or she the type that likes to remind everyone who is in charge or is your administrator comfortable sharing or even side-stepping the spotlight (with the former’s ego being much easier to stroke than the latter). This will be important to know from the outset, as you may need to be comfortable doing the work while an administrator takes an unfair share of the credit (but you’ll do it anyway because if you’re looking to implement social justice, having your own ego massaged is the least of your concerns). I don’t say this to be critical of school leaders, but rather to help you understand that every building principal has to report to a superintendent who has to report to a Board of Education who have to report to their community constituents….and they all want to look good.The biggest challenge to implementation will be to ensure they understand how social justice will benefit all students, cause minimal disruption (sad but true), and promote the excellence of your school and/or district. Take a look at your school’s mission statement and you’ll most likely find verbiage that closely resembles the spirit of social justice. Mission statements are usually top-down, with the Board playing a significant role in their development. If you can make that connection, your path to implementation will be much easier. You want to bring social justice to your school because you see the world these students will inherit and you know equality, unless change is made, will not exist for many. You want to bring social justice to your school because you see the imbalance of power and you want to make the scales just. Hopefully, these tips will help as you set about to do this good work for your students.
A huge shout out to Mr. Vaughn for taking the time to lend an administrators perspective to a very important goal of bringing social justice into the classroom!