The seventh annual Social Justice in Education Conference brought together community social justice workers with future educators to discuss real people issues, says UWindsor experiential learning specialist and organizer Manu Sharma, Friday, November 20, in the Education Building.
“It was a lot of organization and a lot of work but excellent outreach and excellent response from the community and students,” Dr. Sharma says. “And the fact that we have all these people engaging with social justice issues in a concrete, practical, real way, it makes me feel so happy.”
Awad Ibrahim from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education was the keynote speaker. Sharma says Dr. Ibrahim did a fantastic job talking about sometimes taboo topics of social justice.
“It was nice the way he brought in media as a way of addressing how to get into conversations around race, ethnicity and issues that can bring a lot of discomfort. In his keynote he was able to bring together some complicated and difficult discussions that provide light on how teachers can make a difference to address those things and in a way that wasn’t so tense but accessible and with humour,” says Sharma.
The day featured workshops on a range of issues from understanding poverty, education to equity, mental health in the classroom and talking about perfect targets for bullying. The conference theme was developing practical tools for an equitable classroom.
Teacher candidate Sarah McGuire created an exhibit called “Reaching Reluctant Readers” for the community fair. She says when she taught a grade 12 English class made up mostly of male students, she found that a lot of them were reluctant readers. But she was initially inspired by her younger brother who had no interest in reading.
“I found it a lot of fun helping my brother with his homework and motivating him,” McGuire says. “When I planned specific lessons from my practicum I would think: what would my brother like, what would entertain him, what could get kids engaged and hooked into reading?”
She wants to teach high school and to continue to break through misconceptions about reading.