This February, three current English MAT students, Victor Ha, Lucy Short, and Fritha Wright, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Annual Educating for Change Conference, an event that focuses on social justice education in classrooms and communities. At the conference, these students had the amazing opportunity to present the results of their Teacher Research Projects, which MAT students complete during their student teaching semester as a means to explore and evaluate their own teaching practices.
Vic, Lucy, and Fritha were kind enough to share their experiences attending the conference; read their words below!
“We don’t always win, but we don’t stop fighting because we didn’t win.”
– Linda Christensen on making space for hope in the Social Justice English classroom
This conference began as a dream to exchange plans, goals, and hopes for the social justice classroom. We stumbled upon the Educators for Social Justice conference, Educating for Change, while we were in between classes. Following our student-teaching semesters, we longed for the communities we’d nurtured with former students but dreamt of the curriculum we would build around our future ones.
With the combined support of the Education Department Graduate Student Conference Fund and the Brown Graduate School Graduate Student Conference Travel Fund, we ended up in St. Louis, Missouri to learn from local educators and keynote speaker, Linda Christensen. (St. Louis in February is beautiful!) After honing our Teacher Research Projects for this new audience, we felt exhilarated at the prospect of sharing the inspiring work of our students.
Vic shared his writing mini-workshops from his Race Studies unit. Researching and responding to nonfiction texts about race, students strengthened their ability to produce original analytical claims. Fritha presented her research on scaffolding literary analysis and using texts like poetry, lyrics, and music videos to engage students interests and identities and invite them to voice their unique insights and analysis. Lucy spoke with St. Louis area educators about the poetry journals her students created and how to foster expression in the ELA classroom through reading, reflection, and resistance.
As exciting as it was to share our original research with others, perhaps most meaningful of all was the opportunity to listen to, speak with, and explore alongside Linda Christensen, an educator who has devoted her life to innovating what it means to foster a simultaneously critical and hopeful classroom. In her keynote address, Christensen presented a unit on gentrification that employed student-centered inquiry to address contemporary notions of home, space, and belonging. In a workshop, Christensen engaged educators in critical discussions about how language and power shape each other. In closing, Christensen shared an incisive remark from a student about the importance of building community through honoring others’ narratives.
After the workshop, we all had the opportunity to ask Christensen questions about advice she had for us as new teachers entering the field. Her response was simple, “Be brave.” After a short but powerful weekend, we left St. Louis energized to teach expansively, think critically, and hope ardently.
Victor Ha, Brown B.A 2015, Brown English MAT 2016
Lucy Short, Brown English MAT 2016
Fritha Wright, Brown English MAT 2016