Rebel Teacher Journeys: Social Justice in the Classroom - Curio Learning

Rebel Teacher Journeys: Social Justice in the Classroom

As a content creator for Curio Learning, Paul Barnwell interviews and profiles Curio users to highlight expertise, teacher rebeldom, and general awesomeness. Barnwell also teaches freshman English part-time at a public high school in New Hampshire, writes as a freelancer for various publications, and works on a farm.

Here is his profile of Curio user Andrea Bazemore:

social justice, rebel teacher journeys, rebel teachers

During our chat on a late February afternoon, educator Andrea Bazemore of Dallas, Texas, recalls the first time she saw herself–a young black child–represented in a book. “I remember in fifth grade I read Bud, Not Buddy,” she tells me. “I was like ‘oh wow, I can be in a book too.’ That was revolutionary for me.”

Optimism surrounding her self-image and general school experience proved to be fleeting–Bazemore shares another experience among others that followed.

In sixth grade, despite not having any particular struggles in math, she was enrolled in a remedial math class. “I looked around and it seemed like all of the black kids were placed in this class,” she says. She knew it felt wrong, even if she couldn’t articulate the why at the time.

teaching strategies, social justice, rebel teacher journeys

Rebel Teachers Address Injustice

“Growing up I was always taught about social justice and civil rights and I always went to like Martin Luther King Day parade and other black cultural events,” she said. “I was just very grounded in who I was as African American. In my sixth grade brain, I didn’t know the context or the words to put with it. Knowing how I felt as a kid and knowing that I don’t want any other kids feel that way.”

Fast forward to her accepting a Teach for America position in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Bazemore continued to find her experiences intersecting with challenges relating to race, bias, and injustice.

“I was just very grounded in who I was as African American. In my sixth grade brain, I didn’t know the context or the words to put with it. Knowing how I felt as a kid and knowing that I don’t want any other kids feel that way.”

Andrea Bazemore

While teaching at Gilcrease Elementary, Bazemore says that she and her colleagues were shaken after Terence Crutcher, an unarmed 40-year old black man, was shot and killed by a police office a mere mile away from the school. Crutcher’s nieces and nephews attended the school, so she and her coworkers were moved to attempt to address larger systemic issues about race.

Rebel Teachers Understand Teaching Strategies

Conversations about how to teach or incorporate social justice began to become commonplace. Bazemore says she heard plenty of colleagues say things like I want to teach about justice, but I don’t know how. “I began trying to think of ways to infuse social justice-related ideas in a practical and applicable way for students.”

Given her own background and experiences in Tulsa, it’s not a surprise that Bazemore’s journey has led her to do just that–she founded The Black Apple, a project focused on integrating STEM instruction with social justice.

Want to join the conversation with other Rebel Teachers like Andrea?

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Also published on Medium.

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