Book Contribution: “Elevating Equity and Justice” by Robert Kim

Elevating Equity and Justice by Robert Kim book cover

If you ask my students what is most important to me as a teacher they will undoubtedly say safety first and, at a close second, that they are kind. While I care a great deal about academics and run a second-grade classroom that aims to challenge all learners, I never lose sight of the fact that I am raising human beings. Nothing is more important than their personhood and we spend a good deal of time discussing, preparing for and problem solving how to be good to our community in and out of the classroom. 

Second grade is a complex and layered social year. Developmentally children begin to look outside of themselves and consider the thoughts and actions of others. They start to shift from their egocentric young selves to an awareness of the social realm. What other children say and think about them begins to matter. With this shift comes the responsibility on the teacher’s end to nurture students who are able to listen openly, react respectfully, and navigate their evolving social world with success. Here are three helpful tools that can support your young humans: 

1. Role play: Take time to address the recurring challenges that happen in your classroom. Lead your students in role-playing activities, acting out common, often unproductive responses and brainstorm, as a class, more respectful responses. Common situations you might address are: How to respond when someone hurts your feelings, when someone tells you that you cannot play with them, and when someone is not following a classroom or school rule. 

2. Develop upstanders: We all know that challenging situations often occur out of earshot of the teacher - during recess, in the lunchroom, while walking in the halls – so it’s not enough to develop individual voices, but to explain to your students the role of the “upstander.” Books like The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet provide clear examples of how to protect and stand up for a peer. Students need to speak up about what is good and true, regardless of what adult is listening. 

3. Recognize positive actions: Communities are strong when it is their regular habit to function in care. Positive actions need to be recognized, not just by the adults, but more importantly by their peers. Consider a method for your students to acknowledge the daily actions that support their community. Create a badge that they share with a peer when they make a move that helps the community; helping a friend, being flexible, making a compromise. This creates an atmosphere of recognition and gratitude that happens peer to peer, strengthening interactions from the ground up.