Elementary school classrooms can and should operate as “laboratories” for a more just world, teaching children values of tolerance and fairness and empowering them with confidence that they can effect change for good, according to an article that Levy-Lakeside School teachers Shari Dorfman and Ruth Rosenberg wrote for Social Studies and the Young Learner, a peer-edited academic journal published by the National Council for the Social Studies.
“Every decision we make about resources and activities is designed to reach all students and create a culture that embraces and promotes social justice education,” Dorfman and Rosenberg wrote. “To that end, we plan lessons that promote global citizenry and a sense of individual empowerment from the very first week of school in September to the last week of school in June.”
Dorfman and Rosenberg are both fifth-grade teachers at Levy-Lakeside in the Merrick District. Dorfman has taught there for 10 years, the first eight of them as a fourth-grade teacher. Rosenberg has taught there for 13 years, the first 11 as a fourth-grade teacher. They submitted the first draft of their article for publication in Social Studies and the Young Learner last summer, and they spent about six months revising and resubmitting their article in response to suggestions from the journal’s editors.
Their article, “Building a Community that Includes All Learners,” was included in the January/February 2013 edition of Social Studies and the Young Learner. In addition to promoting “social justice education,” the article discusses how teachers can create a welcoming classroom community that makes students feel “valued” and “safe,” thereby enabling them to take risks like sharing new ideas or different perspectives.
Rosenberg said that it is important for teachers to recognize that no two students learn in exactly the same fashion.