Teaching for Social Justice Amidst a Pandemic

— Written By
Mr. Texeira is pictured explaining a concept to his students.

Mr. Texeira is pictured explaining a concept to his students.

As Coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, many K-12 school districts are planning for a fall return that is at least partially online. This, at a time of growing economic insecurity and incalculable loss of life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing social unrest driven by generations of systemic racism.
In the midst of these dual crises, teaching for social justice has never been more important. Yet figuring out how best to address so much hardship can seem daunting to even the most experienced educator.
To gain some insight on navigating these challenges in the classroom, we reached out to Boston Public Schools’ Educator of the Year, Mr. Sam Texeira, and one of his former students, Rebecca.
Rebecca, one of Mr. Texeira's former students.

Rebecca, one of Mr. Texeira’s former students.

Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including how teachers can work with students to nurture connection, cultivate critical reflection, and encourage informed civic action. We also discussed how Rebecca is putting some of her sociopolitical education to practice by working with her city council member, Andrea Campbell, to address issues impacting young people during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite the uncertainty that lies ahead, Mr. Texeira and Rebecca remind us that there are reasons to be hopeful — especially when teachers and students work together for a better future.
Listen to the full episode and then check out our Questions for Extended Dialogue below to keep the conversation going.

Questions for Extended Dialogue

  1. What’s one thing you need your teacher(s) to know so that they can better support you during this time?
  2. When referring to students’ relationship to teachers, Mr. Texeira quoted the popular adage: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Do you agree with this sentiment? Why or why not?
  3. According to Mr. Texeira, the pandemic has made clear that a lot of important learning happens outside the classroom. What have you learned about yourself, others, or the world since the pandemic started?
  4. Rebecca wrote a letter to her city council member to address the ways in which young people, particularly college students, are being impacted by the pandemic. What is one way you have addressed or thought about addressing a social issue you care about?
  5. Has a teacher ever encouraged you to enact an idea aimed at creating social change? What what the result?
  6. What should the role of schools be when it comes to activism and civic engagement?