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Teaching For Social Justice: 2013 Recap

I wanted to complete one more blog post before the end of the year, but couldn't figure out a topic that made sense. As I was scrolling through my twitter feed I saw a lot of "year end wrap up" posts and decided to poach the idea for myself. I write this blog as a way for me to reflect on issues in teaching and education that I care about. If it gets read by anyone other than myself, then that's just a bonus!

2013 was a really productive year for myself. I have had the privilege of teaching full-time in a classroom for three and a half years now. I view each day as a challenge and opportunity to grow as an educator. I love that I get to teach social studies every day and have the opportunity to work with at-risk youth. Working with this population has its challenges and benefits, but I have found that it is a job that compels you to act outside the classroom to advocate for the rights of students.

Since most recap posts use lists, the following is a list of accomplishments, disappointments, and challenges that I went through this year.

1. Hip Hop education was a major part of my learning this year. In the spring I created a class entitled "Hip Hop and Social Justice". With the success of that class, I have incorporated the elements of hip hop in my instruction, assessment, and interaction with students. Check out more here:

2. Twitter! I started using twitter as a professional tool and it has been a major source of professional development and networking. I have come across so many great educators doing wonderful things. It is a challenge finding time to learn from others in my school, however, twitter allows me to connect on a daily basis and share ideas, resources, and support with other teachers.

3. Social Media in the classroom. With my new found twitter experience, I attempted to use various forms of social media in the classroom (facebook, twitter, tumblr, youtube). This experiment gave me various levels of success and some disappointment. Still learning how I can properly use this technology to benefit my students.

4. Unfortunately, with the population I work with, you can often experience a number of difficult circumstances. Many of my students lives are filled with violence, abuse, and addictions. Because of this, we sometimes lose a student. I don't think I have learned how to properly deal with this loss and it has impacted me in negative ways. I need to learn to talk more with my partner, family, and co-workers about these experiences to properly deal with losing a student. That way, I can be a stronger teacher for my students who are also dealing with the loss.

5. My first Workshop! In August, three students and myself performed a workshop, "How Poverty Limits Learning". It was a great experience and it was so amazing to see students use their free time during the summer to work with me to create this workshop. It didn't go perfectly, but it was a great learning experience for myself and students.

6. In October, I was accepted into a volunteer program called NextUp ( It's an eight month program where each week I get the opportunity to learn about social and environmental justice issues. It has been wonderful to meet with progressive people in my community who are doing wonderful work. I hope that this opportunity will give me more ideas and connections to introduce my students to different organizations and people who practice social and environmental justice.

7. In June, I finished a one-year volunteer position with the Edmonton Social Planning Council. I was a regular contributor to their fActivist newsletter where I wrote about issues of poverty, racism, education, and politics. (

8. Just this week, I was fortunate and privileged to have been nominated and awarded the "Top 30 Under 30" by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation ( I've never been awarded anything before so I'm looking forward to this experience. I hope to use this platform to advocate for my students and social justice education.

9. On a personal side, I was able to take another ski trip to Banff with my brother. It's an annual trip we take, but an important one as we don't get to see each other that often. It's a great break to take during the winter and especially this year, as it was in the middle of a chaotic time at my school.

10. I would not have been able to do any of the above without the support and encouragement of my partner. Without her, I would not be able to cope with the stresses of my work. Also, I would not have developed my strong love of Lord of the Rings (both are equally important ;) )

I hope this blog doesn't come off as self-congratulatory, but I wanted to reflect on what I was able to do this year and what mattered to me. I am far from the teacher that I know I can be, but I hope that each year is an opportunity to grow into that educator.

I'm looking forward to next year and all the challenges it will bring. In 2014 I'm hoping to eliminate grading (Thanks Joe Bower, work with a student teacher, create an indoor/outdoor garden business at my school, and present at more conferences. Thanks for reading this self-indulgent blog..haha. I hope you reflect on your 2013 and I wish you the best in 2014.

Happy Holidays!