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Educator First in Action: Incorporating Social Justice Frameworks in Edmentum Curriculum with Teaching Tolerance

Educator First in Action: Incorporating Social Justice Frameworks in Edmentum Curriculum with Teaching Tolerance

One of the things I love about being a part of the Edmentum curriculum team and facilitating our Educator Network is that we make a point of participating in professional development similar to educators in the field. Every training we do is valuable in keeping us connected to what YOU are thinking about and working on in your classrooms, schools, and district offices on a daily basis. This past December I had the chance to take part in a particularly powerful workshop facilitated by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center whose mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.

Education equity and social and emotional learning (SEL) are two issues that we as an organization are putting a lot of focus on. Within the curriculum department, we chose to work with Teaching Tolerance in order to learn more about school climate, instruction, classroom culture, family and community engagement, and teacher leadership. The work we did in that PD session was meaningful, and it’s really stuck with me—I still find myself reaching back to some of the conversations that took place to find understanding and tolerance as well as examine my own thoughts and reactions on a daily basis.

The Edmentum Curriculum Team’s Professional Development Experience with Teaching Tolerance

The workshop we participated in was centered around understanding Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards. The organization developed this framework to help educators equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for prejudice reduction and collective action through four domains of identity, diversity, justice and action. With guidance from the innovative educators on staff at Teaching Tolerance, we broke the standards down as a group and talked about strategies for creating digital curriculum that adheres to anti-bias principles.

It was fascinating to look at our existing content through this kind of critical lens and evaluate our ideas and approaches to curriculum writing. The entire team learned the value of review with social justice in mind and came away with concrete plans to incorporate these standards into every online lesson, assignment, assessment item, and course we create. During the training, one of my colleagues mentioned that these standards are more or less a guide for being a decent human being—if you ask me, that seems like a very worthwhile goal to achieve with digital curriculum.

More About Teaching Tolerance

Teaching Tolerance provides free classroom resources promoting social justice and anti-bias to educators—including teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use these materials to supplement their curriculum; inform their practices; and create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants. The anti-bias approach encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives.

The organization was launched in 1991 with publishing of the Teaching Tolerance magazine and producing educational films on the modern civil rights movement. Today, the Teaching Tolerance community has grown to include over 500,000 educators who utilize their resources, participate in the Mix it Up inclusion campaign, incorporate their curriculum, or connect on their social media channels.

Teaching Tolerance is an outstanding organization that I encourage every educator to check out (they offer live workshops across the country and free professional development webinars!) I would also love to hear how you incorporate tolerance, social justice, and anti-bias education into your classroom curriculum, school culture, or teacher trainings. This is one of the most important issues educators are tasked with addressing, and sharing knowledge is critical. I look forward to hearing about YOUR unique ideas, approaches, and ‘aha’ moments.

Finally, on a side note, if you ever have the chance to meet Teaching Tolerance’s Val Brown, you should totally find a seat nearby and become her friend—she is amazing. 

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently the Educator Initiatives Manager. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she learns something new and exciting every day.