Teaching for Social Justice by Building Bridges to Learning May 27-29, 2009
The conference offered a wealth of information on building social justice through
education. There were speakers of diverse backgrounds who offered valuable insights
into the barriers that exist and need to be addressed.
The conference was opened by Deborah Ellis who spoke about her many travels to areas
of the world experiencing social upheaval; the insights she gained were the inspiration for
many of her books such as The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, Mud City and Heaven
Dr Israel (Izzy) Unger spoke of his personal story during the Holocaust. His journey was
one that left the room speechless. His explanation of the political climate in Europe at
the time and the Nazi mentality provided an understanding of how the stage for
Holocaust was set. He was most inspiring with his admission that despite the horrific
experience he endured, he remained resolute in his efforts to start a new life in Canada, a
very good life as he remarked. He encouraged educators to continue to talk about the
Holocaust in an effort to prevent atrocities such as this from happening again and to curb
the anti-Semitic mentality that, in his opinion, is still prevalent today although in a much
more subtle form.
Robert Upshaw, Vice Principal of Cole Harbour High, spoke of closing the achievement
gap for African Nova Scotian students. He made mention of strategies that are currently
working, some of which are using culturally relevant curriculum, working with
community groups, African heritage events, incorporating writing initiatives, having high
expectations for Black students, and ensuring that teachers have an understanding of
Black culture, traditions and contributions to society.
Robin MacLean’s presentation dealt with her work on the development and pilot testing
of a children’s rights based curriculum resource, Fighting Hunger the Right Way. She
used activities that could be incorporated in the classroom. It seemed to me that her
activities would be very classroom friendly, using current technology.
Dr A Atiyah presented on Muslim Misconceptions. He outlined the tenets of the Islam
religion. He was very enlightening as he provided information on his religion and how it
is sometimes falsely portrayed in the media.
Joanne Tomkins spoke of reaching the student who is at risk and optimizing the potential
through various strategies such as developing a more effective student/teacher
relationship, building on what the student brings to school, and working with families
and communities to name a few.
As delegates we experienced a smudging ceremony with Jane Mader and were witnesses
to a libation ceremony with Wayn Hamilton.
In my opinion, this was a very informative, well organized conference.