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Possibilities in Practice

Social Justice Teaching in the Disciplines

Edited By Summer Melody Pennell, Ashley S. Boyd, Hillary Parkhouse and Alison LaGarry

This edited collection illustrates different possibilities for social justice practice in various grade levels, disciplines, and interdisciplinary spaces in P–12 education. Chapters in this unique volume demonstrate teaching with a critical lens, helping students develop critical dispositions, encouraging civic action with students, and teaching about topics inclusive of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Based on empirical research, each contribution is rooted in a critical theoretical framework and characterizes findings from sustained study of pedagogic practice, spanning subject matter from social studies, English Language Arts, music, mathematics, and science. Through this work, both pre- and in-service teachers as well as teacher educators will be inspired to practice social justice in their own classrooms.

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Chapter Fifteen: “I, Too, Sing America”: Operationalizing #WeAreNotThis and #BlackLivesMatter in an English Classroom 9th Grade (Jeanne Dyches)


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“I, Too, Sing America”

Operationalizing #WeAreNotThis and #BlackLivesMatter in an English Classroom

9th Grade


The power and purpose of literature instruction in the secondary English classroom has long been a matter of contestation. Despite its dogmatic qualities that include suppressing the voices of teachers by limiting the culturally responsive practices they perform (Bissonnette, 2016) and dismissing marginalized students from canonical conversations (Bissonnette & Glazier, 2015; Carter, 2007), literature instruction can, if used strategically, engender powerful conversations around timely, if controversial, issues (Boyd & Dyches, 2017; Dyches, 2017). To that end, this case study investigates how Lainey,1 a first year teacher at a public arts school, opened up and relied on the intertextual connections between canonical literature, social resistance movements, and multimodal graphics to develop her students’ sociopolitical consciousness.

The investigation follows Lainey’s teaching of Langston Hughes’ (1945) “I, Too,” a poem that illustrates the hegemonic ways in which African Americans have been treated due to the social stratification and endemic racism of U.S. society. Lainey’s students made intertextual connections between the poem and the social resistance movements, #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) and #WeAreNotThis. Protestors created the second hashtag to oppose North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act of 2016, more commonly referred to as House Bill 2 (HB2), or the “Bathroom Bill.” Finally, students engaged their penchant for artistry along with their knowledge of “I, Too” and current events/policies...

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