Guest Blogger: Bernkopf Covers the Social Justice Curriculum Fair

Guest Blogger: Bernkopf Covers the Social Justice Curriculum Fair

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Hey y’all. This week, I decided to give the blog over to recently blogged about Rachel Bernkopf, who attended the Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair last week. I’ve spoken in the past about some of the amazing workshops offered in Chicago for teachers, and this is a particularly great example. With no further adieu, here’s Rachel:

I just returned from the Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair, and I’m here to give you the full report. If you got a chance to read about me on this blog a couple of weeks ago, you already know that social justice is my jam. Well, the TSJ Curriculum Fair is the place to go if you want to get sky-high inspired about education and youth empowerment. This was my second time attending the volunteer-run annual event. I met up with my dear friend Natalia Segura-Noboa, an aspiring Spanish teacher with whom I co-taught in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools after school program.The conference brought us back to the south side—this time to Kenwood Academy—for a busy day of learning, networking, and feeling the love from fellow educators.

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Our morning began in the school’s packed auditorium, where we cheered on speakers like Aquila Griffin, a high school student who went to Washington DC to protest school closings, and Lorena Jasso, a parent whose activism helped the principal of Social Justice High School get her job back after she was fired with no explanation. From there, we checked out the booths lining the hallways with informational displays from various organizations as well as teachers sharing their lesson plans. I made sure to bring a folder so I could stash all of the pamphlets. Natalia got really excited about the Beehive Collective’s table—I got two posters, and she got five! I also picked up two books from Rethinking Schools.

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The first workshop we attended was titled “Education for Liberation: Pedagogy of the Oppressed in a Social Studies Classroom.” Cyriac Mathew, a history teacher from Uplift High School, detailed the liberatory approach to education, in which students learn about the systems of oppression that create inequality. (Paulo Freire is my dawg.) Based on this philosophy, Mr. Mathew’s students investigate the root causes of violence in their neighborhood and set in motion a plan of action.

We broke for lunch and reconvened for a second round of workshops. I chose “More Sh!t Chief Keef Don’t Like: Workshopping Youth, Violence, and the Legacy of Racism in Chicago” because I have a huge crush on Kevin Coval. He’s the co-founder of Louder Than a Bomb, the biggest youth poetry slam in the world. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you need to hear this man spit some spoken word (sigh). We remixed Carl Sandburg’s iconic “Chicago” poem (you know, the one with the line “City of Big Shoulders”?) and discussed how creative crews empower teens to resist the allure of street gangs.

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My favorite moment of the day was meeting Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union and the event’s closing speaker. When Natalia and I giddily approached her, all I could say was, “We’re star struck.” She humbly replied, “I’m just a teacher.”

Thanks to the TSJ Curriculum Fair, I’m totally pumped to get into the classroom. In the meantime, I’ll just work on this poem I started in the workshop today. It’s dedicated to Kevin Coval :)

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