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The world doesn't always make sense. It's a tough lesson to learn, but one we see as early as Kindergarten. The questions are tough and there are usually no simple answers. Teaching social justice and encouraging social awareness is a professional goal of mine.

In 2007, I was moved by the mission of the organization Room To Read. After learning much about it, I discussed it with my third graders. They were immediately moved to action. Together, we planned a school-wide Read-A-Thon on a Saturday. Here, students are picking books to read together in the gym. Students raised pledge money that led to a total of $4160, the largest, most successful fundraiser for the school to date. It was enough money to build two libraries to serve over 600 children in Nepal.
During my student teaching "takeover" period, I taught a thematic unit on wheels. Including social justice seemed impossible, but after some thought, I contacted the Wheelchair Basketball team at the University of Illinois. In the mentality of a Kindergartener, life in a wheel chair is pretty different. Together, we discussed questions for our guests and re-designed our classroom so that a wheelchair could fit everywhere. When two team members spoke with us, we also got to take turns trying to move around and accomplish daily tasks while in a wheelchair. The local news station came and interviewed some students as well. Everyone became more aware of how life in a wheelchair might be different.
Teaching for social justice in Guatemala was more of a challenge than I had imagined. Understanding the country's policitcal and economical situation is hard enough as an adult. So, I looked for smaller, subtler opportunities. Here students took some time on the 100th day of school to write a journal entry on something good they could do with 100 "Quetzales" (local currency). It was hard to think about not buying a new barbi, but some of us "got it."