The Influence of Race, Class, Gender, and Disabilities in Teaching

Throughout this course, we have touched on subjects that some people may find difficult to discuss, such as racism, class, gender, and disabilities. I believe that it is one of our roles as future educators to accept these differences as we encounter them throughout our teaching careers and to address and be open to conversations about these topics with our future students and their families. By doing so, we will be able to teach our students how to be accepting towards others and will encourage them to take pride in their differences. The article, How to Engage Constructively in Courses That Take a Critical Social Justice Approach states, “Most people have very strong personal opinions about the issues examined in these courses, such as racism, sexism, and homophobia.” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012, p. 165) With that, sharing our personal opinions and experiences can deepen discussions and will also help in opening the minds of our students, encouraging them to be the change in our society and, hopefully, will inspire them to take part in acts of social justice.

An important topic that we have discussed is critical thinking and critical theory. In the article Critical Thinking and Critical Theory, it states that “critical thinking means to think with complexity.” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012, p.1) And “Critical theory refers to a specific scholarly approach that explores the historical, cultural, and ideological lines of authority that underlie social conditions.” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012, p.1) Through this same topic, we have explored knowledge construction, which is a term used to describe how knowledge is constructed in five different parts that reflect our values and interests that are gained through personal experiences. These five parts are: Personal and cultural knowledge, popular knowledge, mainstream academic knowledge, school knowledge, and transformative academic knowledge. Understanding that knowledge is constructed through several aspects demonstrates that one’s personal views are affected in many ways. For example, a child can be taught that certain races are better than others through personal and cultural knowledge, such as their parents’ beliefs and opinions; or that they must look a certain way to be socially accepted through popular knowledge, such as television or social media. Later on, they may learn about equality through other types of knowledge, such as school knowledge or mainstream academic knowledge. This shows that no matter what someone is taught, the other types of knowledge can still impact their beliefs and knowledge. With that, I believe that it is important that I teach my future students about equality, social issues, and injustices by encouraging them to do critical thinking on these topics to help get rid or at least change any bias that has been implanted into their ways of thinking.

During the first week of class, we discussed racism. Although people have been trying to eliminate racism for many years, it sadly still exists in the world today. As teachers of the generations to come, we can work together to make a difference by teaching children, at a young age, what racism is and how it personally affects people. The writing exercise we did on the first day and read together about our personal experiences on racism had a big impact on me and I found it very interesting hearing the experiences of others; whether they were the victims or were on the other side. According to the article, Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race, “Participants should encourage one another to engage in self-examination of their racial identities and personal racial histories. We have found that full engagement and successful management of these intense emotions eventually give way to feelings of liberation.” (Singleton & Hays, 2008, p. 20) Through this writing exercise, we did just this. Each of us reflected on our own experiences, then we all had the opportunity to learn about the experiences of other. As a future educator, I would like my students to reflect on their own experiences, learn from each other’s experiences, and to grow together in finding ways to terminate racism; even if it is just in our own community.

Gender is another topic which some people have a difficult time discussing. Before this class, I had some knowledge on the LGBTQ community. Something I never really thought of was the fact that sometimes, parents consider their children transitioning as a “loss of a child”. With that, I believe it is important as teachers that we stay open-minded when it comes to situations like this. We must take into consideration how our students are feeling, as well as how their parents and families are feeling. We must also get rid of any prejudice thoughts and feelings we may have lingering and encourage others in the school community to do so as well. The article Lesbian Teachers Walking the Line Between Inclusion and Exposure states, “Discourses around sexuality in schools have been found to be almost exclusively framed within heterosexual models which act as demarcations that limit the possibilities for how students might imagine their developing future sexual identities” (McKenzie-Bassant, 2007, p.55) I believe that teaching children about the LGBTQ community will help in broadening their knowledge and teach them how to be accepting to all human beings. These conversations can also help those who are having self-identity issues figure out more about themselves and help them understand that what they are going through is completely normal; all while helping them know that they are accepted, loved, and cared for. Although some parents may not be accepting of their own children’s sexual identity, we, as teachers, must remind them that we are there for them and that they are not alone.

I have always viewed poverty as a huge social justice issue and took part in many social justice activities to collect food items for the food bank and raise funds and awareness for WaterCan, a charity that helps places in the world gain access to clean water. Knowing that there is poverty happening in Canada is upsetting, especially since we are viewed as one of the “higher-class” countries. Moreover, we must understand that there could be families within our own school communities who are struggling financially, which means some students may not have access to food, school supplies, or clothing. According to, Poor-Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion, “Poor bashing is making up your mind before you know the situation.” (Swanson, 2001, p.21) With that, we must take into consideration why some of our students are struggling in school. We must not judge and we must not make up our minds before we know what their situation is outside of school. As a future teacher, I want my students to succeed and I would not want these issues to interfere with that, therefore I would try my best to help them; whether it be giving them a pencil to write with or a snack to eat when they are hungry without food.

Before becoming a student at the University of Regina, I completed the early childhood education program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. In my last practicum placement, I had the opportunity to work at John Dolan School in Saskatoon, which is a school for students with diverse abilities. Through this experience, I learned a lot about different disabilities and how to program and make adaptations in the classroom and activities to meet the needs of the children. The article, Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness mentions, “Disability activists fiercely declare that it’s not our bodies that need curing. Rather, it is ableism.” (Clare, 2001, p. 360) Ableism is discrimination towards people with disabilities, making it seem like that person is defined by their disability. Although we have our differences, people with disabilities can be very intelligent and have their own special talents and strengths; just like every other person.

Ultimately, I believe that it is important for us, as future teachers to touch on the topics of racism, class, gender, and disabilities in our future classrooms. Our students will be exposed to these types of situations throughout their lifetime. Therefore, teaching them about these issues earlier on, will not only help them learn about these issues, it will also help them acquire empathy and learn how to be compassionate towards others, while also encouraging them to take pride in their differences and inspiring them to take part in acts of social justice.


Clare, E. (2001). Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness. Public Culture,  12(3), 359-365.

McKenzie-Bassant, C. (2007). Lesbian Teachers Walking the Line Between Inclusion and Exposure. JADE 26(1), pp. 54-62.

Sensoy, O & DiAngelo, R. (2012) How to Engage Constructively in Courses that Take a Critical Social Justice Approach (appendix, p. 165-179). Is everyone really equal? An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sensoy, O & DiAngelo, R. (2012) Critical Thinking and Critical Theory (pp. 1-13). In Is Everyone Really Equal? An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Singleton, G. & Hays, C. (2008). Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race (18-22) in M. Pollock (Ed) Everyday anti-racism: Getting real about race in school. New York: The New Press.

Swanson, J. (2001). Chapter 1: What Poor People Say about Poor Bashing in Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion. Toronto: Between the Lines. 9-28.

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