By Kim Miklusak
I recently finished reading the book Cultivating Social Justice Teachers. The subtitle highlights the focus of the book: "How Teacher Educators Have Helped Students Overcome Cognitive Bottlenecks and Learn Critical Social Justice Concepts." The text is a series of academic articles focusing on different "bottlenecks," which the Introduction defines as "a sort of collective comprehension backup that occurs when educators struggle to facilitate effective learning around a foundational concept or competence--what Meyer and Land (2003) have called 'threshold concepts'" (Gorski, Osei-Kofi, Zenkov, and Sapp).
Teachers and pre-service teachers may experience any one or more of these "bottlenecks," which potentially limit their understanding, instruction, or effectiveness. Some of the topics include heteronormativity, deficit thinking, white privilege, immigration as a humanitarian issue, and meritocracy. Each author shares background on their topic, personal experiences in their own lives or in their teaching, examples with students, lessons and activities, and additional resources.
It is vital for each of us as educators to understand how our own backgrounds and identities affect our teaching. While I don't think this book is the one to pick up to start this reflection in our own lives and careers, I can't stress enough that I think it's important for all teachers and pre-service teachers to read, explore, and reflect upon these topics.