Learning to Teach for Environmental Justice:
What affordances, challenges and supports for today's pre-service teachers?
Anna, a pre-service teacher who has not yet managed her own classroom, entered the teaching profession with hopes to incorporate environmental justice themes into her current and future teaching practice. Although many of her university classes support and attempt to develop such practices, the placement sites she encounters do not always align with such themes. Thus, Anna is left to navigate seemingly disparate contexts largely on her own.
This case attempts to document Anna's journey to becoming an environmentally just science educator and the tools and strategies that may help her (and others) along the way.
As a student teacher at the University of Michigan School of Education pursuing a masters degree in educational studies and a teaching certificate in integrated science, Anna is busy. In a typical day, Anna is with her mentor teacher and students at a nearby high school from 7am to 3pm. Then, she returns to the university for classes, sometimes lasting until 7:30pm. As a future educator, she has aspirations to help the next generation solve environmental and social problems she feels her generation inherited. But, she also knows she is among the fortunate in her generation. Prior to attending the University of Michigan, Anna graduated from a high school in a suburban area with an almost 100% graduation rate and college attendance. This experience influences how she views education and the standards she sets for her current and future students: "To me, equity is the distribution of justice. In the framework of education, that would mean like is everyone getting an equal opportunity to education regardless of their circumstance." Furthermore, identifying as a White woman, Anna is working to recognize how her positionality may play out in the classroom working with students from diverse backgrounds, who they themselves may be more adversely affected by the environmental justice themes she wishes to teach.