Bringing social justice to the classroom

Kristian Ogungbemi

Kristian Ogungbemi

Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program M.S.Ed., 2018

Before Penn GSE: Worked in public policy for the City of Philadelphia

After Penn GSE: Social justice educator, Parkway Center City Middle College, School District of Philadelphia

"The biggest benefit of the Penn GSE program was spending almost a year in front of a classroom. I learned how to build relationships with students and be responsive to their needs."

From my earliest days at Penn GSE, I knew I was going to learn more than how to build a lesson plan. Our first classes introduced us to the neighborhoods where we would do our student teaching and the people who lived there. The message was clear: I wasn’t just here to deliver content. To be successful, I had to connect with students in the school and the community.

The biggest benefit of the Penn teaching program was spending almost a year in front of a classroom. You can read about culturally responsive pedagogy and the need for trauma-informed learning, but I was able to put that theory into practice, then trouble-shoot my experiences with my professors and classmates. Then I got to try again.

The program offers the perfect balance between independence and mentorship. My classroom mentor at Kensington Health Sciences Academy showed me how to set norms and rules in the classroom. She let me take the lead on lessons. When they didn’t go well, she was there to pick me up and tell me where I went wrong.

Throughout the year, I researched how students could best learn about local government for my teacher inquiry project. Before this, I thought I knew what students cared about. I planned to teach lessons like how property taxes fund schools. Through interviewing students and testing materials, I learned students wanted a hyper-local focus on what affects their block or their school. So, at Parkway Center, I created a contemporary issues class where we start by asking the students what’s happening in Philadelphia that would be helpful for them to know about.

It’s just another way that Penn GSE taught me to use curriculum to care for the whole student.