Dena Simmons Ed.D.

Justice in The Classroom

Exploring Justice in the Classroom

A place for collective thought and action for justice in our schools.

Posted Jul 27, 2017

Welcome to the Justice in the Classroom blog. This blog is a space for us to learn together what justice looks and feels like in the classroom. My hope is to learn from you and with you and to build a collective of educators and other practitioners, who aim, like me, to create learning spaces where all students feel safe to be their authentic selves.

In November 2015, I had the honor of telling some of my story on Broadway in a TED talk entitled, “How Students of Color Confront Impostor Syndrome.”

In my talk, I shared my experience of growing up in a Bronx neighborhood riddled with crime and drugs. For my family and me, safety was not a guarantee. I often went to sleep to the sounds of gunfire and did not have the privilege of a good night’s sleep until I left home to attend a prestigious boarding school in New England on a full scholarship. 

While there were aspects of my boarding school experience that I appreciate, it did the come without its trauma. For the first time, I felt what it was like to be a minority in this country.  I learned very quickly that I did not belong, that I did not dress the right way, that I did not speak the right way. I was corrected for my very existence. During my boarding school experience, I struggled to find my voice, to feel like I was more than a charity case.

So, in many ways, I came to believe that if I stood any chance of a successful future, I would do well to heed the glances, the unsolicited advice, and the public shaming that was for my “own good.” I learned to erase myself as a way to survive.  Even in the hallowed halls of privilege, I was not safe to be my full, authentic self.  Though I am many years removed from those hallowed halls of a New England private school, I find myself still a minority in mostly white spaces and still constantly questioning my place—and whether I truly belong.

My education and life experiences motivate me to work and to learn as much as possible on how to create safe spaces for our young people to thrive, not simply survive.  I hope for this blog to grow and to flourish in partnership with you as we tackle together how to ensure justice in all of our classrooms, school buildings, and communities.

What are some things that you would like to discuss? Please let me know in the comments section.