JoLLE: A Conference for Everyone


The Journal of Language and Literacy Education holds an annual conference each winter at the University of Georgia. The conference theme is almost always related to social justice, and this year, it is specifically themed, “Embodied and/or Participatory Literacies: Inspire, Engage, Create, Transform.” This conference, especially, is important to me (Jenn Whitley, TSJ’s moderator), as it was the first one I attended, and helped inspire me to research social justice issues.

I encourage Teaching Social Justice‘s readers to look into JoLLE’s conference and submit a proposal if it’s something interesting to you, as JoLLE appeals to a wide audience of social justice researchers, educators, and students. This conference is not like others; usually presenters get enough time to work with their audience (instead of merely talking to them for 15 minutes). Proposals are due in a weekby October 5 at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will be there, and I’d love to meet more of you, especially those of you who live so far away.

If you cannot attend or present at this year’s conference, JoLLE also accepts manuscripts related to the conference theme for its Spring 2015 Issue. Feel free to submit your work if it relates to embodied and/or participatory literacies. OR, of course, you can submit other literacy-related manuscripts for a different issue.

Thank you for allowing me to steal some of TSJ’s space to tell you about this conference, as it means a lot to me.


Disclaimer: I know all of this information because I’m on JoLLE’s editorial board. Please direct any questions about the conference or journal to me at:

Guest Post: Faith Lawler on Justice in a Christian Classroom

I am the third grade teacher at a Christian international school.

My students are either very wealthy or they are missionary kids. In my mind, they’re two of the most privileged groups around. One has all the material necessities they could want, while the other usually has an amazing, Godly family.

Because this school is so small, I’ve observed that by third grade, the students know who their friends are, and who their friends are not. They know who lies, who punches, who is too aggressive at soccer, and whose parents don’t like each other.

In late August, I walked into a class of students who were full of memories of last year’s fights, disruptions, disagreements, fear, angst, bad language, and even some bullying; all within a class of only 12 students. And within all this nastiness – or perhaps because of it – more than half the parents told me on a beginning of the year survey that their child is upset by “injustice” or “when someone is punished unfairly.”

I quickly wanted to make sure that these students did not think that they were the ones able to define justice in each situation. So, we began our year by defining justice every morning. “Justice is ‘right’ being rewarded, ‘wrong’ being punished.” We discussed how perfect justice doesn’t often happen, only God knows all things, but it is something to strive for. I challenged myself to strive for justice in my classroom.

In teaching justice, though, I soon began to realize how accountable that made me to my own system of behavior management, which gives stars as a reward and takes them as a punishment. Consistency is necessary. If one student decided to blurt out inappropriately and got in trouble, another student exhibiting similar behavior would also need to be “punished.” Another student who forgot a certain procedure must also face the same punishment, no matter what happened at home that day to cause the stress of forgetfulness. All the students saw their classmates’ actions, and each one of them expected to see justice.

I couldn’t do it, though.

I couldn’t bear to see the same four or five kids who struggled so much, always remain at the lowest point of the behavior system. I couldn’t bear to see them believe themselves incapable of earning a star. I couldn’t bear to see the girls “setting the standard,” while the “crazier boys” struggled to reach it, or found it completely unattainable.

However, I could not change our definition of justice. God has set the definition of justice and it cannot be changed. He has set the standard for my life, though, and I constantly fall short of it.

However, there is one marvelous word that changes everything.


Yes, God is just. But He is also full of mercy. And in His mercy, He has forgiven me: “Because of the Lord ’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end” (Lamentations 3:22).

In light of this idea, I began asking my students some thought-provoking questions:

  • “So, do you want me to show you mercy today? Or will you just continue forgetting if I do?”
  • “Do you need the punishment? Do you need to lose a star?”
  • “What is going to help you do better next time? Can I show you mercy?”

I explained that sometimes people do need the punishment to help them choose the right thing. But sometimes they also need some mercy. I also explained that I would never want to live in a world in which there was only justice and no mercy.

I saw a big change in the classroom.

I began to receive honest answers. I saw students who fought tooth and nail to never lose a star begin to tell me what they did and say, “I think I need to move down.” The stars became a tool, an aid, a way to lead them to growth. They could see their weak points and, instead of being angry whenever they “messed up,” they began to work out more strategies for choosing differently the next time. The punishments became more of a conversation, and less of a fight. I also noticed them forgiving each other genuinely. They even started complimenting one another on the progress of things like being more honest. I was recently told by one boy, “Miss Lawler, no one thinks of [insert name] as a bully anymore at all.”

My students, as rowdy as they are in third grade, will be the leaders of the world in 20 years. I believe they will be leading the fight for social justice. They will be the lawmakers and the people who enforce those laws. I want them to remember those moments of their own weaknesses: when they failed to choose what was right, when they made mistakes, when they messed up and were shown undeserved mercy. I want them to show mercy to the oppressed; and also to help those who have done wrong.

As they grow, I pray they’ll remember God’s mercy for them. I pray they’ll remember their third grade teacher, and even their former classmates, when they see a homeless guy passed out on the corner, or a thief on trial, a child from an orphanage, or a crime-committing teenager – I want them to be critical of the world around them, yet merciful to it as well.

And regardless of whether they come from a privileged or missionary background, I pray they’ll remember how much mercy it took for them to pass third grade.

Faith Lawler is a teacher at the International Christian School of Budapest. She graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL in 2011. Having an adopted younger sister, she planned to work at an orphanage after graduating from college, but has instead worked with upper or middle class children who have their own set of needs and challenges. She finds it difficult to leave her home in Atlanta, but cannot bear the thought of moving away from Europe.

Guest Post: Julia Ozog on Thin Privilege and Fat Activism

As a woman, I face an exorbitant amount of stress concerning the way I look – particularly how much I weigh. I’ve been trained from an early age to feel like most of my value comes from being thin and pretty, and even though I’ve spent much time intentionally unlearning those kinds of thoughts, I still feel haunted by the feeling that I’m not good enough if I’m not skinny enough. Most women are made to feel like they should take up as little space as possible, and that the best way to gain attention from men and respect from women is to be thin. However, even though much of my concern with being thin comes from the oppression of sexism, many of those feelings also come from my privilege as a thin person. I’m terrified to gain weight because there are very real societal and interpersonal privileges I’ve always had because I am thin. While I have never been heavy, I recently lost significant weight and became “skinny.” It’s hard for me to admit, but I’ve been scared to gain any of that weight back because I don’t want to face how people would think of me and treat me if I became fat. I recently realized that that fear is one reason why I know thin privilege exists.

As a social justice activist, I understand some of the emotional, psychological, physical, and economic injustices that fat folks face on a daily basis, but I’ve only recently started to acknowledge my privilege as a thin person, and hold myself accountable for my own oppression of fat people. (Note: the term “fat” is preferred by many fat activists over “overweight” because it can help the fat acceptance movement by “normalizing the neutrality and/or positivity of ‘fat’” – see more on this website). My perpetuation of fat phobia comes from my own insecurity and body image issues. For example, I remember an instance when I was skimming through photos online of a guy I had just started dating, and when I found pictures of him and his ex-girlfriend, I started comparing myself to her. (Disclaimer: I’m not proud of this act.) In response to my anxiety, a friend said something about how ‘I didn’t have to worry about her because she looked fat and I was way skinnier and prettier than her.’ I knew she was out of line, only trying to make me feel better despite her use of fat phobia, but the thing is: it did make me feel better. I know that I have a silent power from being thin, and I chose to use that power in that situation to make myself feel more secure about my new relationship. This power brought itself to my attention again recently: I gained some temporary weight a couple of months ago when I was prescribed steroids for a sinus infection, and I was so afraid of feeling unattractive, that I started asking my boyfriend multiple times a day if I looked fat, desperately hoping that the answer was “No.” I did these things to hold onto my privilege because it has been so ingrained in me that I am worth more skinny than I am fat. I realize how problematic my thinking was now that fat phobia and thin privilege have been brought to my attention.

I wanted to write this article on fat phobia because, as a social justice educator, I think that it is important for me to explore the difference in oppression that fat and thin women face. I started to write from a very academic standpoint. Though, I honestly had not learned much about fat phobia throughout my activist career, so I read articles written by fat activists to try and understand the systemic, institutional, and personal oppression that fat people face in our society. However, I have come to realize that, at this point, I personally understand fat phobia best through my own perpetuation of it. Thin privilege is a very real thing that I benefit from, and until I and other people holding that power acknowledge our privilege – and hold ourselves accountable to think about it – fat phobia will continue to exist. My thinness means that I’m often perceived as being fit, healthy, beautiful, and “normal,” because those qualities are associated with success in our culture. A quick flip through the pages of almost any magazine confirms that ultra-thin women receive respect and admiration for their bodies, while fat women are shamed mercilessly for their weight. Since the list of ways in which thin folks are benefited by thin privilege is way too long to cover here, I found this article helpful in understanding more ways that my thin privilege benefits me

Although it’s not my (or any one person’s) fault that fat phobia is so prevalent and harmful in our society, it is my responsibility as an aspiring ally to acknowledge my privilege and the ways in which I continue to oppress those around me. It’s not only unsupportive, but actively oppressive that I have used my thinness to feel superior to other women. I feel that acknowledging this shortsightedness is the first step in becoming more accountable in the social justice revolution. This issue is complicated, of course; however, it is unacceptable in our society that I, as a woman, feel like I have power based on my looks rather than my talent, intelligence, or other parts of my character. I’m still learning about fat activism and politics – and how to intentionally include fat phobia when teaching and learning about privilege and oppression; but I hope to continue this conversation and accountability with other activists.


Julia Ozog is an intersectionality feminist radical educator. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Social Thought and Political Economy program a year and a half ago, and currently lives outside of Boston. In college, she facilitated a community organizing class for undergraduates, which included subjects of privilege and oppression, identity politics, and social and economic justice through organizing. Julia’s passion is furthering social justice through liberatory education, and she is looking forward to continuing that work in the Boston area. For more of her written work (including another copy of this blog post), visit her blog at