Justin Meszler

It’s difficult to stay on task when everything is virtual. I was in the home stretch, at the end of the fifth week at my internship at the Margaret Fuller House in Cambridge, where I was writing social justice-themed lesson plans for students 9-12 years old.  I had written nine different programs around civic engagement, environmentalism, food insecurity, and homelessness. Knowing there was still a week left, with plenty of time for me to learn and grow in the program, I was dismayed at how easily I could become distracted and how quickly I could lose motivation.

Many of the students I prepared lessons for, the majority of whom were black or brown, came from poorer areas of Cambridge. They had experienced several of the issues I was teaching about and many of their families are regular clients of the Margaret Fuller House’s food pantry. Recognizing this reality as I developed the lesson plans, I decided to teach not only about the existence of these social justice issues but also their history and root causes.

I knew these lesson plans could have a significant impact on the students. Even though many of these kids might have had first-hand experiences with these issues, my lessons could help frame their world view and create an inclusive environment for them to share their thoughts and experiences.

I dedicated hours researching topics and thinking of ways to present difficult issues in manageable and digestible ways. I planned skits about helping the environment, wrote scenarios of non-voters for a four-corners activity, and created a role-playing activity to decide where the waste ends up after an oil spill.  I recognized that I had meaningful information to give. Even so, it didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t feel the impact of my work and so it was difficult to keep the momentum going.

I talked with my supervisor, Megan, at our weekly meeting. She assured me that these lesson plans would be incredibly valuable to the organization. Going through my work from the past week and reflecting on our time left in the program, we talked about how these lessons would be used in the future. She spoke about repeating these lessons each year, as well as for different age groups, and we also talked about breaking apart lessons even further to span multiple days. We also discussed the potential impact of my work and how this social justice curriculum will benefit the Margaret Fuller House going forward in their summer program as well as during the school year.

Looking at all the programs I wrote, I knew I worked hard. It was not until I took the time to reflect that I fully recognized the significance of my work, though, that I finally felt satisfied with what I had accomplished.

Reflecting on my conversation with Megan, I felt content. At that moment I felt accomplished and truly proud of my work. Yes, I had written nine lesson plans, and would also write another in the coming week, but it wasn’t just nine 45-minute time slots of learning that I had created; it was a curriculum that can be used many times over and can impact the students far beyond the classroom.

Justin Meszler
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