‘Values: Self, Society and The Profession’ – the title of the module to me means that the classes would focus on what our values are and how this affects the way we interact with the world. On the Tuesday of Week 2 the class experienced their first seminar of the module. Since it was the first ever seminar, most of us were slightly worried yet curious as to what was going to happen. I was in Group One of the Education group and as soon as we sat down on the chairs, we were divided into five groups and given a large brown envelope. I was in Group Three and opened the brown envelope to find the following inside:
- A sheet of white and yellow paper
- A sheet of orange card
- An envelop
- Four post it notes (two blue and two pink)
- Three felt tip pens (orange, green and blue)
- Four coloured bands
- Three paper clips
- A bulldog clip
- A small lump of Blu-Tac
The initial reaction from the group as a whole was some nervous laughs and looks of disbelief. The brief was to use our resources to create a welcome pack for a new student starting at the University of Dundee. A simple enough brief but I had no idea as to what we were going to do with this random array of stuff. As a group we discussed various ideas as to what we could do with what we had received. After some thought and discussion we settled on creating a map of the Dalhousie Building and surrounding area with key facilities – such as ‘The Union’ and the library. The idea appealed to us as becoming lost on campus and within the Dalhousie Building was something we all had in common.
Now during this time I’ll be honest in saying that I did not think about the other groups, I was focusing on the task at hand and work with the other members of the team. It was not until we stood up to give presentations to rest that I realised things were not fair. The first two groups had a large supply of paper and stationary yet Groups Four and Five had next to nothing in comparison. It was clear that the resources had not been shared out equally and since it was a ‘values’ seminar, there was clearly an important idea hidden I this task.
After our initial presentations, we had to use the resources to create our ideas which would be given a score between one and ten. So for Group Three this meant trying to draw a comprehensible map that a student could follow. After the realisation that the resources were not fairly divided, some of the group also realised that the lecturer was only talking to the first two groups and ignoring the rest of us – yet another disadvantage.
Another presentation with the finished products and it was time for the scores. Groups One and Two had beautifully designed and colour coded timetables and little maps which were brightly coloured. As expected, they scored highly and given lots of praise. My group manage to get a four with the comment of “meh”. Groups Four and Five who had the least amount of resources scored poorly – despite using them rather creatively even if they were not as appealing on the eye.
So what had this all been about? Clearly it had not been about creating a welcome pack for a new student, which was a nice task in itself but not the main objective. It was about how some children will have plenty of resources available to them yet others will have limited assets to help them with their education. We were asked what we had noticed about the treatment of the groups – the main points being that the resources were obviously not divided fairly, the lecturer only focused her attention on two out of five groups and that the scores had been based on the quality of the work. One member of another group made an excellent point that despite a lack of equipment, their group had managed to work together and be creative in producing their welcome pack despite having nothing.
I began to think what this seminar had taught me personally. The idea of the seminar made me pause to contemplate what was to be expected when I am in a classroom with thirty faces all staring at me. Some children will have access to tutors or books or other resources to help them make the most of their education, yet others might come from backgrounds were these resources are just out of their reach. As a teacher I will have to make the judgement as to which child needs my help the most and ensure they can reach their potential – not matter what resources they have access. It will be my job that the children in my care will have the best start to their education and begin their journey through the education system – to secondary school and beyond.