Structural inequalities in the classroom

During our first seminar with Brenda, we were split into 5 groups. She told us that with the resources she was going to provide us, we had to create something that would make ‘our first week on campus easier’. She handed us out envelopes with the equipment we were to use to make this idea come to life. Whilst doing so, my group noticed that group 1 and group 2’s envelopes were far bulkier than the one that we received. At this point, I even asked Brenda if this were a mistake, and if there were items missing from our envelope.

Our envelope included;

  • 2 post-it notes
  • 1 sheet of A4 paper
  • blue tack
  • 1 pen
  • 3 paperclips

This was in comparison to other groups who received multiple sheets of coloured card, scissors, multiple pens and sellotape.

Throughout the task, Brenda made several comments to our group such as ‘that’s not a very creative idea’ and ‘you need to work better together’. Some of the faces she was making to us as well made us feel incredibly worthless and out of place.

When all were delivering their ideas to the rest of the class, we were aware that groups 1 and 2 were receiving positive feedback and Brenda was interacting a lot more with these groups. We were impressed with the idea we had come up with, with the resources that we had. Yet, to hear little to no feedback on it made us question if we had done something wrong.

Our group felt the need to work harder, and prove ourselves more worthy of praise from Brenda. We longed for positive feedback like the other groups had received. We somewhat felt neglected by Brenda and couldn’t quite grasp what we had done wrong. We started to get exasperated near the end of the task, as Brenda continued to ignore us and give off comments and gestures that we believed to be quite rude.

In reflection of the task, I feel as though I am now more aware of meritocracy: the holding of power by people selected according to merit. Brenda’s demonstration highlighted that teachers simply cannot discriminate against those without resources. The praise that Brenda gave the other groups, if in a real classroom environment, would make children feel very anxious, and unwilling to participate in classroom activities. A relationship with a teacher should be healthy, not like the way Brenda was portraying.

When we came to discuss this topic with the rest of the class, we became aware that groups 1 and 2 had no realisation that they were being treated differently to the other groups. This reflects that many children with the best resources and opportunities in life, will no be aware of those who surround them that are living in poverty and deprivation.

Reflecting overall, it is clear that teachers must give every child equal opportunities in the classroom, but this comes as a struggle when you are unaware of the child’s background. I have also seen how it is very easy to favour specific individuals, and not even be aware that you are doing so. To prevent these structural inequalities, a teacher should provide every child with the exact same opportunities, and understand that there will be students in the class that require more assistance than others. When achieving this, you are making the learning environment a happier place where children want to learn. They will get the best out of there learning experience, and ultimately structural inequalities will be reduced.




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