Po-Value-rty and Education

Our lives are constantly changing – and so must our values. It’s not something I’ve ever really stopped to ponder about until now. I know I am only eighteen – and that according to society, I should be living up my youth- but reaching the age of majority has added a new dimension of seriousness. As a child, your values are primarily based upon the people dearest to you. Until you break away from your childhood support network, you can never properly live by your own moral principles. That said, after merely a month of self-sufficiency (and seeing Fairy Liquid bubbles in my dreams) l headed back to the land of familiarity: home.

Home may only have four letters to its name, however its significance runs oceans deep. (Sorry, I detest being ‘cringy’ but in this instance, I deem it acceptable.) Whilst returning to family is an excuse for bringing out the good-old box of Celebrations, it’s also the only time in daylight where I become ridiculously nostalgic. Before you ask, I’m a tad ashamed to admit that! Nevertheless, this meaningful reflection led me to consider the impact my parents have had on my education.

Right from birth, my parents did their upmost to support my academic and social development. No joke, my first real memory (apart from fearing dress up characters) was learning how to draw a triangle. I’m genuinely sorry this is maybe not the stereotypical “let’s play with Barbie” memory you were secretly hoping for, however it does hold some points of interest. In nursery, we were assigned homework to practise drawing triangles -but there’s a catch… without rulers. What a challenge, to say the least. (Thinking back, rulers were of great health and safety hazard to three-year old Claire.) Despite the endless words of wisdom from Mum and Dad, the artist within me resigned. Drawing the tip of the triangle was not happening any day soon, certainly not until I gained rights for ruler usage. Anyway, this tiny example clarifies a much greater point: a lack of resources complicates the simplest of tasks. Unconditional support will take you to the start line, but without the right resources you will never finish the race.

As teachers, many of us will feel compelled to buy disadvantaged students the required resources: this urge, I warn you, must never translate into what you classify as ‘a good deed.’ It’s far from a sweet habit; it is simply creating an even larger divide in society. Britain does not need to live up to the great (pitying) heights of Trump’s wall – honestly. On a more serious note, the widespread issue of poverty is something all educational professionals desire to tackle. From 2015-2016, “26 per cent of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty.” Now, that figure embarrasses me on many levels. We must remember in all our poverty-reducing efforts that money is not the rocket power. It never will be: only love can fuel a notable change. You may think that I’m crazy saying that, however certain experiences have highlighted to me just how much our society needs to reconsider its core values. The standard “money solves all problems” attitude needs to be exchanged for a more heartfelt outlook.

Funnily enough, my first-ever university seminar managed to summarise all of that…in merely an hour.During the sixty-minutes in the classroom, our tutor demonstrated to us why our professional occupation can never be thought of as ‘charity work.’ He also made a teenager ever so thankful for her parents’ teachings! Through a simple, peer-learning art task (in which resources were unevenly distributed between the groups) the importance of having a solid set of values hit home. My family have always steered me away from materialism and excessive individualism: love, respect and being true to yourself were what they deemed (and still do) as being crucial to success. (My parents, I agree with you wholeheartedly.) When it came to the end of the task, the groups who lacked in resources actually came out on top. Undoubtedly, they acknowledged their situation of poverty, yet they didn’t let inequality rule them. Doesn’t that just show us something? Teachers need to stop ruling out of their pockets – and reach out from their heart.

As much as one may want to run away from all of these discussions, it is imperative that we pause in our hectic schedules to reflect on our values. I know we, primary teachers, all have an inner-child within us, so let’s think of it in this way: reconsider your own standards of judgement like kids ideally follow The Green Cross Code. Think about your existing values. Stop right before you decide to change anything. Look around and see how other teachers conduct themselves. Listen to the advice of those who have dealt with poverty first-hand. Okay, I’d admit it takes time. Yes, reconsidering our values will never solve the infamous educational debate on equity vs. equality. However, it’s for sure the first steps in beating poverty – without money. I’ll leave you (and close this half parental appreciation post) with the wise words of Jackson, Boostrom and Hansen (1993):

“Values are reflected in what teachers choose to permit or encourage in the classroom and in the way they respond to children’s contributions to learning, and children learn values from such responses.”

Due acknowledgements for this blog post:

Shirts, Ties and Blazers: It’s all gone too far…

Shirts, ties and blazers: the outfit staples that we all longed to put behind us as teenagers. School uniform was simply Satin in disguise to any budding fashionista. I can’t remember being overly concerned about the outfit’s fashion value, however the comfort aspect of top-button shirts did raise many concerns. You are probably wondering so far as to what great academic interest school uniform has right now? Why am I writing about this? Shouldn’t education professionals be far more concerned about fighting the supreme court to legally ban fidget spinners? Sadly not- welcome to the recent case of the school exclusion from wearing “the wrong black brogue-like” shoes.

As much as we can joke about school-uniform issues, there is a real sociological issue regarding the extreme lengths some teachers take just to maintain uniform standards. I have decided to write this blog post upon reading that twenty-pupils (yes, a big fat two and zero) were sent home on the first day at Hartsdown Academy thanks to their ‘ill’ choice of uniform. It becomes even worse when you find out the next two days at this school consisted of a police intervention and fifty-more pupils missing out on precious educational time due to the same ‘issue’ with uniforms. Uniform may not be a legal requirement for schools, but “98%… in 2007” opted for it. I always felt a sense of pride as I dashed out of my house with my blazer on. I wasn’t merely a girl satisfying uniform requirements; I was a pupil who was part of my school community. It is abhorrent to think that some students in the twenty-first century are made to feel so unwelcome. School is meant to be a place of love, laughter and learning – not some institution following a Victorian-style regime.

Having a uniform policy can help foster authority, however we must remember that respect can be destroyed in only a few words. British children are growing up in a world centered around commercialism- your societal value equates to your net worth e.g. whether or not you have the  latest iPhone with face-recognition. As educational professionals, our job is to ensure that children enter the workplace with the correct moral values. It is imperative that our pupils understand that your success in life will never solely depend on your income. The head teacher of Hartsdown Academy demonstrates the completely wrong disciplinary approach. Uniform can be costly (as many of us know);  sending someone home for the style of their shoes is teaching pupils all the wrong messages. It’s also… shattering their self-confidence, trust and stifling their creativity. This head teacher clearly forgot everything he had learnt about SHANARRI!

Other organisations aren’t so uptight about uniforms, so why should schools be so concerned? The other day at Rainbows, I was restored with faith. For those of you who joined the opposing team of Cubs (or did neither) Rainbows are typically seen attired in red clothing. A little surprisingly, some of the girls decided to go against the grain and wear the purple version of the uniform. The leaders embraced this fully because it gives each of the girls a personal choice. In the end, freedom is what we look forward to. After a day of work, we are free to go home and see family. In relationships, we are free to choose our friends. In life, we are free to choose which opportunities we embrace. Is it really asking too much to let children add a little personal touch to their own uniform?

To put it simply, the case of Hartsdown Academy frustrated me. It reminded me of how backwards our nation is in relation to our moral values – not technology, of course! Pupils should never be sent home for uniform issues. There are children on the same planet fighting for a pencil and paper. We don’t deserve the title of a ‘developing country’ if we are acting like this. I would like anyone who strongly believes in excluding children for uniform issues to book a plane ticket across the ocean… that would give them a real wake up call.

The following sites were used in the writing of this blog post:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-37298505  (Last Accessed: 29/09/17) This is the article on Hartsdown Academy’s uniform row, from which the inspiration for writing this blog post came from.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/the-politics-of-the-school-uniform-2346367.html (Last Accessed: 29/09/17)

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/514978/School_Uniform_Guidance.pdf  (Last Accessed: 29/09/17)