As part of the first Values Workshop, we were split into 5 groups, each of which received an envelope containing stationary items. The aim of the task was to produce a pack, using the resources in your envelope, for new MA1 students. This would be given to them at the start of their University journey.
My group, Group 1, opened our envelope to see that we had a huge amount of stationary and craft items to use in order to make our pack. We decided to make a ‘Student Starter Guide’. This included the following:
- a name badge;
- a personalised timetable;
- a map of the main University buildings;
- tips aimed at the education course;
- a leaflet of all the different social events/aspects of University;
- and a guide to finding your way about the Dalhousie Building.
Derek was extremely enthusiastic towards our group, encouraging us every step of the way – he even offered us biscuits! We thrived off his energy and support for what we were making and felt proud of ur creative abilities. He kept us motivated and engaged in the task by continually checking in on our progress and praising our designs.
When it came to presenting our pack, it came as a great shock to me and the rest of my group to find out that Derek’s praise and the resources given to each group were not shared out equally. It turned out that, actually, this was planned! Some groups had as little as a few post-it notes, a pen and a paper clip in their envelope, whilst my group sat there with piles upon piles of unused paper and other resources. The encouragement each group received from Derek also varied depending on how many resources you had; the more resources you were given, the more praise you received. This was demonstrated right through to the very end of presenting the finished packs, as Derek paid very little attention to Groups 4 and 5 even when they were giving their talks – he even went on his phone during Group 5’s presentation!
We then went on to discuss what this task was really about in relation to the Teaching Profession. The fact that my group did not notice that other groups received less than us illustrates that pupils who come from a wealthy/higher class background and have access to a huge number of resources to aid their learning tend to show a degree of ignorance towards those who are from a lesser background. Also, those who were in the groups which received less equipment did not go to other groups to ask for more. This suggests that those who are from a lower class family and do not have many resources/services available to them feel that they cannot go out and ask for them. It was as if those in Groups 4 and 5 thought that they were not as deserving of the resources as those in Groups 1 and 2, hence why we need to make our pupils aware that no matter what background they come from, they are all equal in the classroom.
As teachers, we need to recognise that not everyone will come to school well-equipped with the skills, tools and support system needed to do well in their educational journey. It is our job to discourage these inequalities amongst children by pushing them to do their best despite the fact that their personal circumstances or social background might be seen as an obstacle which could potentially hold them back.
Another interesting point which was made was the fact that favouring those in your classroom from a higher class background can lead to them excelling and achieving far more than those from a lower class family. This can lead to pupils from deprived areas seeing themselves as ‘less’ than everyone else, therefore, they become unmotivated as they aren’t receiving the encouragement they need to aid success. A member of Group 5 even commented that she “did not see the point” in presenting their finished work as Derek seemed so disengaged in what they had to show, thus highlighting that unevenly distributing praise can have a huge impact on pupils’ motivation.
Overall, I learnt a huge amount during this task and it has opened my mind about the daily struggles we face in erasing the social hierarchy which has been embedded into our system. I thoroughly enjoyed the task and look forward to our next workshop!