Our resource allocation workshop last Tuesday, as part of our values module, reiterated a very important message to me; no matter a child’s background, social standing or economic wealth, they should all be given the same resources and opportunities. It also taught me that even if we realise a situation is prejudiced we may do nothing to stop it or we may not even realise at all.
At first our task seemed simple, create a product for new students using only the resources given to you in a brown envelope. When my group received our envelope, we opened it excitedly unsure what we would find inside. We were disappointed, inside we found a single post-it note, a pencil, an elastic band and three paperclips. This left us annoyed, what on earth could we make with these. And it got even worse, when we looked at those around us some of the groups had multiple sheets of paper in various different colours, felt tip pens and coloured pencils, some were even lucky enough to have glue and rulers. Having only 5 minutes to think of an idea our group tried to organise our thoughts and think of what we could make with our limited resources. We eventually came up with the idea of making a map of the university campus. Though we were unsure how we were going to make it, we knew that it would be a helpful product as we had all struggled to find out way around campus and find certain buildings.
As we listened to the other groups brief the rest of the room on their ideas we all began to feel quite discouraged, as we felt because of our limitation of resources we weren’t able to make as useful a product. This feeling got even worse as our lecturer seem bored and uninterested in our idea, and anytime we asked for advice we received short answers and we felt like we were a nuisance.
As we were creating our product we began to enjoy ourselves as we felt we may as well make the best of the situation. We also ended up having to the envelope that the resources came in as the base of our map, which we all found funny.
After we had all presented our final products our lecturer told us she would be giving each group feedback and a score out of ten. My group wasn’t exactly expecting the highest mark but we knew we had done our best, and we thought that counted for something.
When we were given our final score of two out of ten we didn’t know what to think, how can it be fair that we were graded so harshly when we had so much less than everybody else. That was when we realised what this exercise was really about; to show us that it is easy for those who have everything they need to receive all of the attention while those with less are left to the side and ignored. Our lecturer was purposely ignoring the two groups who had the least resources. I thought this was a great way to teach us this lesson as if we had listened to it in a lecture we wouldn’t have fully taken it in. Whereas by experiencing it personally we were able to fully understand the injustice.
What I also found interesting was that the groups who had more resources admitted that they did not notice that other groups had less or they did not think to give the other groups spare resources that they weren’t using. For me personally I found it a really interesting experience that I will remember throughout all my placements and the rest of my teaching career.