When I turned up at the first Values seminar and chose a table to sit at, I had no idea how much my choice of seating would affect the next hour of my life. We were split into 5 groups and each group was given an envelope. The task was to come up with something that would help a fresher settle in to university, using only what was in our envelope. I knew as soon as our envelope was put down that something wasn’t right – I had noticed how bulky group 1’s was as it was placed on their table. We proceeded to open our almost empty envelope to find a paperclip, one post-it note, an elastic band and a pencil. From this point onwards, our group gradually became more frustrated and while we tried our best to find something we could create with so little materials, we were all wondering whether Derek had forgotten to put the rest in the envelope. Group 1 had their table covered in paper, loads of pens all over, and they were having no trouble coming up with ideas – the rules were even bent for them to use their own pens. The time came to feed back the ideas each group had come up with and everyone else seemed to have so much materials. After my peer explained our idea, I felt like Derek was not impressed at all.
Once we began using the resources, we were all starting to get very frustrated. Derek kept complimenting the other groups work; particularly group 1. He even handed out biscuits to every group except us and group 5! However, in an attempt to calm the mood, I kept saying it must all be part of the lesson. As each group presented their finished products, we could see Derek starting to get less and less interested, to the point that he was on his phone while people presented. At this point I knew it had to have been a joke because there was no way a lecturer would really do that. When Derek finally asked us if we knew what was going on our group all just burst out laughing, but it turned out that group 1 hadn’t had a clue that they were in a better off position than us.
From a teacher’s perspective, this seminar reiterated the fact that every child in the classroom should be treated equally and fairly. That doesn’t only mean in the sense of being given the same resources, but also in the amount of attention they get and in many other ways too. We don’t always know what level of poverty or wealth a family is living in, or what difficulties a child faces in their home.
This is such an important lesson, and by having us all undertake it in a practical way instead of just reading about it, I am sure I will remember this forever.