Our first Values seminar was a brilliant deceit and I ate it up.
It began with our tutor giving each group a envelope of goodies- and by goodies I mean a load of random stationary- which we had to use to come up with a concept that would have helped us when we first started university. At first we just stared at the items, waiting for the big idea of how to turn blue-tack and a rubber band into this brilliant showcase of an idea. But we had nothing. Nothing that we felt confident to present. We started to look around at the other groups and were shocked at the coloured paper and pens being aired about. Not only did it upset us, but we got so distracted by the other group’s items that our weak attempt of ‘making do’ and ‘covering it up with a bit humour’ was just not going to cut it.
When it came to the presentation, it was easy to say that our tutor had her favourites. She had endless amount of praise for the colourful Free Parking badge presented by one group but all we could salvage for our idea was a half mark. Yes, not even a full mark- a half! It was mortifying. I felt dumb, like we did something wrong. But what more could we do?
In the end, this was a lesson of structural equality and very good performance on the tutor’s behalf. It was such a real and powerful way to really put ourselves in the shoes of those kids that, without any fault of their own, didn’t have as much as others. I knew this was prominent in schools, but to really get a feel of it has opened my eyes and will impact me as a teacher in the future. It amazes me how such a simple lesson can really take effect. It excites me so much for future lessons if this is how they make me feel.
The seminar got me reflecting on my past experience in a school, where I have seen this type of inequality and the stereotypes that comes with it. I was asked to work one-on-one with a ‘troubled’ boy who needed a little extra help. But instead of giving him work that was deemed a bit more ‘his level’, we completed the same work as all the other pupil but with a little bit more attention and praise. He thrived, felt so accomplished and it was clear he didn’t think he could do the same exercises as his peers. I think it is important that we acknowledge a child’s background but not use it to put them in certain categories. It is vital that we treat pupils fairly and as individuals. It makes them feel valued and evidently, improves their performance and confidence.
I will never make a child feel as though they do not have the right to the same opportunities as others. I understand there are obstacles , but it is with the awareness of such issues that emphasises the need of strong teacher-pupil relationships. This allows children to feel like they can raise the issue of inequality if they were to feel it’s impact.