As part of our first workshop for our Values: Self, Society and the Professions module, we were split into groups of around 10 people and given the task of creating something useful which would aid new first years arriving for their first week at the University of Dundee. There were four groups and each group was giving an envelop with various materials, such as paper, pens and other pieces of stationery, with the catch being you could only use the materials provided in the envelope; no outside materials could be used.
The first thing that happened was the splitting into groups, a completely random process, where I ended up in group 2. Towards the end of the session, the need for the groups to be numbered became increasingly apparent. As I was in group 2, we were provided with a healthy amount of materials to create our design, though I personally did not realise other groups had less or more materials than us until it came to the presentations. Our design was a “Student Survival Kit” which acted as an essential care package for any student staying away from home, including; a welcome letter, handy tips and advice, shopping list and recipe templates, flash cards and the stationery basics.
After all the groups had shared their designs, it came to the production. There was plenty for everyone to do and all the tasks were divided up efficiently. Throughout the manufacture process, Carrie repeatedly came across to our table, asking questions and taking a real interest in our design. She even commended how well our project was going. It wasn’t until all the final presentation of our products that I noticed the difference between the groups. Groups 1 and 2 had lots of materials at their disposal and they were given great feedback from Carrie. Where as, Groups 3 and 4 had the bare minimum to work with and when they were presenting, Carrie hardly engaged with them at all and looked as though she wasn’t interested in what they were saying.
Most of the group quickly picked up on her mixed attitudes towards each group and began to question it. It was then explained to us why each group got what they were given and why Carrie was behaving in that manner. This short exercise largely resembled today’s society in which we live, where a lot of the time people have more than others yet we are all held to the same standard despite our advantages/disadvantages. Also, Carrie also represented many peoples mentality towards possessions, where many show their keenness to those who can provide them with something in return; in essence, people look out for their own best interests. There is also the point to consider how, in society, it is said that, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”, which was highlighted in this task, as Group 1 were given all the encouragement they needed to be more successful than ever but Group 4 were shunned and not given any form of help to take what little they had and grow on it.
As a whole, the task was very though provoking, which quickly lead to further discussion about how money plays a large part in peoples’ standings in society, something which is even true in Education. Those children who come from affluent backgrounds have the opportunity to join private funded schools, can afford the very best materials and can pay for expensive tutors to further their capabilities. Children from disadvantaged families don’t have the same opportunities and when they realise their position within society they perhaps become disheartened and self-defeatist. It’s therefore important, as teachers, that we do not succumb to societal pressures and treat every child with the dignity they all equally deserve, regardless of their personal situation, so that each child has an equal playing field at least when it comes to their Education and can begin to create good opportunities for themselves in the future.