Category Archives: 1.1 Social Justice

Establishing Social Issues With A Pencil, Paper Clips and Blue Tac

Through the first of our ‘Values: Self, Society and The Professions’ workshops, we were split into groups within our class of 30 and each given an envelope. Within this envelope, my group was faced with a pencil, blue tac, some paper clips, a single post-it note, an elastic band and the challenge to devise and create a product that would be valuable to freshers next year that would have aided us in our settling in. As most of our group have newly moved to Dundee, we decided we would make a map of the city centre that pointed out all the student hotspots, including clubs, bars, shops and places of leisure.

At first we were pretty chuffed with our idea – until we explained it to the tutor. She looked at us with a look of disgust questioning if that was really the best we could think of, then walked away again. Deflated, we looked at our lacklustre resources placed before us trying to work out if we were missing the point of the task (spoiler: we were to an extent) and took it upon ourselves to look at what everyone else was doing and see if they were as lost as we were. To our horror, the group opposite us were not only flying through the course of making their product, beaming with pride, they also had piles of card, felt tip pens, scissors, glue and a multitude of other resources.

The next job was to present, with our group going first. A fellow team member presented our product to the class and in my opinion, we had almost salvaged ourselves with the product. The tutor however, did not agree, marking us a 2/10 overall. Each other group presented with marks increasing as we went round the room, then finally, it was time for the group opposite us to present.  Their product was a ticket to get them free parking, and although a good idea, ours had clearly taken a lot more thought and effort to create. Yet somehow, they were scored a 9. By this point, most of the class had clicked on to what was happening. Through this we were able to recognise some issues that arose from this task, and how they made us feel.

First of all, there was the clear use of favouritism throughout the class, with my group being constantly belittled while other groups were consistently being motivated and praised. Although my group caught on quite quickly, imagine this taking place in a classroom setting – a young child being put down because of something that is outwith their control. If there was to persist, it would be almost certain to have a damaging effect on the child. We said this made us feel quite useless and demotivated to actually complete the task while the group opposite us said they felt really proud of their work, despite knowing their product was nothing extraordinary. This occuring within a classroom – or any sort of setting with a person of authority – could certainly have a negative impact on a child’s mental health as they are being made to feel like less than those around them by someone they are supposed to trust and see as a role model.

Secondly, there is the issue of the fact that every group wasn’t equal. In our society, desire for equality has always existed – yet we never have reached it. Although in an ideal world it would be an excellent way for us to function, realistically achieving this would be incredibly difficult. Resources are not infinite, and therefore our focus should be on how we distribute what we have based on who needs it the most. So instead of looking at reaching equality, we should strive for equity. The group with the most resources would’ve been able to make their parking ticket with our resources, yet they had piles of unused items on their desk. We wouldn’t have needed the full set of what they had, as with simply a few coloured pens and larger bits of paper our end product would have been a lot different. What is important is to identify what an individuals needs are, and from there provide what is necessary to help them be at the same level as everyone else. While some individuals may be capable and not needing any extra support, nobody will be exactly the same and therefore being able to aid those who aren’t quite at the same level as everyone else is just one of the ways we ensure we are getting it right for every child.

A lifetime in education

To me, becoming a primary teacher was always the path I was walking on. I can still remember a task in second year Social Education in which we had to research our dream job, then make a poster on it. Our guidance teacher stressed to us that when we left sixth year, she would not have these posters shoved back into our faces if our S2 dream job didn’t match the career path we were about to embark on.  Yet here I am all these years later, still committed to the cause.

So why?

Over the years I’ve faced the same responses from people who look down on the profession time and time again.

“They make absolutely no money though.”

“But you have grades that could get you into law, do you not?”

“Do you really want to spend a lifetime in education?”

The thing is – I do want to spend a lifetime in education. Upon experiencing school for myself, and having observed different classrooms in both mainstream and additional needs schools, I fully believe there is no job more rewarding than that of a primary educator. To see the ideas of the future generation come to life before their eyes. To nurture their personalities in a manner that creates well-rounded young adults. To be there as a support network when things get hard. That, to me, is what it’s all about – making a change and being the difference.

With a rapidly changing society, it is clear that the career I am embarking on will be full of twists, turns and surprises – and I’m ready.