During the first workshop of our values module, a large mixed group of future teachers, social workers and CLD workers were split into 5 equal sized groups before beginning our task. Each group was given a large brown envelope containing supplies such as paper, pens, paper clips and post-it notes etc. Our task was to create a resource that would help future first year students, like ourselves, transition into Dundee University more smoothly. Our group decided to create an app which was designed to help students navigate themselves around the campus more easily, for example it had a buddy system for people who wanted shown around the campus by more experienced students, it had a Q&A section for people to ask general questions and it had a complex map of campus so that every campus building could be seen clearly and information about each building could be simply accessed as well.
While we worked on our task, our lecturer observed how each group was working. To our group, she was neither complimentary or non-complimentary, and we assumed she was treating the other groups similarly. Later in the task, we noticed that one of the groups had significantly more resources than us and the other groups, and the lecturer seemed to be very interested and encouraging towards their group.
During the presentations, this continued, and the group with the most resources received not only the most praise but also the highest score at the end. The other groups began to feel very discouraged, especially the group with the least resources as their feedback was unnecessarily critical and they were given the lowest score of all. This task had left some of the class feeling pleased, some feeling disheartened and the rest feeling confused by the treatment of students by a lecturer.
It then became clear the whole task was constructed to teach us a lesson about inequality in schools, and how as teachers we must ensure than no child feels unfavoured in our classrooms. We then discussed how lots of children suffer from inequality within their peer groups, schools and areas, and while these children know that they are at a disadvantage, the children who have more never notice how fortunate they are. This was seen in our group task when the groups with more resources and praise didn’t realise the other groups were at a disadvantage.
It is vitally important for teachers to enforce equality within schools in order for all children to feel confident and comfortable in their school environment. Nowadays inequality is not tolerated, and any young person found to be bulling another for reasons such as family income, social class or gender are punished and teachers should continue to enforce this to reduce inequality in schools.
However in some ways, teachers themselves create inequality in schools. For example, by forcing children to wear expensive school uniforms, expecting them to complete difficult or large amounts of homework and by holding regular parents nights and meetings. This can result in children being made to feel beneath others, if for example their parents refuse to attend meetings, cannot afford the uniforms or refuse/are unable to help with homework, as this puts these children at a disadvantage. While these things are all necessary within schools, procedures could be put in place to help these children, by encouraging parents to attend school events when possible, by encouraging pupils to donate their old uniforms at the end of each year to help less financially fortunate families and by creating homework clubs where teachers can help children with homework when their parents are unable to. Overall it is of critical importance that teachers fight hard against inequality, which they do by teaching children about the importance of equality and preventing and punishing bullying behaviour, but it is evident that a lot more needs to be done to eliminate the problem completely.