Author Archives: Lucy Johnston

Racism and Sexism – 25/9/18

Values – Understanding Ourselves

25th September 2018

I found Tuesday’s lecture on values very engaging and I thought a lot more about how ‘people of colour’ are seen in today’s society based off of outdated ideas from our past, and also how women can be illustrated in the media, affecting people’s views towards women. I don’t think I realise how much of an influence the media has over our ideas until I give it some thought. I don’t even think I really pick up on the way certain characters are shown, or whether their character acts in a particular way because of their race or gender, until I really think about it. This makes it clear to me that the media can essentially shape a person’s mindset towards others if they aren’t aware that the character is playing a stereotype and that isn’t actually how everyone like them behaves.

In the past, black people were typically seen as less than the white man. They weren’t seen as capable human beings, and in the media they were used for amusement, for example, blackface, made to mock black people and portray them as laughable and inferior. This made me think about my own life and how racism can be embedded in us without us even knowing, not deliberately, but it definitely happens. You would think that racism wouldn’t be so present in our daily lives in this day and age, but during this presentation I was thinking about any misconceptions I have embedded in my mind, or anything that was demonstrated to me as a child, I then remembered that as a child I had my own toy that’s known as a ‘golliwog’. This was only about twelve years ago too. I wasn’t told the meaning behind it, and I wasn’t taught to believe that black people are at all inferior, however, looking back I don’t understand why I had the toy in the first place. Is it ok for children to have toys with racist meanings behind them if they don’t even understand the toy? Or could this possibly cause them to develop a racist mindset without them thinking about it. In this case I don’t feel my mind was affected by it, but I think it could work out differently for others, and the embedded racism we have in our society may never completely disappear.

The input about Emmett Till made me think about how deep racism is ingrained in society. This occurred in 1955, and 100,000 people actually seen the way in which Emmett had been beaten, yet it wasn’t enough for everyone to change their ways. I can’t understand how anyone can see white people as superior after seeing the result of that brutal attack. However, in 1963, eight years after Emmett Till’s death, it was still acceptable for people to be refused a job purely because of race, in 1993 Stephen Lawrence was brutally beaten to death in an attack which is believed to be racially motivated, and even this year, we have MPs in our own government that are sharing false, racist stories online about Muslims.

Even sexism is still commonly seen today, from my perspective I feel as if it’s not taken as seriously as racism is, I feel that more jokes are made about “women’s jobs” than topics that are seen as “real issues”, such as racism. This won’t be the case for everyone but I get the impression that some people think it’s acceptable to make jokes about people of a different gender but see it as wrong to make jokes about people of a different race. I think these two issues need to be made more equal so that everyone gets to do what they want to do in their lives, no matter who they are. I know of schools that have dress codes that state that boys can wear shorts above the knee but girls’ skirts have to be below the knee. I don’t see how that is fair at all, I don’t understand how the way someone dresses will affect their learning ability, but girls are expected to stick to it and not say anything.

I strongly believe that the majority of the blame for sexism is down to the media. It’s common in action films for example, that the main character is male and never asks anyone for help, but when a female character is introduced, she’s constantly looking to the male character for help and not doing anything other than following him around. In the first half on the 20th century too, women were shown in the media as only being there for their husbands, to cook food and tidy up around the house. This idea was in national papers, it was a genuine common mindset to have. It was seen as unsuccessful for a woman to grow up and not marry or have children. Even today I notice that when a girl says she doesn’t want children when she grows up, she isn’t listened to or she is told she’ll change her mind when she’s older, but when a girl says she does want children when she grows up, she is listened to and people think it’s great. I don’t understand why it’s still in us to think that women need to have children to be happy and successful in life, but I still feel that it’s the mindset of most people.

This lecture made me think a lot about how society view race and gender, and most importantly how they act towards people of a different race or gender to them. I understand that some ideas are embedded in us whether we like it or not, and that’s ok as long as we know they’re untrue and we don’t treat anyone differently because these beliefs. I think being aware of these embedded ideas and talking about them will hopefully allow us to move on from ingrained racism and sexism in today’s society.

 

Professional Values Workshop

On Tuesday, I got to experience myself just how much of an impact a child’s background has on their ability to do well in school. I have read many articles on closing the attainment gap and how children from deprived areas are not as likely to be successful in school, I know that this is a huge problem in Scotland and I’m aware that teachers, social workers and CLD workers have to do everything in their power to help fix this. However, I am very lucky to have grown up in a small village where this isn’t common, therefore I haven’t been able to relate the issue to myself to see how real it is. This lesson really helped me to do that. Although the lesson was based off of materials we had been given that day and not based off of our actual family background, I still feel was able to get a better sense of how much the resources you have, or don’t have, affects children in their school lives.

In the workshop, we were split into four groups of roughly 6 people, and each group was given an envelope containing resources such as paper, pens, paperclips etc… We were then told we had to make a product for a first year student out of only the resources we were given, and we were then going to present this item to the class. What I didn’t realise, was that two of the groups (groups three and four) weren’t given as many resources as my group and the neighbouring one. I also never realised that the attitude our lecturer was showing groups three and four was inattentive and he was showing no interest in their product, telling them it wasn’t very good and saying he was disappointed in it. However, to my group, he was very keen to know more about our invention, he told us it was a brilliant idea which boosted our confidence when it came to presenting. When presenting, group four mentioned they didn’t think they were treated fairly and that they couldn’t do as well as us since they never had the same resources we did, so their product couldn’t be as good as the products made in group one and two. This is when our lecturer told us he was acting the whole time, and the exercise we had just done was set up to show us the effects of not having the things you need to do well in school and the impact this has on a child. It really opened my eyes to how even showing favouritism to certain children can really have a negative impact on those who don’t feel that they’re seen in the same light, or aren’t focused on as much. This is why professional values such as social justice are so important, the way you treat every child in the classroom will have such a large influence on them, so it is important to treat them all as equal and to allocate the same amount of attention to all, no matter what background they come from or what race, gender or ethnicity they are. Group four, for example, were to represent a child in poverty: with an unstable home life; no extra reading after school to help them understand things better; perhaps no decent meals for the child to get nutrients and properly develop, whereas group one were to represent a child from a structured home, with parents who invest time in them and always make sure their child is happy, healthy and fully equipped with everything they need. We seen the impacts on both groups based on their situation and it was very clear that group one were so much more successful than group four. Professional commitment is crucial here as by working together with social and CLD workers, we are able to help a child who needs it in more than one aspect of their life. Teachers can only do so much and can really only go as far as the classroom, but working with other people in the educational community we can help children at home and in the community.

Children from affluent areas are born with an immediate advantage. They’ll have a better diet from the day they’re born as parents in poverty may not have enough money to buy better quality food, meaning that children from better off families will be more developed, physically and mentally by the time they reach primary one. With a better quality of life, they are more likely to do well in school, perhaps go on to enrol in further education and become successful adults, meanwhile children from deprived areas may not see education as a priority or the importance of it may no be emphasised at home, since they have to focus more on figuring out where their next meal will be coming from, or even how to pay for heating and other things that children in affluent families don’t have to think about. This could result in deprived children leaving school early, not being able to find a adequate job and continuing to live in a cycle of poverty.

I found the workshop incredibly thought provoking. I was in one of the better off groups but I was able to see that the lack of resources the other groups had hindered their ability to do well, through no fault of their own and it was just what they had been given. It’s very much like that in real life with children in deprivation, they haven’t chosen that lifestyle but it is unfortunately the circumstance they’re in, so they are unable to reach their full potential. Teachers, social workers and CLD workers all need to show integrity, trust and respect to every child and to all colleagues so children are shown the correct way to behave, and feel that they can approach adults if they need help. By treating all children equally and making school a place where children feel accepted and encouraged, we can help them get a better start to their lives and help them create a bright future.

My Experience with School/Teaching

When I look back on my own experience throughout school, I was very lucky to enjoy every year of it. I think about the teachers who inspired me and helped me find confidence within myself, and I think about the lessons that have continued to stay with me even after leaving. I’ve always wanted to be in a job that has an impact on people, but I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to do after I had left school, as school was one of the only things I genuinely enjoyed. I then realised that by being a teacher myself, I could carry on doing things I loved every day as well as having an impact on people. I started placement in my local primary school in 6th year and this only confirmed my enthusiasm. I began to see many more aspects of teaching and got to experience how rewarding the job really is. Every week I would see improvements in the group of children I had been working with, and I felt that my relationship with them would get stronger with every lesson. Seeing these improvements in my class made me feel like I was making a difference, something that I found greatly motivating and valuable. Something else that surprisingly pushed me towards working in education was teachers that I didn’t particularly agree with. I always thought if I was going to be a teacher, I wanted to do it differently to ways I’ve experienced with a few of my own teachers. I know I will show pupils the same respect as I’d show a colleague and I know I will be patient with any children who are struggling, as every child’s mind works differently and not all will understand something the first time around. By going into a primary teaching course, I believe I’m making a difference, and even if it’s only one child I make an impact on, I still find that really rewarding.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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