Structural Inequality

This week we participated in an interactive workshop as part of the values module, which really opened my eyes and got me thinking about the subject of inequality. We were split into five groups and were presented with our task. In our groups we were to invent and make something which would have been of use to us as first years, starting our first week at university. Our tutor then gave each of the groups a brown envelope, however some envelopes contained very little and some contained a much wider range of materials to work with.

I was in a group which got very little resources and materials to work with, and straight away our group picked up on the fact that some of the other groups were given much more than us. I felt as if the other groups were given a ‘head start’ and that we were already at a huge disadvantage before we had even begun. After ten minutes of constructing and finalising our ideas, each group had to present their product for the tutor to give a score out of ten. All throughout the task, the groups with the most materials were getting showered with praise and encouragement whilst the groups with very little were given nothing. Our tutor scored the groups who were better off much higher than she did the others. A member of our group even went as far as to say that we were ‘unliked’ by the tutor because of the lack of support and encouragement that we received.

As a class we then discussed our feelings in relation to the task and came to the conclusion that those who were not given as many materials felt defeated and disadvantaged. The groups who were given more resources said that they didn’t even notice that other groups had much less, because they were so engrossed in positive praise and the luxury of their own many materials.

We went on to think deeper about the moral behind this exercise and began to understand that structural inequality is apparent in most classrooms across Scotland. Not all children have the same access to laptops, pens, pencils or paper at home and therefore as educators, we must take into consideration that some children are able to progress much quicker than others because they lack the same level of home support and resources. I am very passionate about the subject of inequality in education, and as a future teacher I want to do my bit in order to make sure that those from areas of deprivation can gain more equal opportunities across the curriculum.

Since the workshop earlier this week, I have had time to reflect on my experiences and put my ideas into context against the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Standard for Provisional Registration (SPR). The SPR specifies the core areas and principles relative to a teacher education student upon graduating, with the area of ‘Professional Values and Personal Commitment’ having a high relevance to our workshop. As a teacher, it is extremely important that social justice is shown in terms of treating all children and young people with respect no matter their financial background. Teacher’s must be trusting and respectful in their learning community and are responsible for encouraging and supporting all pupils of different abilities. From the workshop, I have realised the importance in showing integrity as an educator because the only way to bring about positive practice change is to reflect on our own experiences as teachers and identify areas which need improvement. Finally, I have developed my understanding of professional commitment through discussions surrounding the workshop, realising that teachers should continue to look for new ways to further improve their teaching methods by continuing to create fair and equal opportunities for all.


Why teaching?

An educator can simply be defined as someone who is dedicated to delivering an understanding of different subjects and values to their pupils. However, I believe the role of a teacher in the 21st century has evolved into so much more than this. A teacher must be passionate about their role and should encourage pupils to push out of their comfort zones and excel as individuals. As a future teacher, I will be responsible for creating a positive and stable environment in which all pupils, regardless of background, can achieve their maximum potential.

I have always aspired to have a career that makes a difference in people’s lives, and as a primary teacher I know I can work hard to provide pupils with the best possible start in life. Through volunteering at both Southesk and St. Margaret’s Primary Schools, I gained first-hand experience of working in a primary school environment and this really confirmed that teaching is the profession I would like to undertake. I worked across the schools from nursery to P7 and I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of the Curriculum for Excellence in my future studies. I was fortunate to be trusted to assist and lead a variety of tasks including overseeing reading groups, supporting pupils with spelling and numeracy, supporting bilingual pupils and planning activities. My experiences have led me to become passionate about the subject of ‘inclusion’ and I aim to work to ensure that all pupils, from different schools, receive the same high level of educational support- no matter which area they are from. I have also spent a lot of my free time volunteering for the NHS and in a secondary SFL base, supporting children and young people with a range of medical conditions such as Autism and ADHD. As a result of this, I have developed a particular interest in teaching pupils with special educational needs and hope to one day pursue a career in this area of education.

I understand that the role of an educator is so much more than simply teaching children how to read and write, it takes into account not only their intellectual development but also their social and emotional development, by encouraging creativity and individuality. What works for one child may well not work for another, and I will use this idea whilst supporting and guiding pupils on their own personal learning journeys. To me, one of the most extraordinary aspects about becoming a teacher is the opportunity to learn through teaching others. I will keep this at the core throughout my journey in education and will use this to be the best possible version of myself as an educator.