To quote from someone on Facebook:
24 hours have not changed the state of our nation. Our society has been divided for years and vast swathes of people have felt disregarded and disenfranchised. A referendum has not torn this nation but simply shone a light on the unstitched seams and the shredded fabric.
As teachers, I feel we are uniquely placed to address some of the “unstitched seams and shredded fabric” of our nation. Here are some issues the vote has brought up for me as I reflect on my own (Primary) practice.
In amongst all the demands for learning technical grammar terms, we must find time for teaching critical thinking. We must teach our children that not everything they read can be trusted, and that some people do have hidden agendas. They need to know that it’s up to us to find out the facts, and that just because something is on the internet or in the paper doesn’t make it true. It’s not always easy, especially with younger children, but stories and story characters are a great way in, as are Mantle of the Expert-type situations.
We’d love to think that we’re past racist attitudes now, but the past couple of days have made it clear that, at least for some people, we’re not. I think part of the problem is that we don’t talk about it enough. We don’t admit the racist attitudes that can creep up in ourselves if we’re not careful; so we sweep them under the carpet and pretend they’re not there. But if you never acknowledge the problem, you never deal with it. Also, it can be easy to make assumptions about the kind of people who are racist. It’s easy to assume that if someone’s experienced racism, they wouldn’t be racist themselves. But this isn’t necessarily the case and we must continue to educate and challenge students about racism in all its forms. We as schools need to help build bridges between members of different communities, offering opportunities for collaboration which might not exist outside of our four walls.
A broad and balanced curriculum
As has been said endlessly, in spite of the pressures of SATs, it is more vital than ever that we don’t limit the curriculum we offer to our children. They need history, to know what happens to us when we don’t resolve our differences; they need geography to give them a global perspective of our interdependence; they need science to understand how to make observations based on evidence. And they need the arts more than ever. They need experiences of singing together, playing instruments together, making art together, as a way of transcending division and contributing towards something bigger than themselves. There’s a reason that 150, 000 people all singing along to Adele at Glastonbury sends shivers down your spine.
Our children need to know how to navigate the world we live in. The world where people aren’t always kind and don’t always agree. They need the tools to understand and express their own emotions, whether comfortable or uncomfortable. They need to know how to deal with it productively when someone hurts their feelings. They need to be able to empathise with people who feel differently or have a different view of things. They need to know how to resolve conflict. Instead of being annoyed when lunchtime issues have reared their head in the classroom, we need to teach them how to deal with conflict. We need to help them understand when they need to talk things through and when they just need to ‘shake it off’ or ‘let it go.’ (Sing it to them if you have to, it helps them do it!)
I cannot affect the outcomes of national and international events. But I can affect the outcomes in my classroom. My children are future voters, and however they vote, I want to know that they have critically thought about information they have been given. I want them to have the knowledge and understanding necessary for contributing positively to our society. I want them to feel they belong, to realise that we are all different but the same. And most of all, I want them to be kind.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a generation of children and young people who wished nothing but the best for each other?