When I was in school, I was told by one of the teachers that my lips were too big to play the flute, and that people like me didn’t really play wind instruments.
I never told anyone, at the time I took it as normal and I just continued with life. But it always stuck with me. Fast forward 14 years and I am now in that position of ‘teachership’ where my words will undoubtedly stick with the many children who pass through my care. I know I need to do my best by them… no pressure then.
I deliberately applied for a role in a school where the children reminded me of me, in the area I grew up in. Every day when I wake up, I try to think “how can I inspire them today?” Ask any teacher why they entered the profession and most will give you an answer about making a difference. But it’s difficult to wake up every day with that happy optimism and not every day is a good day.
According to GOV.UK black teachers make up about 2% of teachers in the UK. How then do you go about ‘making a difference’ in a setting where you are so outnumbered and underrepresented?
I don’t have one singular answer, but I can share how I think you can help.
Firstly, if you’re a parent and you can, join the board of governors or a parent group for your child’s school. It’s so important that we have our voices in influential places regarding our children’s education.
Secondly, if you are a professional, consider contacting your local schools to give a talk or run a club, even go in and read a story- inspire the next generation tangibly.
Finally, ask how you can help! It seems so simple, but even if there’s nothing that springs to mind immediately, it’s great to know there are parents and members of the community who can be called upon.
I’ve attached links to two articles below, which give more ideas of how you can further get involved.
I’ll be honest, being a teacher is exhausting, and it’s far more of an emotional rollercoaster than I could have ever imagined. I often joke that the actual teaching is the smallest part of the job… it’s not a complete joke though. Even now, the country is requesting that we don our metaphorical capes and go out to teach the children of this generation amidst a pandemic, despite many other professionals working from home until at least the end of the year. Given that black people have been disproportionately affected by this disease I have very mixed emotions towards this.
I’m torn between putting my best foot forward for the needs of the children and hiding in my house for the safety of myself and family.
But, the children must come first – every time.