Before you start: preparing for classroom conversations around inequality

We advise teachers to approach sensitive issues with care and courage.

Many young people are likely to have viewed inequality and discrimination in action, through the media or in real life. All will have varying degrees of emotional reaction to the learning. Pupils with lived experience of discrimination may find the learning re-traumatising, so approach with care, but also with courage.

According to the US-based National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

Pupils need avenues of discussion and information that are factual, compassionate, open and safe.

Such spaces build their resilience. As a teacher, it is important to resist the single story of victimhood and acknowledge and amplify the narratives of resilience and resistance that are so prevalent, yet underexposed, in histories and communities.

What if a pupil says something offensive?

As part of the dialogue about inequality, pupils may say something racist, discriminatory or offensive. Don’t let such comments go unchallenged, and don’t shut down the conversation.

While being sensitive to the fact that some pupils may have lived experience of discrimination, remember that shutting down the conversation might give permission for bias to go unchecked and remain boxed up. Worse still, it might give a sign that such thoughts are OK as long as they are not shared in public.

Our recommendation is to use these instances as opportunities for learning, and for challenging pupils by asking questions, even if they can become uncomfortable.

Make it clear that we all have unfounded beliefs of one form or another, and that it is our responsibility to ask ourselves and each other why.

Tips on talking particularly about racism.

Guidance

If you are in the UK, you may want to update your unconscious bias training before using the activities.  

For practical tips and further guidance, please refer to:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Addressing Race and Trauma in the Classroom: A Resource for Educators

Let's Talk: A Teacher's Tolerance Guide.

Adapting for Covid-19

Teachers and schools around the world are facing new challenges as a result of Covid-19, including virtual teaching, maintaining physical distancing and reduced teaching hours. You may need to adopt the activities in this resource in line with local and school guidelines, to ensure they can be delivered safely.