Usually things come in threes and my inspiration for writing this blog is no exception. As the academic year draws to a close and as I prepare to begin teaching in a new school, I have found myself inspired to reflect on my own teaching and curriculum choices more than ever since my PGCE year. There is so much ‘stuff’ out there that sometimes it can feel overwhelming and it becomes hard to reconcile what people are saying with your own teaching philosophy. However, the conversations around knowledge and representation are proving to be extremely motivating both on a professional and personal level.
My first moment of inspiration came from the term ‘representative curriculum’ which I will now be using after reading the excellent blog by Claire Holliss. Her blog made me reflect on how representative my own curriculum was. I realised that as suggested in the blog, I wasn’t really telling the ‘best stories’ that I could when thinking about rights in the 20th century with disengaged year 8 class. Instead of focusing on the struggles of the white-lower-middle-classes, which I had previously prided myself on (and still has a place), I decided to try and make my teaching of year 8 more representative. I started with Pride month and went for a ‘big history’ approach on homosexual rights working back from 1969 Stonewall Riots. During this lesson a student opened up to me about his homosexual parent and how much he liked learning about “her history”. I realised then that the lesson had represented something about his life that as a teacher I had previously been missing.
Read Claire’s excellent blog here
Secondly, I have recently read Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge which was both uncomfortable and empowering. Uncomfortable because when reading chapter 1 on black history in the UK, I reflected on my own teaching and was ashamed to realise that I only teach about civil rights in the USA, the slave trade in relation to plantations (apart from abolition) and have never dedicated a single lesson to British black history. However, the book was also empowering because I am aware that as a history teacher I have the agency to change this. I can be active in ensuring that I rectify this situation and decided that black history was going to be next in my mission to diversify my year 8 curriculum.
My last moment of inspiration came from a Twitter post. I was pushed into action when Johnny Hemphill kindly shared his database on first Windrush passenger list. I used this resource as a starter to see what the students could infer from the list. They already knew a lot but there were some misconceptions such as it all being about money and illegal immigration. They had heard of Windrush but didn’t know what it was or why it was significant and they struggled to see how it is linked to them. About half way through the lesson one student told me that his grandfather was part of the Windrush generation but he had never spoken to him about it because he hadn’t known what it was. He was delighted that he would be able to ask his grandfather about his experiences next time he saw him. I used an excellent resource from the British Library so that the students could explore real stories about Windrush, but also some recent videos to link the history to the Windrush scandal. At the end of the lesson we had an open discussion about the treatment of immigrants in the UK which was inspired by the article on controversial topics in Teaching History 175.
To conclude, I was inspired to write this blog after scrolling through Twitter and finding three manageable, insightful and accessible ideas to take forward into my own teaching. I wanted to demonstrate how you can then put those ideas into practice in a meaningful way and how I have taken charge of my own curriculum to make it more representative.
Thank you for taking the time to read and please do not hesitate to leave a question or comment.