When I was teaching, one of my favourite parts of the job was writing resources: designing activities, constructing lessons, developing whole schemes of learning. In a profession that regularly came under fire from different angles, it was a way of maintaining some semblance of control. And I enjoyed the creativity it required – the challenge of fitting all of the different external requirements into activities that I felt were genuinely a good use of my – and my students’ – time. Above all it was a way of ensuring that I could be the teacher I wanted to be – both in the content I taught, and how it was delivered.
As well as offering plenty of opportunities for developing different skills, the subjects I taught – English, Media and Drama – lent themselves well to exploring ‘issues’. I felt that a vital part of my role was engaging students in the world around them; opening their eyes to things they might not otherwise know about, and challenging the status quo. There was something very political about it, though not in the sense of trying to impose my views on others. What I strove to do was to get young people asking questions, to present them with a range of resources but equip them also with the tools they needed to find things out for themselves.
Though I’m extremely busy not teaching at the moment, the burgeoning refugee crisis we are currently facing has made me long to be back in the classroom. It really bothers me that the mainstream media presents such a narrow (often heavily biased) range of views, and that depending on the online circles people move in the (mis)information on social media can be even worse. And it bothers me too that with the avalanche of new demands teachers have faced in recent years they might struggle to find time to tackle these issues with young people.
So, as the most recent draft of my novel neared completion, I found my mind wandering to a scheme of learning I’d been involved in writing some years back. We called it ‘Refugees and the Media‘, and the focus was on trying to uncover the truth behind the headlines which were – at the time – often extremely biased against refugees and asylum seekers.
It needed updating, and reining back in after various evolutions, but I thought it might be one thing I could do to attempt to make just a small difference in the lives of the people who are affected by our misconceptions.
The title of this blog post might be ambitious, but it is this that I am attempting to do: to inspire teachers to use some of their time in the classroom to open up discussion around the way in which meaning is constructed in the media, particularly around refugee issues, so that they might inspire their students to think differently, and that through them we might begin to inspire change in our world.
I’ve decided to share the resources here on my blog. They’re not especially groundbreaking, and they borrow from a range of different sources, but they are comprehensively researched and tried and tested in the classroom. So if you are a teacher and you think you might be able to use them, then please do. And if you know anyone else that might find them useful, then please pass them on.
It’s hard to know how to make a difference these days – sat here at my keyboard rather than stood at the front of a classroom – but I’m hoping that this might just be one small way I can.