The Supporting Diversity & Challenging Stereotypes Conference

teacher supporting an upset boyOne of the highlights of the year for trainee teachers at Marjon is the annual Supporting Diversity & Challenging Stereotypes Conference. It prepares the trainees to support their future pupils. Specialist speakers cover a range of issues which in the past have included gender variance, drug and alcohol misuse, religious difference, the experiences of children from minority ethnic groups, bereavement, looked after children, asylum seekers and refugees, equality and challenging homophobia in schools.

This year, due to lockdown, the conference, which now in its twelfth year, was a virtual one.

Two trainees tell us more about this year’s conference…

Aleasha Udal, PGCE Secondary

“When first joining the PGCE Secondary Course at Marjon, I naturally scrutinised the calendar that we were provided on the first day of starting the course. One scheduled event on the calendar really intrigued me, and I was looking forward to it from that first day. This event was the ‘Supporting Diversity & Challenging Stereotypes Conference’, a conference that I knew would be absolutely paramount to attend as a future teaching professional.

I became concerned that the impact of coronavirus would prevent the conference from going ahead as scheduled. However, Marjon did not allow a global pandemic from preventing us from accessing vital and incredible resources and presentations on various topics discussed in the conference!

Although there was a variety of presentations that I could virtually ‘attend’, there was one that really stood out to me. Mark Jennett’s presentation titled ‘preventing and dealing with homophobia and transphobia in school’. In my opinion, this presentation should be a compulsory presentation for all trainee teachers to watch due to it’s enlightening content. Jennett really “opened my eyes” to how the classroom can openly (not necessarily ‘consciously’), contribute to gendered/relationship stereotypes. Jennett discusses ways that this can actively be prevented, such as, providing pupils with books that not only include characters that might be ‘man and wife’, but actively include other types of relationships and families, such as, gay relationships and single-parent. Although Jennett aimed these comments at primary school teachers, it really made me think about the resources that I provide within my own secondary classroom and has really prompted me to actively ensure that a range of resources are sought and included within the classroom to highlight and promote diversity.

Jennett also discussed a variety of ways in which the language used within a school setting and even how marketing can contribute to gender stereotypes, and the negative impact that this can have on pupils and young people. Ultimately, Jennett’s presentation will absolutely influence how I teach going forward and will be one that I do not forget!”

Charley Wright, PGCE Primary

“The three courses I attended for the day were Understanding Hidden Harm and Child Protection (Drug and Alcohol Abuse), Bereaved Children in School and Bullying Behaviour: (Causes, Types, the Big Picture, and Guidance for teachers). I picked these three courses for the day as I believed they were all current problems that we as teachers face on a weekly or maybe even daily basis, but also, I see them as great opportunity for my teacher development.

The three webinars consisted of speakers talking about current issues and how they relate in modern school life. All the speakers gave their background around the subjects they were discussing, relating back to situations they have had to deal with in their own life. Looking back, I feel this conference has given me more confidence and understanding of how I can deal with these situations if they were to come up, and a few days later looking back writing these notes – I can certainly say the conferences have had a major part on how I think about my teaching practice moving forward.

As a trainee teacher I can confidently say that these conferences have given me the belief in my own abilities to try and resolve the issues at hand with the support and advice of the speakers. Where this is not possible, the speakers have signposted me to websites where more information and videos are available to receive the best support possible.

I found each of the conferences informative and they have all added crucial information to my continuing professional development on my teaching journey. The next step for me is when I go back into school, I will put this new information to use to help me tackle any issues that come up within the classroom.

I’ve found a new confidence when attempting to deal with these situations, especially bereavement. Bereavement for me has always been in the back of my mind, as I would not know how to deal with this in the classroom. Many thoughts originally ran through my mind, with the most important being how do I even strike up a conversation with a child about their emotions in one of the most emotionally testing times any child will ever go through. With the help and resources available from the speakers I feel I would be able to emotionally support a child and their family, as well as signpost them to extra help in this time of need.

Overall, the conference was extremely useful in developing my knowledge on my teaching journey and I would actively encourage any teacher given the opportunity to take part. Every conference was filled with useful information and resources that any teacher would benefit from and can use in their own classrooms. Many of the discussions, skills and resources from the conferences can be used for other purposes too. Not only has this made me feel able to deal with the issues presented today, but I feel well equipped to deal with the wider challenges that are going to face me as a primary school teacher.”

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