Global citizenship, equality and diversity – one teacher’s personal journey
As we continue to pull ourselves through these times of uncertainty and anxiety, what has been keeping me afloat are the networks and relationships I have managed to build, despite the physical barriers we are all facing.
Lockdown, I feel, has offered many of us the opportunity to delve into personal and professional interests that we only thought about occasionally but could never find the time for. The ability to ‘travel’ and connect with other colleagues all through the safety of virtual meetings has made professional development and learning more accessible than ever before. Importantly, many of us have built relationships that are both enhancing our professional practice and sense of agency.
Just prior to our first lockdown in March 2020, I attended an Empowerment event hosted by the EIS. Professor Mark Priestly of Stirling University spoke there of teacher agency and how school leaders had to encourage this in their teams as a way of developing empowerment. However, this ability exists among all of us. For sustainable professional learning and development to occur, we as practitioners must feel invested in our own learning. This is the only way we can utilise it effectively in the classroom or school, leading to a positive impact on our learners.
I completed a year-long professional development certification in 2019 at the West Of Scotland Development Education Centre (WOSDEC) which started my journey on global citizenship education. I enrolled because I had a personal interest in embedding diversity and multiculturalism in my teaching, because of my own ethnicity and the lack of awareness for it I had witnessed throughout my own education as a pupil and now as a teacher. However, the course with WOSDEC opened my eyes to the reality that global citizenship was not just about multiculturalism but instead about the greater understanding of how humanity connects to each other, through our global history and how we connect to our planet, the home that has so loyally stood by us. I developed an understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how their achievement is vital to ensure equality and fairness for all, while maintaining the beautiful home we live in.
I began to reflect on my practice, as I realised the first change that I could influence was in my own classroom. I thought about how I could link these themes of global citizenship, diversity and equality across everything that I teach. I then began to develop lessons through an interdisciplinary format and quickly realised that the change we needed was to stop viewing each curricular area as a stand-alone subject – instead I now intertwine Es and Os to both deepen and widen the experience I present to learners. In this way, I am also linking the 17 SDGs in a way that develops an understanding of relevance to real life. This method of IDL is resulting in a far more interesting and enjoyable experience for my learners, as well as for me as a teacher.
My focus deepened as the Black Lives Matter movement once again gained momentum, and more and more minority communities began to feel empowered to demand changes in or society; cries of which have gone ignored for too long. As I was developing interdisciplinary lessons already, my next aim was to embed equality and diversity throughout my teaching, incorporating an understanding and raising awareness of why representation matters. Diversity is not only about using examples from around the world, ensuring our lessons are less Eurocentric, or about increasing diversity in our resources, such as reading texts, whereby learners from all backgrounds are represented. Diversity is also not just about the challenge to decolonise the curriculum, ensuring that the voices and stories of those previously silenced are now heard. What I have learnt most of all is the need for diversity of thought.
The representation of diverse thoughts and experience at the table where policies are researched and developed is essential: a seat at the table for minority communities, as equals. Less than 2% of the Scottish teaching workforce belong to an ethnic minority, and the further you look in our educational organisations, the more miniscule the figure becomes, to the point of not being measurable at all.
This again brings us back to encouraging diversity of thought. Change will only happen in our policies and practice when members of all backgrounds work together to reflect on ‘what has been’ to make a better ‘what can be’. Lack of diversity in our workforce, our curriculum and resources has been a disadvantage that has let down too many learners, families and colleagues.
I have been reassured somewhat in the last few months to see the enthusiasm from all sectors, to learn about anti-racist education and embedding diversity in the curriculum. In recent webinars I have advocated for the need to turn traditional factors that cause racism and prejudice on their heads, instead viewing them as assets. We must learn to value the richness that different perspectives bring to our classrooms and school communities. Embrace the variety of nationalities, languages, cultures and faiths, not by holding diversity or cultural events but by embedding examples through art, literacy, maths and science. Our profession cannot be successful unless we work collegially and continue to learn from each other.
I developed my website, Global Citizenship Education, to highlight my IDL lessons to help showcase how we can link these important values together, in the hope that more practitioners will be willing to become agents of change in their own classrooms.
I am empowered, I have found my sense of agency. I hope you can too.
Nuzhat is a primary teacher based in Glasgow, specialising in the teaching of global citizenship and antiracist education. She sits on the Board of Trustees of WOSDEC and the EIS Antiracist Sub Committee. Nuzhat has set up a website to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of her teaching pedagogy, showcasing how the values of global citizenship and antiracist education can be embedded across all areas of Scotland’s curriculum. Nuzhat also delivers professional development to colleagues across the West Partnership and beyond and has written a number of articles in this field. These can be viewed on her Global Citizenship Education website.