Prestonpans from the sea – I took this at 9am on Saturday morning on the Port Seton community boat, Boatie Rows (http://boatieblest.wordpress.com/). What a beautiful day. How great Prestonpans looks from the sea. Bliss…. and extremely hard work!
Hmmm, posts of many parts seem to be becoming a theme. I apologise if it’s makes it hard to follow lines of thought. However, I had an email from a friend in Thailand in relation to my previous posting on how we treat Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender people in Education, which I want to share.
My friend speaks of colleagues in an organisation called Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (www.hreib.com) who do oustanding work supporting Burmese refugees in Thailand who are LGBT. These colleagues recently ran a ‘very harrowing workshop with a group of transgender Burmese people. The stories of outrageous abuse that they had to tell were heartbreaking. Homosexuality is illegal in Burma and apparently they all knew the regulation number of the law that makes it illegal because whenever they were being abused sexually by authorities, the authorities would say it as they were doing it. HREIB are now broadcasting TV programmes for LGBT Burmese people to give hope and support and reduce isolation. (see photo above)
Recently my friend was asked if she was worried about her 5 year old daughter who likes to wear boys’ clothes and wear short hair. ‘Why would I be?’ she asked. The reply was, ‘In my village in Burma, there was a boy who liked to behave like a girl and everyone gave him a hard time and he suicided when he was just a teenager. So it’s dangerous for kids to display gender deviancy’!!
Shocking isn’t it? Yet for Dominic Crouch and for the Burmese village boy, homophobic bullying destroyed them. Let’s support and take care of all our children and young people, regardless of gender preference and sexual orientation.
Tonight I was back in Pilton, a community I had the privilege and joy to live and work in for 29 years. Tracey Berry, Forthview Primary School’s teacher (pictured right) invited me back to see a film made by the parents, carers and staff of Forthview Primary school as part of a multimedia family learning project. I’ll show you that film in a few posts’ time. Tonight I am left deeply touched once more by the lives of my former neighbours, by their strength and by their spirit.
Tonight I witnessed Forthview’s excellent, sector-leading work in partnership with parents and carers. By contrast, recently and often in the past, colleagues have said, “How do you get parents and carers to come into school? Our just won’t come. You couldn’t do that here.”
My current practice doesn’t match up to Forthview’s excellence but that’s absolutely what I aspire to for my school and its community of families. So what’s the journey been to get to that place?
Let’s start by looking at a traditional view of parents and carers in school through a typical teacher interview question. ‘How can parents and carers support the work of the school?’ Standard answer – ‘Parents and carers can come on trips, offer paired reading, speak about their work to children, share skills eg football training, sewing, make storysacks, sit on parent council, run school fairs etc.’
Long time ago, that was how I looked on ‘working with parents’. Now, looking at that approach, ask yourself, ‘Is that an equal partnership? Who’s giving? Who’s gaining? Would that induce you into working with schools?……. (to be continued)
Please take the time to read this tragic story of Dominic Crouch and his family.
On 18 May 2010, Dominic committed suicide by jumping off the roof of a six-storey block of flats near his school in Cheltenham. He was 15. In the note he left his family, he wrote: “Dear Family, I’m so so sorry for what I’m about to do. I have been bullied a lot recently and had a lot of shit made up about me that ain’t true.”
At the inquest, nearly six months later, it emerged that Dominic had kissed a boy on a school trip during a game of spin the bottle…some participants recorded the game on their mobile phones and were subsequently believed to have been circulating the images among other friends. The school invesigation concluded that there was “no clear evidence” as to whether something had been said to Dominic on the morning of his death that might have caused him sufficient upset to take his own life. For Dominic’s father, however, there was little doubt that his son had been the victim of homophobic bullying.
According to a 2007 report by Stonewall, the gay and lesbian lobbying organisation, 65% of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have been the victims of bullying. And even if gay pupils are not direct targets, they are “learning in an environment where homophobic language and comments are commonplace”. Ninety-eight per cent of young gay people hear the phrases “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” in school . How often have you heard that in your school as a teacher? So often.
A Stonewall report in 2009 found that eight in 10 secondary-school teachers and two in five primary-school teachers reported hearing homophobic insults such as “poof”, “dyke”, “queer” and “faggot”.
When discussing gay marriage on last week’s Question Time, Will Young (singer) said, I’m not so concerned about whether I can marry as a gay man. What I want to see change in our society is the way that young people in our secondary schools use gay as a regular term of abuse. Is that too much to ask?
Dominic Crouch’s father, Roger, had championed that campaign in schools following Dominic’s death, even winning a Stonewall “Hero of the Year” award last November. Just a few weeks later, Roger Crouch hanged himself in the garage of the family home. His emotions had been battered, his energy had been exhausted, he could go on no longer. He was 55.
Suran Dickson, who worked closely with Roger Crouch as the chief executive of Diversity Role Models, an organisation that seeks to prevent homophobic bullying in schools, says that the situation is “much worse than when I was younger. It’s more prevalent. There are more openly gay people in the public eye and more young people coming out earlier, but what is lacking is education of their contemporaries. It hasn’t caught up so there’s no explaining going on from the bottom up.
“Being gay for a young person is still considered one of the worst things to be. I see it in workshops all the time. The first question I ask is: ‘How would you react if one of your friends was gay? Could you carry on being friends with them?’ When I asked this yesterday, 20 out of 26 kids said they couldn’t be friends with a gay person, either because they believe they have Aids or because they think their friend might hit on them. In my experience, that’s the same across all socio-economic backgrounds, comprehensive or independent schools.”
Doesn’t this tragedy make you want to do all you can to challenge homophobia in our schools? It absolutely does for me because it doesn’t start in secondaries. It starts earlier and we need to be proactive in showing that all people should be respected, regardless of sexual orientation.
Some years ago at an LGBT conference, I attended a workshop run by a Sunderland school that had developed a resource pack of books to share with children in primary schools, that would help teachers promote an acceptance of a range of sexual orientation.
And Tango makes Three is the true tale of 2 male penguin partners in a New York Zoo who are given an egg to care for when a female penguin dies, leaving the egg needing cared for. A lovely book which shows that families can be different.
Other recommended books include King and King, The Sissy Duckling, William’s Doll.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child decrees ‘No child should be treated unfairly on any basis’. LGBT Youth Scotland have developed UNCRC rights thus;
- We believe that places of learning should recognise and value diversity and support both staff and students to come out should they choose to do so
- LGBT people should be able to easily access accurate and relevant information, and an education which furthers their knowledge and develops their abilities
- We will strive to be an organisation which supports LGBT young people and adults to learn in a safe and supportive environment
Let’s commit ourselves as teachers and leaders in education to make sure Dominic’s death changes our practice so that our children emerging as LGBT themselves or living in LGBT families or questioning their own sexuality can be free to be themselves and to be respected.
It’s 1 year tomorrow since an immense earthquake and consequent tsunami destroyed the lives of more than 15,000 people. Today, the Japanese community in Edinburgh held a programme of events THE DAY AFTER THE TSUNAMI in Edinburgh University.
One of our Burmese friends, Win Maung Thein, is part of a Japanese Choir in Edinburgh and invited us to hear them sing.
As Win sang in Japanese, I was humbled, as ever, by this young man from Arakan state, who has had to leave his home to come to UK for sanctuary. Not only has he embraced Scottish culture, he’s learning his 4th language (he speaks Rhakine, Burmese, English and now Japanese) and supporting yet another culture in their need. Burmese hearts are so big, kind and open. Thank you Win Maung Thein for today.
As a raging extrovert, I am a compulsive communicator so it makes sense to start blogging. I’ve blogged before … as headteacher of Forthview, Campie and now Prestonpans Infant Schools …. and each summer from Mae Sot with my Burmese friends.
I’m dabbling away with twitter @sheils27
Fearghal Kelly (www.fkelly.co.uk) probably kick started me this time when he was telling us that when he blogs, it helps him process his thinking. I always think by extraverting – either by writing my thoughts, talking to myself (which works better in the car than on my current mode of transport to work – my bike!) or talking to trusted family and friends. Those of you who know me, know how much I love working in East Lothian and I was initially drawn to EL by reading Don Ledingham’s Learning Log (www.edubuzz.org/donsblog). Follow the leader then… and here I go…..