I went to a secondary school in Chorley and I loved it! I had a brilliant group of friends, I liked my lessons and I took advantage of absolutely everything going at school. If there was a club, I’d join it and give it a go. I was in lots of different sports teams, I did all the school plays (my life hasn’t changed so much, has it?), I was in a textiles club, I did my Duke of Edinburgh as an after-school club and I went on all the different school trips. We went to Germany in my first year, I went on the French exchange in my second year (even though my French speaking was shockingly bad!), we went camping on DofE and we went on all sorts of different day trips with lots of different subjects.
These special experiences I remember vividly, but my actual memory of lessons in school is a bit vague if I’m honest. I learnt a lot at school and finished with good grades, but my recollection of that learning doesn’t stand out in my memory, other than a handful of lessons. One of those lessons was taught by my English teacher Miss Bray. I thought Miss Bray was a brilliant teacher and I loved her lessons, but I remember feeling this one lesson was incredibly unjust.
We had a double English lesson and had just finished one topic so were moving on to the next. Miss Bray didn’t tell us what we would be studying but started the lesson asking us what our eye colours were. We had no clue why. Then, the lovely Miss Bray who normally treated us so fairly, gave us our task for the lesson. Miss Bray said the people with brown eyes had been working brilliantly, were wonderful people and deserved a treat. If you had brown eyes, then you didn’t need to do the work this lesson, Miss Bray just gave them an answer sheet with all the correct answers written on for them. If you had green or grey eyes, then you could stay in the classroom, but you had to complete the written task. Miss Bray would be on hand to help and would give the information needed. The final task was given for people with blue eyes. I have blue eyes. Attached to our English classroom was a fairly large storeroom. Miss Bray told us that we didn’t deserve the same help as the people with brown or green or grey eyes. We were to sit in the storeroom and clean up while all the information was given out. We were also expected to somehow answer the questions without any of the information…all the while, still sat in the storeroom. I was absolutely fuming!
I will never forget the feeling of the outright unfairness of the tasks. I was so angry sat in there. I remember thinking that I had worked really hard in my lessons and I couldn’t understand why I was being punished for the colour of my eyes. The resentment and feelings of prejudice sparked a touch of rebellion inside of me. I suddenly had a huge dislike for Miss Bray. In that moment, I was not going to do anything this teacher would tell me to do ever again! Why wasn’t she treating us fairly and why on Earth were we being judged on the colour of our eyes? What a ridiculous thing to be judged by!
After what seemed like an eternity, Miss Bray explained her actions. We were about to study the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, a book that deals with attitudes towards race and class. We had great discussions about our feelings from that process. We also posed the question ‘Why is it ok to judge someone by the colour of their skin but not by the colour of their eyes?’ This simple answer is, it isn’t. It is never ok to judge someone because of their skin colour. Just as it isn’t ok to judge someone because of their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their views.
We live in a world where everyone is different. I went to university in London and in my first year I lived on campus. My halls where I lived, were filled with all sorts of different people. People who dressed very differently to me, ate different foods, came from different backgrounds, had completely different opinions to me. Even though we were all so different, we had to get along as a community. This was done through tolerance; accepting and respecting that everyone is different.
I feel very lucky that we live in such a diverse country. Not everyone will share your views and opinions. In fact, some of my best friends have completely different political and religious beliefs to me. I don’t love them any less and I certainly wouldn’t treat them any differently because they don’t think exactly the way I do. Tolerance for me is about showing respect, listening and trying to see things from someone else’s point of view. Tolerance is making sure that no one feels the way I did in that very memorable English lesson!
Your task is to reflect on the blog and the video clip. Think about a time in your life when you may have experienced or witnessed prejudice. What was the scenario? How did you feel? Why do you think it happened?
Ask your family if they can recall any experiences they might have encountered.
I have set this task as an assignment, so you will be able to submit your response through Google Classroom.