When asked to write a blog about your experience in your new job, you become acutely aware of your own voice. How do I write about my experience and the depths of my personal anti-racism journey without succumbing to total self-indulgence?
By keeping it practical, that’s precisely how!
My journey commences – toot toot!
My journey began three months ago on a sunny day in North Shields. The Linskill Centre, the proud and aging home of my new role, comes into view and I immediately feel at ease. Energetic and vital bodies spill out into the car park, yoga mats in hands, chatting about the day to come. Mothers stroll in and out of the double doors, holding the sticky hands of their curious offspring. The building is alive and I like it.
Meeting the team at Show Racism the Red Card is a real privilege. Everyone is passionate and knowledgeable. Everyone is united by their belief in the message of the organisation. It’s hard not to be inspired.
First stop – engage critical brain
I’ve done similar work with young people before, but never under such a weighty and serious subject. My career in the performing arts could only equip me so far in my new role; there would be a lot of new information to learn and understand before I would feel even half way adequate. One minute you’re a pantomime fairy, next you’re trying to help make the world a kinder place. I guess, upon closer inspection, the two roles have an astonishing number of similarities.
Having always held an interest in equality and social justice, I found my training and reading on the history and politics of racism fascinating. I quickly found that the topic of so called ‘race’ was far more enormous than I had originally envisaged. Lots of my training on racism throughout history really resonated with me and I wondered how I had gone all my life without knowing everything I possibly could about it. My own world view, though broad, sheltered me from the delicate complexities of racism, and on a personal level, I sometimes struggled to let it all sink in. Learning from the knowledge and experience of the education team was (and still is) a real pleasure. There are no double standards here, so we challenge ourselves and each other to think critically and creatively, very much in the way we do with the young people and adults we work with. This creates an environment in which we can all continue to learn and grow within the role.
Second stop – engage facilitator mode
Is facilitation like teaching? Not exactly. It’s similar in the sense that you manage the classroom, but the purpose of a facilitator is not to teach, but to ignite; to fan the flames of curiosity and offer practical tools for critical thinking and collaborative discussion. We want the young people we work with to ask themselves and each other questions that challenge and intrigue them. We want to engage young people in debate and leave them eager to discover more for themselves. All of this, of course, is easier said than done. Luckily, I have excellent teachers. They’re kind, patient, dynamic, warm, and engaging. They all truly embody what it is to be a facilitator, and those are some big shoes to fill. Perhaps even bigger than the ones I wore when my employment consisted of dancing as a mouse in Disney World. And those really were huge. If only I’d known at the that my life as a performer was subconsciously preparing me for what would become my favorite role thus far…
Third stop – let’s get practical
I like driving. This is good news for an Ed Worker, because we’re always driving. An Education Worker without a car is like a night without stars.
I think I’d forgotten quite how vast the North East is until my first trip to observe at a school in Stockton. The hour-long journey home provided a perfect opportunity to observe two essential rituals of the organisation; reflecting and drinking tea. Neither is more valuable than the other. Travelling up and down the A1 to schools offers a space and time to collect thoughts and engage in the exciting and challenging sessions ahead. I genuinely find it a vital part of my working day. It may excite you to know that an Ed Worker’s car is like an Aladdin’s Cave of SRtRC paraphernalia; boxes, posters, wrist bands, magazines, resources and empty tea cups piled high on top of each other like ancient cardboard treasures. Somewhere beneath the boxes there is often a driver’s seat. There is a daily discussion on who’s car is least tidy. I’m almost always the winner. But a tidy car is a sacrifice we are prepared to make for the love of the job. It is, after all, a brilliant one.
Fourth stop – re-fuel and commence journey. Full steam ahead!
My favorite thing about the job so far? It’s hard to choose. The team is incredible, the messy car is bearable, the cups of tea are excellent… but it has to be the workshops themselves. The variety and depth of conversation, the brilliant moments of discovery, the fun and the shock and the disbeleif. Leaving a session knowing that you’ve created a space in which people can challenge, engage and share is what I think the job is all about. It’s about the message we leave behind, knowing that someone somewhere will go on to do something wonderful with it.