Mr Smith* asked me how it for me as an ethnic minority teacher at his school. I smiled compliantly and said it’s ok and I enjoy working here.
That’s not an untruth; I love the ethos and collegiality, and my pupils. I do feel pupils see me as a teacher, although for some the difference their eyes see looking at me takes time to adjust.
I didn’t mention to Mr Smith how grateful I am that “AllahuAkbar” isn’t shouted down the crowded corridor at the change of period anymore; that I don’t get asked where I come from or get called Bin Laden’s family. I do get asked if I am a real teacher, perhaps because my demeanour is strange as well as my ‘oppressed’ look. I didn’t tell Mr Smith how beaten down I feel when pupils are quick to complain about me to parents, questioning my teaching skills as though my colour and identity hinder my abilities.
Although the snap chat impersonation incident could have happened to any teacher, it happened to me. I think to myself, what person with self-respect works non-stop, break, lunch, after school, CPDs, marking at 11pm, ignoring the husband, taking frustrations out on her own children, just to be humiliated, singled out and disrespected on a daily basis? Where do I draw the line? What do I do about the “Allahu Akbar” written so discreetly just to eat at me inside, thought after thought? The hidden fears or prejudice are present, not seen in the mainstream but only for those who see through the everyday work of the classroom.
It’s not your world, Mr Smith*, to be made felt the enemy of the very persons you strive to nurture. To be made to feel like a demon instead of a role model.
I don’t think this school or any in the authority are ready to accept the benefits of a diverse workforce. One where people’s backgrounds bring in new flavours and character into the classroom, with unique experiences and additional values.
I don’t think people like to be made to rethink and re-evaluate to represent the reality of the world in which these young people will be sent to flourish in. How will they act and react to future colleagues if they aren’t taught to actively challenge attitudes in society and amplify the voices of the minorities?
I am now re-evaluating my stance. I work among adults who, well meaning, won’t have a clue how marginalised I feel. The underpaid salary that I earn, is it worth me turning a blind eye on my dignity and self-respect? I am beginning to think I have been stretched and tested too far now.
*not actual name