Why white teachers need help with multicultural issues

9th May 2003 at 01:00
Maureen McTaggart wants your views on the issues of the day for a new column in 'First Appointments'

What is it about columns? You're looking for a stimulating read, and some helpful information, but what do you usually get? An overdose of ego, lashings of oily vanity and one-sided versions of relationship breakdowns.

Well not here, mate.

Stepping Out is for student and emerging teachers, and all who work with you, with observations on your issues and concerns, and responses to your suggestions for support and help. So it will be your feedback, your worries, your hopes, your passions, your diversions and even your gossip (as long as it's juicy!).

My role is to visit student teacher recruitment fairs and spread the word about what The TES can offer new teachers. Your job comes first in Stepping Out. Priority number two is to canvass opinions and suggestions for the coverage, help and services we should add to our portfolio. We have all kinds of offers, including free issues of the paper, bargain subscriptions and free publications written by staff members and columnists to help you on your way. And you can expect more based on the feedback we get from you.

So what do we want from you? There are three issues among many I would like to raise to get the dialogue going.

Not that I was counting, but I couldn't help but notice that very few of the several thousands of student teachers I have seen at recruitment fairs in the past eight months appear to come from minority ethnic backgrounds.

It is most noticeable outside the UK's cosmopolitan cities.

I haven't been able to get any recent figures from places I would expect to have them, such as the Department for Education and Skills, the General Teaching Council or the Teacher Training Agency (its most up-to-date figures are from 1998), but they are concerned. Some schools are multicultural treasure chests with headteachers keen to employ teachers with whom the students can identify.

Many people think of inclusion purely in relation to children, but it affects all of us in our professional lives. If we start getting that right, maybe the rest will come easier. Some people choose to ignore it but you only need to glance at my photograph (above) to see where I am coming from.

I am talking to young white teachers here - don't get defensive - but in the absence of a full complement of black and ethnic minority teachers what kind of support do the other teachers need for multicultural issues? What kind of help and support would a teacher who has grown up in a white, rural community like as preparation for teaching in an inner-city, multi-racial community or school?

You need insights in this area, whether you are in the inner-city or in the depths of the countryside. The make-up of the UK has changed irrevocably and we all need to know how to embrace these changes. And for many of us it is not easy to get a handle.

Young teachers are starting their working lives in increasingly hi-tech classrooms. Are you well up with whiteboards? Do you dig digital cameras?

Are you taking your tablet PCs? I've met young women teachers in Sussex who like whiteboards so much they want them at home, but does this reflect all young teachers? The TES supports the ICT in Practice Awards run by Becta, the schools technology agency, and has now sponsored a specific award for NQTs. We will be giving feedback on all the good practice uncovered for this category and encouraging you to nominate colleagues for this award.(see www.becta.org.ukpracticeaward) And what is it about young teachers that makes you reluctant to move? And why are LEAs and schools unable to tempt you to try a different area? I hope to pass your ideas and concerns back to The TES, so feel free to email me at the address below. I am always happy to chat when our team is visiting your college during the next round of recruitment fairs.

email: maureen.mctaggart@tes.co.uk

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