Experiences of humiliation and bullying live long in the memory. So does the feeling of being ‘othered’ – a phrase to describe someone who is excluded because they are different.
Diane Garrison was ‘othered’ as a schoolgirl growing up in Runcorn and still recalls with a vivid hurt the feeling of frustration as her teachers at first disregarded her and then treated her as ‘a problem’.
“I couldn’t sit still in class, I asked too many questions; sometimes I even dared to admit I didn’t understand,” she says.
“But as I was brown skinned, I was easy to pigeon hole as a ‘problem child’. The colour of my skin explained why I wasn’t as compliant as the other, better behaved children; the ‘normal’ ones.”
George Floyd murder
So, even 40 years on from her Liverpool schooldays, and with decades of experience herself in the classroom, as a teacher, the hurt continues to resurface, rekindled by a never-ending story of racism in society.
The murder of George Floyd drove Diane to write a passionate essay 'Do better: tackling racism in early years education and care’, which has earned her a national prize.
“The killing had a profound effect on me as a dual heritage woman, mum and teacher not least because there is commonly a denial about the existence of racism in early years education,” explained Diane, who has just completed herat LJMU’s School of Education.
“One of my biggest concerns is the lost potential of black and brown, global majority children, who are often alienated from the education process at an early age.
“As a child, I myself witnessed this. There were those who were blatantly racist, but also those who would probably have said they ‘didn’t see colour’; but who, by being colour blind, unwittingly managed to ‘other’ me just as effectively.
“I have also witnessed it happening to children I have come into contact with over the course of my career and unpicking and understanding how this may happen has been a key part of my own personal development as a teacher and lifelong learner.
Putting her thoughts down on paper as part of her MA has not only given Diane a chance to personally reflect on power relationships, it has won her the annual Student Writing Reflections prize, awarded by the Association for Professional Development in Early Years, TACTYC.
It also sets her on the road for her next ambition – a PhD in education. We wish her well in that endeavour!
“Individual bias and power relationships exist in our schools,” she adds. “As educators we must all reflect on that and deal with it, in the interest of the children we support.”
You can read Diane’s essay on racism in education, which was put forward by lecturer Dr Naomi McLeod, on the TACTYC website https://tactyc.org.uk