"It is important to ensure that students see themselves in all aspects of school life"
Aldaine Wynter, the global diversity and inclusion coordinator for Dwight School, discusses how the school is shining a light on representation as part of a series of weekly programmes for Black History Month.
This year for Black History Month the theme is ‘Proud to be’, and at Dwight School we wanted to use this theme as an opportunity to talk about representation. In all that we do as educators, it is important to ensure that students see themselves in all aspects of school life. It may start off simply as seeing themselves represented in student leadership and go as far as seeing and hearing themselves represented in the hidden and written community. Black History Month provides the opportunity to begin the conversation and allows for meaningful reflection that drives change. With this year’s theme in mind, all schools should be proud to be allies and seek to uplift all members of their community.
This year’s theme inspired us to focus on amplifying the voices and experiences of black people both within and outside of our community. For us, this meant raising awareness and celebrating what it means to be a proud black British person. Many students are often presented with the experiences and histories of black people who are from the US. We wanted to celebrate and raise awareness of the great work being done by black figures closer to home.
The 7th of October was National Poetry Day and we felt that the best way to kick off the week was to do a Black History Month and National Poetry Collaboration. As such, the students were presented with a video by Jamaican British spoken word poet Raymond Antrobus during their morning tutor session and started each class of the day with a poem.
With literature as the focus for the first week of BHM, students attended a workshop from Bones, an influential and inspiring poet. Bones is a performance poet, or as he likes to call it, 'a realist that busses lyrics'. He has written a book named The Warriors Bible, from which he performs extracts on stage.
Each week we had a different focus that gave us the opportunity to discuss aspects of representation. Our focuses each week for this month are as follows:
Week 1 – Literature
Week 2 – Science, technology, engineering & mathematics (STEM)
Week 3 – Eco-warriors
Week 4 – Visual arts
Each day, during their morning tutor time, students were presented with information that was linked to the focus for the week. On Mondays students received an email about the Black British figure being spotlighted that week, along with facts, videos and where to find out more. Our Week 1 figure was Deanna Rodger, a spoken word poet, and our week 2 figure was Dr Mark Richards, an atmospheric physicist based out of Imperial College London.
On Tuesdays students have a service session where they discuss the service done by others and look at ways in which they can contribute to their local and global communities. On Wednesdays students focus on current affairs and look at newsworthy articles. This week, students investigated articles that talked about whether we need Black History Month, getting students to engage with visible thinking strategies that encouraged group discussions on the topic. The focus for Thursdays is on silent reading, where the library has promoted literature by black authors and encouraged students to pick up a new book. And on Fridays the students have PSHE, where they have had a Black History Month special. Here, students engage in discussions, watch videos, and have the chance to have a deeper look into BHM.
This year it has been brilliant to see the students engage with the content and, as always, we will continue to amplify and raise awareness of the achievements and contributions of black people throughout the year.
Bones, a performance poet and author of 'The Warriors Bible'