Why am I ‘Doing Diversity Differently’?
A description of my journey into diversity awareness
“Why have you become so keen to promote diversity awareness?” my surprised friends asked me… and I have to admit, it wasn’t always top of my agenda!.
After my previous blog outlining 10 ways in which children develop diversity awareness (that you might never have even thought about!) , I thought you might want to know a little more about how I came to be so interested in diversity awareness myself, and what qualifies me to be teaching a course like this. So here follows a brief outline of my Diversity Story to date.
My story really began when I was a full-time primary school music teacher working in an international school. In my spare time I was studying for a PhD in everything that interested me professionally: education, music, psychology and child development. I happened to come across the subject of institutional racism quite unexpectedly in one of the research articles I was studying.
I was following a different path at that point (basically how young children develop a passion for music), and this article stopped me in my tracks. It was actually an article about how providing science books for secondary-age children that only contained descriptions and pictures of male scientists was disadvantaging and limiting girls’ progress in the sciences. And how, in fact, these books represented a clear example of gender bias.
I have to admit, I couldn’t really get my head around this issue for a while. My initial thoughts ran along the lines of ‘well, that’s the way it was when I was at school and it didn’t do me any harm…’ and then I started to think about it some more. I remembered some of my own school-experiences and began to realise that I had been ‘socially conditioned’ in both my expectations of, and aspirations for, myself.
My thinking then broadened out. I began to question the institutional practices that went on. Not just in the school that I was currently teaching in, but actually throughout my whole life. It was an eye opening experience and a very uncomfortable one to be honest. At that point in my studies, my research veered off into what could be described as a rabbit hole filled with discovering exactly what diversity, institutional prejudice, and white privilege were. But I had a thesis to finish and reluctantly had to ‘park’ all my new-found knowledge.
Life moved on. l finished my degree and stepped back into the all consuming patterns of life, work and family, so that all my knowledge in diversity issues got pushed to the side for a while. (Even though I followed events relating to diversity closely in the media and newspapers).
It was only when the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign gained a lot of publicity during the first COVID lockdown, (when I was actually taking a social media course which put me in the right ‘zone’ for online course-creation) that I started to question myself; ‘what can I do about all this?’
Or, more to the point; ‘what can I, a white, late-middle-aged music teacher, do about this?’
I tussled with this idea for quite a long time. I did a lot more reading and research around the subject, and came to the conclusion that actually, there isn’t much accessible material out there for professionals like me – or even for people unlike me!
There are a lot of strident voices in this field, and there’s a lot of anger and emotion surrounding issues of racism and prejudice and bias. It seems to me that many of these voices are telling us where we should be, and some are accusing us, in general terms, for the fact that we’re not there yet.
But actually, there’s a huge gap between what the ideal looks like and where we are currently. And not many people, programmes or trainings are teaching us the ‘how’ to do all this, or pointing us towards the direction we need to go in order to get to that point.
And so that’s why I started to create this really accessible and easy-to-follow diversity awareness course. As there isn’t anywhere for teachers and other interested adults (who don’t just want a tokenistic ‘quick fix’) to find this sort of information all in one place, I decided to create a resource.
I therefore set out to;
(i) provide materials for those who really want to learn about diversity, and
(ii) support them in developing their own knowledge, skills and confidence in the area of child development and diversity awareness.
So I revisited all my past research and added to that knowledge base with more current aspects of diversity awareness. I looked closely at the already-existing diversity trainings (many of which have evolved from corporate contexts), and realised there was little information in the public domain for anyone interested in how diversity awareness develops in young children.
I studied the latest research on child development, and at the impact of racism and prejudice not just on this 3 – 7 age-group, but on society at large too. It has taken me time to carefully put all these different elements into a cohesive course that serve other adults and people like me to travel the distance between where we are now and where we want to be.
I’d love you to join me on this ‘Simple Steps’ journey.
…not many people, programmes or trainings are teaching us the ‘how’ of all this…
Dr Clare Seymour
Clare has spent much of her professional career (over 30 years) in international settings. Part of her Doctoral research involved exploring the often hidden aspects of institutional racism. As a result she has a longstanding interest in, and passion for, promoting positive Diversity.
In addition to school music-teaching, Clare also has over 10 years’ experience working as an international music examiner – an understanding and respect for Diversity is so crucially important in every aspect of her practice.