Role Model Stories: Reflections from Year 1 and Year 2 workshops
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being a role model for two full days of student workshops in two different primary schools, ready to share with students the vibrancy of different families and joy behind acceptance.
From the moment I stepped foot in the schools, ready to deliver three workshops to Year 1 pupils (5-6 years old) and three to Year 2 (6-7-year olds), I could sense I was working in environments committed to celebrating diversity and inclusion. I knew this by speaking to the staff, seeing inclusive displays along the corridors and classrooms and the welcoming nature of the schools.
Despite being trained as a role model over four years ago, I was nervous. No two classrooms are the same. Would the pupils relate to my story and ask questions? However, the nerves settled quickly in the first few minutes as hands raised everywhere.
I’ve always said the hardest part to explain about being a role model is the magic that happens in the classroom. Working in primary schools reminds me of a world free of prejudice and hate, and these two days were no different.
It’s exhausting work, sharing your intimate and personal story to over 250 students in two days, but that didn’t dampen the overpowering drive I felt, and now shared with the students, to motivate and give more hope to a future where people celebrate difference and are kind to one another.
In Y1 & Y2 we deliver a workshop about families. In addition to reading and discussing the book ‘And Tango Makes Three’, the workshop features a couple of interactive games that introduce the idea that every family looks different. The workshop also features a role model who uses pictures to share a 5-minute story about their family.
I shared photos (see below) of my mum and sister, my husband, and some of my extended family. I take every opportunity to engage with the pupils and share fond memories of things I liked to do with my family when I was their age, like camping, football and family celebrations. I then share happy milestones in my life as I grew up, including my own wedding.
I use my story to help the students embrace the opportunities to celebrate different and growing families, explaining how, after meeting my husband, my family grew even further and became filled with even more happiness.
Reflecting on the workshops from this week I recall two interactions very clearly.
Firstly, after reading ‘And Tango Makes Three’, we ask the pupils whether or not a family can be two people. There is usually a 60/40 split of those who say yes and those who say no. One of the Y2 pupils shot his hand into the air and said ‘Yes!’, going onto explain his family unit is his mum and him.
His smile was unforgettable, and I have no doubt he will remember that moment, because we shared in his pride for his family.
The second interaction, after I shared my story, was when one pupil asked why I married my husband.
I explained he isn’t just my husband, but also my best friend, and the love we share for each other united us a family that we will keep together forever, along with our new addition – Thorsten, the French Bulldog!
These two days of role modelling were an exceptional example of students’ readiness to learn and accept different families and people when given the opportunity, and I left feeling truly accepted by the students and the schools.
In return, I believe my, and the other role models sharing their stories that week, made an impression on the next generation who will decide how inclusive and empathetic our future society will be, both at home and out in the world.
Diversity Role Models have been working with primary schools for over five years and have worked with over 75 primary schools, about 25% of the total number of schools they have worked with.
We focus our primary workshops on different families and celebrating differences and work with Y1-6, with different sessions for different age groups. All of our work will help schools meet the new statutory guidance on compulsory relationships education, where pupils will have to learn about different families, equality and same sex marriage.