26 March 2021

Pastoral Blog: Time to Process and Reflect

Pastoral Blog: Time to Process and Reflect

Following the tragic case of Sarah Everard, there has never been a better time to explore the issues around “toxic masculinity”, as Allan, our Principal, did so comprehensively in his last blog post. 

At College this week, we have delivered an assembly and PSHE session on this topic to each year group, and these generated very lively discussion and debate. It was heartening to hear that most of our students responded very positively indeed, with many boys agreeing that, going forward, they would take small but important steps such as taking down their hoods or crossing over to the other side of the street when walking behind a lone female. 

However, a small number of boys did find the message more difficult to digest, and there were some flippant comments made which made teachers feel that these students didn’t take the message seriously. Why might this have been the case? Surely, when faced with statistics showing how many women are either harmed, or feel at risk of harm, when going about the usual business of their day, everyone would feel shocked and want to help?

One important thing to remember is that, as human beings, our behaviour is very deeply embedded. If we have had the same habits for years, then it can be deeply unsettling to suddenly be challenged about the way we have always behaved. In this new and very welcome era of equality, we all have an obligation to examine the way we act and consider whether we are being our best selves. For a kind and caring young person, as most young people are at heart, it can be disconcerting to discover that your unconscious behaviours could actually have caused someone to feel uncomfortable. This unwelcome feeling can then cause the young person to react in a defensive manner and blurt out something silly.

Therefore, I would always advise colleagues in a similar position to allow students some breathing space. Young people need time to process difficult messages and, now that we have had these challenging assemblies, we are now going to focus our assemblies on totally different topics. We will make ourselves available for any student who would like to discuss their feelings, but will give them time to mull things over and reach their own conclusions. We have every confidence in our students and, when we revisit these issues again at the end of the summer term, I fully expect that the messages of this week will have been maturely processed.

I think that the same is true for adults, too. People can’t change overnight, and we must be gentle with ourselves and others, while still continuing to work towards a better and more equal society.

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