Wow what a busy week, culminating in the training session on difference, diversity and inclusion for social workers (mentioned in last Sunday's post) that turned out to be in the upstairs room of the pub closest to my house. (I didn't receive directions for the training venue until an hour before it was to occur - all very 'treasure hunt'.)
One thing I have noticed about social workers: they do casual very well. They made me look over-dressed and that really is a rarity. I liked this because I personally struggle to look 'polished' every work day - physically and mentally. Yesterday, I was a social misfit from the opposite direction.
To set the scene a bit - my background is in education and therefore when I am talking to teachers, I have a shared understanding that is so 'there' I am not really even aware of it. I have worked with youth workers, school nurses, people from youth offending teams, people from the voluntary sector and various other agencies but not often in a capacity where I am training them. So there was a bit of a 'culture' shock and it was a new and therefore learning experience for me. The learning was not so much about what I was delivering (I am pretty sure there are good messages in there and it evaluated very well) but about how the training is 'received' from a different field of professionals and therefore a slightly different perspective.
We spoke about stereotyping, challenged personal prejudices, considered different reactions to different minorities, briefly looked at law, explored different types of 'anti-diversity' (from blatant discrimination to more subtle forms), looked at media attitudes, considered their organisation's current approach towards addressing diversity and inclusion issues and explored how hard it is to imagine being an 'outsider' when you are part of the majority 'institution' (One person gave a great example about going to Appleby Horse Fair - the largest Traveller horse fair in the UK and how she felt, strongly like an outsider - like she had never experienced before in her life) etc etc. Lots of good stuff...
However, the message I had been asked specifically to deliver, (if you remember/read Sunday's post) was that sexism towards men was just as unacceptable as sexism towards women. The chap who had made the complaint about his colleagues' behaviour was not present. I am still not sure whether that was a good thing (save his embarrassement) or a bad thing (he could see it was being addressed). I managed to deliver this message at a point in the training where I believe I had 'won them over' and there was some nodding in the room and several what-I-call, penny dropping expressions. One person even enhanced my message by reiterating it in terms of the difference in attitude they felt towards the man and woman in a physically abusive relationship. They always assume the woman needs protecting more than the man when clearly, in some cases, this had not turned out to be true. Teachers don't tend to say things like that.
Then we spoke about language. Courteous and respectful language towards any 'group' is important and language can unfortunately be a very powerful tool in denigrating and disrespecting others. However, my message is also that language is dynamic (words can develop negative connotations with time) and if a 'group' needs a label at all (in most cases they don't) ask them which 'label' they would be happy to be described with. Simple advice - for teachers. To which a social worker said (and completely earnestly),
'Yes I know, I never know what to write on the records - is it paedoph*le or person that s*xually abuses children?'
I have definitely never heard a teacher say that. It's a different world.