I have seen a lot of posts complaining about awareness days or “events” in school as they add to an already stretched to-do list.
I’d like to float the idea that these are not “add-ons” to the curriculum. Instead, they are incredibly valuable opportunities to harness the passion, the enthusiasm that a change in routine brings & the spirit of “service”.
I am not a fan of tokenistic gestures by and large. Words and flag-waving are easy. Action is not.
I have worked in settings where a nominal gesture to “days” is given.
Rainbow shoelaces in pride week (Why?! There was no context given!), and bake sales for autism awareness (but no actual awareness raised).
That said, these moments are brilliant if you can capture the fun ALONGSIDE the action.
It is a great opportunity to get kids leading & sharing. International Women’s Day is not just about saying “I like this woman” and doing a poster. It is an opportunity for learners to examine their school system, their community, their own values and find areas where inequality still exists and change is needed. Coming out day is not just about rainbow flags. It is about giving young people the chance to know what it means to feel unsafe being yourself & to work together to create ways to keep their LGBTQAI+ allies safe & understand & challenge the perceptions of society.
In every awareness day or event, I see endless potential for learning, possibilities for critical thinking, and the development of social/emotional skills.
It’s not an annoying “extra” on my to-do list. It is the MAIN EVENT.
The audience is captive (unfortunately, in many schools these days, quite literally) & most are so buzzed to have a change to normal routine (not all kids love it! I know many for whom it is very hard!) that they are eager to learn something “new”.
This strand of Service/PSHE is where personal connections can promote empathy, passion & moral & ethical engagement!! There will be someone on staff or in the community of the school that has a story that learners can invest in.
Empowering learners to make change is an incredibly fulfilling thing. Seeing their own amazement at what they can achieve is priceless & knowing that, on top of that, you have ALL made a difference is the most fantastic reward.
So, the next time it is World Book Day or Odd Socks Day or Pride Week….. maybe take a little longer to consider what the potential impact can be & whether it is worth more investment than a hastily scrawled book review on your door. I know we are busy “Teaching” but sometimes learning is what happens when we simply aren’t looking.