I just did an assembly for International Day Against Homophobia. The behaviour was appalling. Pupils were laughing and joking. How can I change a culture like this?

You can’t. Not through one assembly. How much work on IDAHO did you do before hand with the classes? Not just your class, but every class in the assembly that day. Did you alert other teachers to prepare their classes? And if you’re uncertain about how it’ll play out, an assembly maybe not the kind of testing ground you need. If ignoring the word ‘gay’ in 30 strong class sends powerful messages, what will be the effect of ignoring the same pejorative use of the word in a 300 strong assembly?  And if you’re delivering that assembly, you have to be absolutely sure that a) your colleagues will be there and b) they will step in swiftly, audibly and effectively to stop that behaviour.

Assemblies are great venues to bring people into the school, people from all walks of life to tell their stories. The students begin to meet a wide variety of people from different communities and do it as a whole group, listening, understanding, actualising.

It’s always problematic to assume that because a cause is ‘just’ and the idea ‘right’ that pupils will listen without prejudice or change the habits of a lifetime in 15 mins. Drip drip is the effect we need. Chipping away here and there.

If you decide to run an assembly and talk about LGBT experience then its a good idea to prepare the students. This isn’t you asking for their permission, or having no faith in them. It’s a realistic acceptance that your pupils are not at a place where they can listen to stories of LGBT life or watch videos with real LGBT faces in without feeling: nervous, shy, embarrassed, uncomfortable, (and that’s just the LGBT students). Prep your class! If they are  team, then give them  a pep talk! e.g.

“you will see this today, you may be challeneged, you may not have considered this before, but  I know that you can be the most attentive and polite group of kids….”etc.

Sometimes we set young people up to fail because we think that just because a subject is about respect, then that alone is reason enough for them to respect it. Asking a teenager to respect something when they don’t have a clear reason, is like a red rag to a bull. Are we sending mixed messages? We so proudly tell our young citizens to be suspicious, to not believe everything they read, to have a critical mind, and to make their own decisions.

There are teachers who can pull off assemblies like that and it works But these are teachers who learners trust, respect, admire, and who have worked for years to develop a way of education that doesn’t reinforce the with us /against us binary that alienates those without sufficient knowledge and or reason, to go against us, because that is what they have known. Drip. Drip. Usualise. Chip, Chip, Usualise. Drip, Drip, Actualise. Actualise!