A multicultural classroom
An upper secondary class in London has been told by their teacher to bring to class bits and pieces that tell something about Britain in the last 150 years, and to tell the the class about the things they bring.
Here are some of the items her students came along with:
Jennie brought her grandmother, who told the class about her childhood in a
working-class street. “They knocked the street down to build new blocks of flats, and in a jiffy destroyed the whole local community,” she said. “Still, I’ve had a good life all in all. Did you know that in 1901 under 5 per cent of the UK population were over 65 years old? Today over 15 per cent are, and the figure will soon be 20 per cent?”
Raymond brought along a school photograph from his grandad’s days. All boys, and all white! “Not like us,” said Raymond.
Lucinda brought the suitcase her father had when he arrived in England from Trinidad in 1965. “Dad was only six then, and he had all his clothes in this little suitcase!”
Samantha brought her grandfather’s army kit from the Second World War, and some diaries he’d written from France after D-Day. She also brought some stamps from 1880.
Benjamin brought along eight Beatles LPs. “I need a record-player and three hours,” he said.
Leena brought along a photograph of a street in Southall as it was when her grandparents arrived from India in 1955, and another photograph of the same street in 2005.
Wendy brought a Scottish flag and the text of the Act of Parliament giving Scotland its own parliament. “Aha,” thought Ms Nethercott, “a Scottish nationalist in the class!”
Jim brought his grandfather’s exercise books from school. “He left school when he was 14, and went to work in the aircraft factory.” He also had a cassette on which his grandfather talked about the “old days”.
Gohar brought a newspaper from 1994. “This was the first newspaper we bought here after we arrived from Iran,” she said. “We’ve kept it as a souvenir.”
Michael had some boys’ books that his grandpa said he’d read as a lad. Most of them were set in tropical countries with English boys as heroes! He said his grandpa could come later to tell them about his army service in India. “He arrested Gandhi once!”
And so on. It was fun. There were lots of questions and answers, and Benjamin fortunately agreed to have only twenty minutes! The final video was shown at a social evening, with grandparents and parents invited. A great time was enjoyed by all. But soon the really hard work started – after the fun. (Ms Nethercott wasn’t a teacher for nothing!) “Now, everyone,” she said, ”I want you to think hard about what we’ve seen and heard. What are the really big changes in our society? What is the same as it was a hundred and fifty years ago? And what is different?”
Focus on the text
Answer these questions:
a) What does Benjamin’s main interest seem to be?
b) What does the photograph Raymond brought tell you about changes in London?
c) What do you know about Lucinda’s background?
d) What conclusions about living standards, medicine and food can you perhaps draw from what Jennie’s grandmother said?
e) What can we guess about Wendy?
f) Which of the pupils brought the oldest thing to school? What was it?
g) Do Leena and Lucinda have anything in common? If so, what?
h) Have any other of the pupils a background that is in any way similar to Leena’s or to Lucinda’s?
h) Which of the pupils brought anything connected with schooldays in the past? What was it?
i) Which of them brought information about military activities?
A multicultural classroom