Reflections from the AfPE National Conference: Guest Blog

Hello Colleagues,

Welcome back to reading educational thoughts for all, this week I invited Laura McBean to share some thoughts on our recent trip to the National PE conference. Her words are powerful and I encourage you to engage with them. After reading her post, I thought of Arielle Grays recent Twitter post:

“Having a “diverse” space means nothing if the POC in the room don’t feel empowered or comfortable in bringing or being their full authentic selves…  I’ve seen/ experienced this lots in spaces that are meant to be “inclusive.” All you have to do is look around at the POC in the room- the code switching and uncomfortable/ awkward convos are a dead giveaway… Tip: if the POC in the room are huddled together and/ or talking predominantly among themselves, chances are they don’t feel comfortable and feel pressure to perform/ exhibit certain behaviors deemed as acceptable to the other folks in the room” [see here: https://twitter.com/bonitafrobum/status/1148227232382500864]. But, what if you are the only person of colour in the room?

We want to work with national organisations and schools to make them better [equitable, equal and representative] spaces, work with us, and listen to voices from within:

Written by Shrehan Lynch – July 10, 2018

Hello!

My name is Laura McBean, I have recently completed my PGCE in secondary physical education under the guidance of Shrehan Lynch who invited me to share my views on here on our recent conference. I have never written a blog before, so I will try my best to be politically correct and all views are my own!

I just spent the last two days at the afPE national conference, which was held at St George’s Park. It cost £395. Yes, that is not a typo it was expensive! So, my first thought here, is this accessible to all? This was my first conference – I chose to attend because I thought it would be an opportunity to gain some new ideas, network with those in my new field and also because I had put forward a piece of work as a poster presentation. I was very nervous about attending and I will be honest a big part of this was due to the fact that I knew that I would be in the minority and from previous experience this can go a number of ways; fascination and curiosity like I have just come from Mars, you become the token or your just ignored. I have to say it gets easier as you get older. Before attending, I sifted through previous photos and videos and I failed to see one person of colour. I was the only black attendee – this is a problem. I would never have attended this conference by myself – this is a problem. I wasn’t made to feel uncomfortable at any point but there were many thoughts going through my head whilst I was there…

For me, this whole conference looked like whiteness in PE at its finest. I sat in one of the sessions and engaged in a discussion on my table (I probably should have looked at this person’s name badge and affiliation before making my statement). Anyway, I can’t remember how it came into the conversation, but I stated that tennis is not an activity that is accessible to many of the students where I am coming from so why are we teaching it? Wrong person to make this statement to; they listed off all the benefits of the activity and expressed that they had played this sport. Remembering where I was, I had to hold in the sigh and consciously think about my facial expressions. In my head, I was thinking privilege amongst many other things however, I politely responded with yes, I agree but, can we not teach these skills through other activities? Luckily the focus returned back to the session, a part of me thought I wish I didn’t say anything, but the conversations need to be had, you just need to be brave enough to rock the boat. There were other points throughout where what I observed was challenging what has clearly been accepted as the ‘norm’ in this environment would not be ‘tolerated’. People amaze and amuse me. There was a lot of laughter on my part – was it ignorance, fear, or that they cannot see what is right in front of them?

There was one part of the conference where I would have loved for the ground to swallow me up, during an evening ‘cultural’ dance performance. I think the most politically correct way of saying this is that what I saw came across as a mockery of culture. Who in their right mind thought this was ok? Is this what diversity looks like to you? Then I was looking around to see what everyone else was doing and the majority seemed to be having a brilliant time.

It wasn’t all bad – one keynote had me thoroughly engaged throughout; I could connect with their message, which reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.

It was interesting that the two sessions surrounding social justice topics I attended both had low number of attendees. They were both very insightful topics, but clearly not in line with the current ‘trends’ of PE as they both challenged the normative. This a problem – I keep making this statement because we all know that everything filters down from the top. This is a national conference that doesn’t seem to have inclusivity at its core I must state that I am not my intention here is not to slate this organisation, I just want to provoke thought and if you have made it this far I presume that maybe you are in some agreement. There are people out there actively trying to make physical education inclusive and accessible even if we are in the minority, these conversations need to be had – I am open to change, are you?

Thanks for reading, Laura McBean = @Mcbeanpe.

So there you have it, a call to action. In the words of one of my favourite authors, bell hooks (1996) “all our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.”

Written by Shrehan Lynch – July 10, 2018

See some pictures below from the conference:

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Rachel Sandford, Oliver Hooper and Tom Quarmby workshop on young people’s care experiences
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Networking in the evening with like-minded colleagues
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Jaz Ampaw-Farr powerful keynote

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