I was a teacher most of my working life, having the unique experience of influencing the learning and attitudes of children and young adults who spoke a wide variety of languages, were born in as many countries and followed a variety of faiths.
Whether five, fifteen or twenty five I would always teach the value of respecting each other, understanding that, although we may have differences, we all share the same humanity. When I came across prejudice I confronted it with explanation and discussion taking it further if necessary – that was rarely the case.
At primary schools I was involved in TESL and special needs, supporting young language assistants. Through this work I got to know the local communities -families who were very supportive of the schools in which we worked.
In my last years of teaching, working in further Education, the values remained the same. Even five or six years ago I was aware of dangers and undercurrents – I looked out for vulnerable young people, especially asylum seekers, who had no family backing, who might be easily influenced and counselled them as best I could, both individually in their tutor sessions and as a group.
Like many I am so shocked by recent events and how they have escalated. Are we to undo the years of hard work by dedicated professionals and community workers who worked so hard to promote empathy and neighbourliness?
As I watched the aftermath of the Finsbury Park Mosque terrorist act I felt a hopelessness that there are powers afoot trying to destabilize the values of tolerance and understanding which the majority of us in the UK have held dear for so long.