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Thoughts from Dr Vic Carr – How current affairs can inspire a school’s culture

You can watch the full talk with Dr Vic Carr here.

Dr Vic Carr has a very full CV to say the least. As an army reserve officer, headteacher, author, motivational speaker and mum, Vic is an inspiration to many. One only has to watch her Ted Talk, ‘The Power of Language – Everyday Heroes’, to be moved by the impact of educators on children, and be compelled to take action.

Dr Vic Carr’s Ted Talk

We were thrilled to be joined online by Dr Vic recently for a special webinar, ‘How Current Affairs Can Inspire a School’s Culture’. This blog summarises the productive session, and includes Dr Vic’s ideas and perspectives on how embedding current affairs can contribute to your school’s culture.

Teaching the news in today’s world
The talk began with the impact that digital technology, AI and social media can have on children.

Noting today’s fast-paced world, Dr Vic discussed how we can lean into and embrace new technologies, whilst maintaining children’s safety. Referencing the possibility of exploitation from algorithms and online echo chambers, Dr Vic stressed the importance of equipping our children with the ability to be discerning with content they see online, and mitigate negative impacts of digital spaces.

This context paved the way for the rest of Dr Vic’s talk, which she based on the acronym RESPECT – Resilience, Empathy, Self-awareness, Passion, Excellence, Communication, Teamwork.

Moving through each letter of RESPECT, Vic inspired educators to reinforce a positive school culture and ethos, using current affairs as a vehicle, and ultimately combat issues like misinformation and echo chambers cultivated online.


R – Resilience
The news and contemporary events can show children key human values in action.

Values exemplified in current affairs may add to the spectrum of values that children are exposed to, building on those they see at home and school.

These values may help build children’s resilience against negative influences, to see and understand others, and make sense of the world.

E – Empathy
Empathy can be an abstract concept, but Dr Vic explained that using current affairs can help you contextualise empathy for children with something happening in the world. These demonstrations can boost children’s understanding of empathy in action as you encourage them to show empathy to others.

Current affairs exploration can offer an alternative lens to children to view the world, by hearing the experiences, views and ideas of others.

S – Self-awareness
Engaging with the news creates an opportunity for children to consider and express how stories make them feel, and understand their own reactions and responses.

Dr Vic said that developing children’s self-awareness in this way can facilitate their awareness and understanding of issues like confirmation bias and unconscious bias with a child-friendly approach.

Exploring the emotions and reactions that news stories prompt for children can enable discussions around respectful emotional expression. Children can learn that their passion for something happening in the world can be healthy and measured.

P – Passion
Looking at the news helps children see themselves in the world. Some children’s access to the world may be limited if they are situated in geographical or socio-economic fringes, but the news can build on their awareness and understanding of various places and cultures and issues.

Discovering what’s happening in the wider world can help children develop passions they may never have considered before, due to their increased awareness.

Dr Vic used ocean plastic pollution as an example here. Some children may never have seen the sea, however, they may be able to access issues related to marine life via the news. Instances like these may help children learn about environmental and social issues, and develop passions beyond their lived experiences.

E – Excellence
Dr Vic explained that current affairs can shine a light on citizenship, sportsmanship, democratic behaviours and humanitarian responsibilities.

News exploration can be a helpful vehicle to encounter and explore heritage and consequences, and understand it in a global context. Current affairs can reflect modern day happenings that you can connect to people who laid the foundations or came before, to highlight this.

C – Communication
During this part of the talk, Dr Vic discussed misinformation, and how embedding contemporary news can boost children’s communication and analytical skills.

News-based sessions in school can show children the importance of critical analysis. Children can learn the risks of accepting ‘bite-sized’ news on social media, which for example, may be derived from bots and unreliable sources, or lack important context and perspectives related to the story.

T – Teamwork
Dr Vic highlighted that increased use of the internet, technology and social media can risk creating isolationism amongst children. When the news is taught explicitly, children can learn to work in a safe, group dynamic. This approach to exploring current affairs can boost children’s ability to debate, whilst remaining respectful throughout peer interactions.

Thank you so much, Dr Vic Carr, for joining us online to share your wisdom and expertise with educators. We ended the webinar feeling very inspired!

You can watch full talk with Dr Vic Carr here.

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