What do I love about my job? Well, there are so many aspects to it and I’m lucky enough to still be involved in rugby. And then there’s the fascinating new path I’ve started on too: education.
The main word that comes to mind when I think of education is ‘aspiration’. Education is the key to unlocking our aspirations, being the best possible version of ourselves and true to what we believe in and long for. I believe that with my life experience and sporting profile, I have a responsibility to help young people and in 2014 I partnered with Prospero Teaching to take my message about the importance of aspiration into schools.
Like a lot of young people, I experienced my share of bullying at school. Bullying can become a vicious circle with long term, harmful effects that impede confidence and aspiration. We also know that bullying is often the product of poor self-esteem and that victimising others enables the bully to deflect their own insecurities as well as escape the fear to aspire. So Prospero Teaching and I devised the ‘Balls to Bullying’ campaign which we take into primary and secondary schools, working with kids of every demographic, tailoring workshop style and content to support the needs of different groups.
I must admit, I love working with the younger kids; their enthusiasm and imagination is inspiring, and what can I say, I’m just a big kid myself after all! But working with the older kids feels like a massive honour and responsibility as well as a huge learning opportunity. I have delivered literacy sessions to a high school in Caerphilly, run a two-hour workshop for sixth-formers in North London, talked about anti bullying in Stoke and am now making return visits to schools following up long-standing goals we set together.
What value can I add to a kid’s education? I wasn’t exactly a star pupil myself, but I think that’s where my empathy with young people comes from, especially those who struggle through maths, watching the minutes tick by before PE, drama or music (or whatever makes them feel alive) starts; who are the victims of bullying, or don’t understand or control their own need to bully others. What do those kids need to embrace their education, stand aside from bullying, find the inner-strength to empower and support each other? Aspiration. The aspiration to be the best versions of themselves they can be.
To find out more about how Prospero Teaching and I work together in schools please visit http://www.prosperoteaching.com/balls-to-bullying/ and to see what can be achieved with these visits you could visit http://www.prosperoteaching.com/2015-04-29/prospero-teachings-gareth-thomas-visits-fortismere/ to see what happened with the pupils of Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, north London.
Prospero Teaching’s Aspirational and Anti-Bullying Ambassador
Rugby legend Gareth Thomas played at club & international level for 17 years & is currently ranked 12th among international try scorers. He took the step of becoming the first professional player to openly come out as gay & retired from professional rugby in 2011.
Prospero Teaching in partnership with Gareth go into schools where Gareth delivers a range of workshops to primary & secondary students. Each has specific learning objectives & are all borne out of Gareth’s own life experiences as well as his & Prospero’s passion for creating the happy healthy adults of tomorrow.
The workshops, developed by our in house teachers in collaboration with Gareth, encourage students to think about the kind of people they want to be & how rounded, responsible & conscientious individuals can define, set & achieve their own goals. The sessions focus on
– Raising aspirations
– Equality, diversity & engendering positive attitudes to LGBT
– Anti-bullying (also known as our Balls To Bullying campaign)