The Room Where it Happens

By Adrian Mclean

Do you have a go-to tune that you play to psyche yourself up? I have a few, usually with heavy baselines and punchy lyrics that I can’t play when my children are in earshot! When I need to be strategic though, I play this one from the musical, Hamilton. Here’s the closing verse:

The art of the compromise. Hold your nose and close your eyes.

We want our leaders to save the day. But we don’t get a say in what they trade away.

We dream of a brand new start. But we dream in the dark for the most part.

Dark as a tomb where it happens. I’ve got to be in the room (room where it happens)

There are many interpretations of the lyrics but for me its the idea of there being rooms where decisions get made and only select people being a part of it. When it comes to education and what our sector looks like, I want to be in all the rooms!

In September, I attended the Jubilee Centre for Character Education’s annual conference which was held at Oriel College, University of Oxford. As I walked into the conference room and looked around at prominent Character Education researchers and speakers, my inner child wanted to retreat.

You see, I was once a socially disadvantaged kid from a rough housing estate where expectations were low. Oxford University was something you sometimes saw on the news. I did not know anyone with any connections to it and the TV items certainly never showed anyone who looked like me there. Yet here I was now, sat in Oriel College at an event amongst my peers… and the only person of colour.

Oriel College

My imposter syndrome kicked in massively. “You don’t belong here… you’re not an academic… you’re gonna get found out…” I called home and described, in awe, where I was. Whilst I talked, paintings of historical white guys loomed over me. After a reminder of who I was – an experienced professional who had just completed an MA in Character Education- I fixed up.

Turns out I did get ‘found out’ and it was great. People were interested in my experiences and wanted to know my thoughts. I had some fascinating conversations, and I absolutely felt that I belonged in that room, in those discussions.

The event has had a lasting impact on how I feel about myself. I’m determined to be in more of these rooms, more often and I hope that some of you will be there with me.

Have you been in any unexpected spaces in 2021 where previously you might not have felt you belonged? Tweet me about your experiences here.

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