by Tomislav Marić, Assistant Headteacher, Bentley Wood High School
Since I have stopped teaching A level anthropology in 2018 (and this was not because of my doing but rather as short-sightedness of conservative policies in the UK) I have been having withdrawal symptoms. I do teach Sociology and Psychology at A levels in my school, however this is not the same experience as teaching A level Anthropology. I teach at a large comprehensive girls’ school in Northwest London. This school like many inner-city schools is a perfect blend and reflection of multiculturalism. There are 37 different languages spoken in my school and students come from many different parts of the world. It is a perfect place where anthropology thrived as a subject as we could learn about all familiar and strange cultural practices that we share. Making strange familiar and familiar strange was the main teaching and learning tool.
I was lucky that our headteacher was open minded and supportive of me introducing anthropology at A level as soon as I joined the school. And until the end of its natural existence late summer 2018, I loved teaching my classes (by the way, numbers of students have been increasing each year) and students loved learning about different topics in anthropology. For the first time in history of this school we had each year two or three students wanting to continue to study anthropology at university. Anthropology became an everyday language in my school and we as a teaching school have shared our expertise and collaborations with other schools across England. More and more students wanted to study anthropology at A levels. My anthropology students went to some amazing visits around the country and we had anthropologists from around the country and abroad coming to visit us and talk about their fieldwork. Life was beautiful and I LOVED teaching my favourite subject that I studied at university.
Then suddenly I felt the shock of stopping and no more teaching A level anthropology in England. It was like a sudden removal of a favourite addiction. This is why I have withdrawal symptoms. It took me few years and to be honest and I am still recovering from not being able to teach anthropology in my school. To overcome these withdrawal symptoms, I have worked on a second edition of my book “Introducing Anthropology. What Makes Us Human?”. Then I was invited to give a few lectures across Europe about teaching anthropology at pre-university level. Still this was not the same, so most recently during the lockdown I decided to start an anthropology club with Year 8 students. Year 8 students are 12 years old and they are at the beginning of their GCSE life. We started meeting on Teams once a week and talking about issues such as racism, gender, kinship, evolution and marriage so far. Now students are back and I see my Year 8 Anthropology club face to face once a week. I am always excited and can’t wait to meet up with them to talk about different topics in anthropology. This week they presented their kinship family tree. It was an exciting opportunity for them to talk about their identities and using anthropological key terms and concepts. I have an amazing group of 15 students in this anthropology club and they love coming to our sessions. We record tiktok performances on hunters and gatherers, talk about food from our countries, talk about kinship, arranged marriages, racism, women rights and anything that they can relate to in their lives at this moment. Running this anthropology club helps me overcome those withdrawal symptoms of not teaching anthropology at pre-university level.