My name is Alise Lewis. This is my first time writing a blog, so this is a challenge for me. I have just finished my undergraduate psychology degree, waiting for my grades in the summer (hopefully a 2:1, fingers crossed). In the future I am hoping to become an educational psychologist, because I have a passion for making sure that every child is able to reach their full potential, giving back to the community and helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is of real importance to me.

As this is my final year at university I was searching for jobs in September or volunteering work. I came across Connections in Mind on Indeed and I have been an intern at Connections in Mind since March. Yesterday whilst conducting my work, Imogen asked me if I wanted to come to a conference in Essex, on Inclusion. I was slightly anxious because I did not know what to expect because I have never been to a conference before. But I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to understand more about executive functions and inclusion in schools. I woke up at 7:45, which is very early for me (bearing in mind that I am a student who loves to sleep and takes regular naps throughout the day like a baby!). I drove from my house in Chadwell Heath to Pitsea on the A12. I was unaware of the speed limit so I kept driving really slow. I thought the sun kept shining in my eyes but cars kept flashing me because I was driving so slow. After my slow driving, I arrived at the event. I met Tanya and Richard who both work as coaches at Connections in Mind.

My job today was a social media correspondent for the event, so I was live tweeting, taking photos and making notes. Being a millennial you would think that this would be an easy job for me. But I am one of the few millennials that does not use social media (yes we do exist).

The first talk was from Peter Tatchell on ‘How to Change the World’. His main points was that education plays a big part in reducing hate crime on the streets and bullying in schools. He emphasises the point that no child is born a bigot and that parents and role models around the children introduce bigotry into children.

The next talk was from Maria Tspali on ‘how to change the classroom’. She mentioned the benefits of play in the classroom, which improves literacy skills. Her main point was that teachers should incorporate the mixed approach of direction instruction (traditional approach) and discovery learning (constructivist approach) in the classroom known as inquiry learning. Surprisingly, I knew what Maria was talking about during her presentation because I took the educational psychology module at university (finally my university education taught me something useful). It was good to see the theory I learnt being put into practice.

Personally, psychology at university is very theory based, the only practical I conducted at university was a brain dissection during my second year, which I hated by the way. Therefore, coming to the conference enabled me to see how they put psychological theories of education into the classroom and education system. Connections in Mind conducted a workshop on how executive functions are important in the classroom not just for special educational needs students but for all types of students, for example those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, students with attachment disorders and even neurotypical students.

The next three speakers were inspirational speakers talking about what inspired them throughout their careers. One of the speakers called Louise Hodgson Clark was an excellent orator and really stood out to me. Louise Hodgson Clark is a PE teacher from Canvey Island from a dual heritage background. She spoke about being the only black female in her home town and how her school used to unconsciously exclude her and that teachers should be mindful of that. The reason why she stood out to me because she is a black powerful female, who had such a strong presence. Being a black female myself, it was nice to see her talk so strongly and passionately about teaching and her experience. Being an BME (black ethnic minority) in this country is quite hard. Although I have never experienced any of that hardship in my 21 years of living. But the field of psychology is predominantly white middle-class males and I am the complete opposite of that. So, who knows if I will experience unconscious bias in my future. Hopefully not because I would like to view England as being a diverse and accepting country.

Suzy Stride another speaker, who is a Labour MP also spoke about being from the East End and going to Cambridge University and working in Parliament where she stated that ‘there was no black people, working class people and normal people’, which I found quite funny at the time. But when you process what Suzy said, it is reality for some of people in society, females, BMEs, working class and many others. The last speaker was Louise Clarkson from the mental health charity ‘Mind’, she spoke about the importance of mental health in education as it improves in inclusion in schools (another thing I learnt at university). Overall, I had a really good day it was good to learn about inclusion in schools and more about what they do at Connections in Mind. Hopefully you enjoyed reading my blog, be nice it’s my first time

Alise Krystal Lewis