Would you like to be mentored? Meet mentor John Lynch
John Lynch was a head teacher in junior and primary schools in Croydon and Brighton for 25 years. Since retiring in 2013, he has worked as a consultant for Brighton and Hove on closing the gap strategies for Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) pupils in teaching.
John is a volunteer mentor on our Momentum mentoring programme and co-leads our BAME Education, BAME Nursing and Men in Primary Education mentoring programmes, alongside the Careers Service. He also delivers mentoring training to Brighton and Sussex Police and is a member of the Sussex Police Race Advisory Group.
John, who has been your best mentor and why?
My father. He constantly challenged me to see a different way forward but always left me to make my own decisions about my future.
I was deeply involved in sport as a youngster and had decided to go to PE college until my father asked me whether it was time to stop following my older brother who was about to become a PE teacher. I decided to take his advice and follow a different path.
I’m glad that he challenged me at the time and I’m pleased that he helped me to find my own way in work and in life.
Why did you decide to mentor students and what do you most enjoy about it?
I’ve had mentors throughout my career and benefited in many ways.
As a black headteacher working in Brighton, I was all too aware of there being few BAME teachers and therefore few role models for BAME pupils and teaching students.
I wanted to redress the balance and, it turns out, getting involved in the mentoring programmes has been the most directly rewarding work of my career.
I feel privileged to support mentees as they meet challenges and solve their own problems. I particularly remember a student who had a real change of career choice over the course of our discussions and I feel proud to have been involved in her decision-making.
Who or what has influenced you most?
There are some iconic figures who had a huge impact on my thinking as I grew up. These include people like the boxer Muhammad Ali and former track and field athletes and American football players Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear John Carlos talk at the University of Brighton about his life-changing demonstration when he and Tommie Smith received their medals at the 1968 Olympics when I was 12 years old. After his talk I thanked him for standing up for the rights of black people and being a positive role model for people like myself.
Will you be celebrating Black History Month (1-31 October)?
My mentoring work especially has confirmed to me that Black History should be woven into the school curriculum and studied and referenced to throughout the year.
One of the biggest challenges for BAME young people is that they do not see enough role models in schools and in the curriculum. Ask a young BAME child to name a BAME athlete or a BAME musician and their response would be immediate. Ask them to name a BAME scientist, novelist, poet or historian and the response would not be so rapid.
As they move through their education, from primary school to university, BAME children need to see role models from all backgrounds in their studies and understand the contributions made by people of influence and importance from their cultural background. So, I try to celebrate Black History all year round and see Black History Month as an added bonus of reflection and celebration.
Have you experienced discrimination and can you tell us more about how you overcame this?
I have experienced many forms of prejudice, from open racism and discrimination as I grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s to more subtle forms of bias, which I believe are on the increase in Britain today.
I am always shocked and surprised when faced with discrimination and this, together with self-belief, has helped me to overcome barriers, whether I notice them or not. My own approach is to not dwell on incidents. I prefer to look at them as problems that belong to other people.
What do you like best about working with University of Brighton students?
I enjoy the conversation and the chance to share experiences with a young person who is often in transition between study and going into the workplace. It is interesting to hear common themes in discussions with students such as study skills, prioritising their workload and social and family issues. It has also been useful for me to develop the necessary skills to help conversations flow and to understand the importance of listening, when appropriate.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Save money! I was keen to enjoy my life as a student and a young person and had no concept of saving for the future. (However, looking back I had a great time!)
Finally, if you could invite three people to dinner (past or present), who would they be?
Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Barack Obama. Imagine the conversation around the table! All three are important people in the history of BAME achievement and have many characteristics that are worth following. The one thing that they all have in common is that they were true to their beliefs.
If you would to be mentored, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are now accepting applications for the 2018-19 academic year (applications close 31st October 2018).