Coaching & Leadership Development
Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

  This blog comes from Vice Principal and Co Founder of Mindful Equity, Aretha Banton (@Reah_banton) I don’t want to be positioned as the angry Black girl in the corner, who when she tells her truth is isolated, unheard and ignored. But, when we have discussions about race and equality with our colleagues, this is too often the reality. So, what do we do? We stop speaking, we conform and we accept the unacceptable in the hope that one day, we will make it to a level where we can influence change. Our compromise… our pact… is silence. I recently came across this tweet: ‘Calling white educators! Check out the links below… Learn something new about BAME and education. #BlackLivesMatter’. This got me thinking. Why did my fellow educators need a tweet to call them to action? Why didn’t they speak to me when they passed me in the hallway? Why didn’t they speak to me when we had lunch in the canteen or a drink in the pub? Why didn’t they speak to me when we were planning the curriculum? Why did the tweeter assume that Black educators somehow have an innate knowledge of Black history and therefore do not need to learn more? Why are we so scared of speaking to each other about race? Bold Conversations about Race Silence is a major issue. The ability to speak openly and freely is heavily tainted with fear and judgement. In order to really move forwards we need to ensure that our schools are safe places — safe for students, safe for staff, safe for governors, safe for parents. It takes a lot...
Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

This blog comes from NLE and Headteacher of Brookside Academy, Brian Walton (@Oldprimaryhead1) I sit at my school desk reading an email from a former student… I am writing to you today, following the recent death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota on the 25th of May 2020. For the first time in my existence, I have found a confidence within me to address the distressing issues that I have felt, and am still feeling as a person of colour, due to the triggering exposure that George Floyd’s death has created within the media.   I pause… wondering where this letter will take me, immediately feeling out of my depth. Though I have had a blessed career working in diverse communities such as Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets and Easton in Central Bristol and I have been a trustee for charities such as Think Global and Young Citizens which schooled me through first hand experience in fighting for justice and advocacy… I realise I am not comfortable discussing race with people of colour. It is not something I do… ever. What I do not realise, as I begin reading these emails, is what a profound impact having this conversation would have on me. When it came to my race, I was unsure as to who I could turn to when I was upset at school. All my friends were white, all my teachers were white, all my dinner ladies were white, so as a child, I felt my racial experiences couldn’t be discussed on a...
10 Qualities of Successful School Leaders

10 Qualities of Successful School Leaders

    This blog comes from Academic Director at the University of San Diego, Joseph Lathan, PHD.   Educational leaders play a pivotal role in affecting the climate, attitude and reputation of their schools. They are the cornerstone on which learning communities function and grow. With successful school leadership, schools become effective incubators of learning, places where students are not only educated but challenged, nurtured and encouraged.   On the other hand, poor or absent school leadership can undermine the goals of an educational system. When schools lack a strong foundation and direction, learning is compromised, and students suffer. According to a Wallace Foundation study, “Leadership is second only to classroom instruction as an influence on student learning.”   But what makes a successful school leader? How do you become truly effective as a Headteacher or in a leadership position? While there is no one solution to successful school leadership, there are certain strategies, skills, traits and beliefs that many of the most effective school leaders share.   I believe the following traits are common among the most successful school leaders…   1. They Understand the Importance of Building Community   Effective school leaders build and sustain reciprocal family and community partnerships and leverage those partnerships to cultivate inclusive, caring and culturally responsive school communities. To build these community networks it is essential that school leaders are visible in their schools and community, develop trust and create a sense of transparency and shared purpose with parents, staff, community members and students.   Megan Tschannen-Moran, author and professor of educational leadership at the College of William and Mary, discusses the importance that trust plays...
Why Every Teacher should do Race Identity Work

Why Every Teacher should do Race Identity Work

This blog comes from Understood Mentor Fellow and reading specialist, Shaquala Butler.   As an educator, my main job is to advocate for my students — and to help them advocate for themselves. To do this, I have to get to know my students and see them as individuals with unique life experiences.   But first, I need to know myself. I have to understand my racial identity and confront any personal biases I may have. These biases can affect our work and hinder our students.   This year more than ever, this self-work is important as we head back to school. The current events around racial injustice and the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affect communities of colour, especially Black communities. We have to understand the challenges our students are facing. Taking a close look at ourselves is hard, but it can ultimately help our students thrive.   Examining my privilege     We must begin with self-work around our own racial identity and how it relates to our country, its systems as a whole, and privilege.   “Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” Peggy McIntosh   I begin my identity work by naming where I have privilege in the classroom. Once I name it, I think...
How to Build a Culture of Kindness in Your School

How to Build a Culture of Kindness in Your School

  This blog comes from international teacher and author of “Becoming a Successful International Teacher”, Jess Gosling (@JessGosling2).   When kindness and wellbeing are central to a school’s ethos, staff and teachers thrive. The school becomes a positive place to work, retention rates go up and a true sense of community is fostered.    In a workplace where staff feel valued and appreciated, this feeling can be experienced by all those who come to the school. In my early days as a supply teacher in the UK, I could walk around a school and tell pretty quickly the ones in which staff were happy.   There would be laughter in the staffroom, a friendly reception from the headteacher and an appreciation for my work. In a school where wellbeing was not of importance, staff tended to avoid the staffroom and were clearly stressed, which made the environment feel unwelcoming.   So, how can you go about fostering a culture of kindness and a feeling of wellbeing at your school? 1. Get to know your staff   Staff are at their best when they feel comfortable and welcome, so make sure you take the time to learn about their lives. Ask about their family, their weekend, what they’re interested in. Even just a simple “how are you?” can help teachers to feel valued.   Senior leaders can sometimes feel uncomfortable about joining in with staff social events but they are a great opportunity to talk to everyone, from the learning assistants through to the curriculum leaders. If, as a leader, you organise social events yourself, make sure they’re inclusive. Teachers with families, for...