Coaching & Leadership Development
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...
Racial Literacy: What does it mean?

Racial Literacy: What does it mean?

This blog comes from educator at The Black Curriculum and Head of Equality, Inclusion and Culture at the British Medical Association, Aishnine Benjamin (@aishnine). What is your first memory of racial difference? Mine is when I was 5 years old. My family had recently moved to Brighton from a small town in Surrey, and I was the only black child in my school. Some of the other children called me names (like ‘poo face’). I cried a lot. I was very sensitive. What is your first memory of racial difference? The diversity of responses always fascinates me. I am amazed at how different people’s experiences of ‘race’ are. It ranges from white people who went to multi-cultural schools. Who, are very racially aware and confident in the language they use and their knowledge of cultural difference. To white people, who didn’t encounter racial difference until they interacted with people from different cultures in university or their first city-based jobs. To black Africans, who also didn’t experience the concept of ‘race’ until they moved to the UK and were othered for the first time, no longer in a black majority. What Is Race?   Literacy is defined as knowledge or skills in a specific area. The legal definition of race as defined by the Equality Act 2010, can mean your colour or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins, which may not be the same as your current nationality. That sounds simple, but it’s not really. Firstly, because all these things are not the same. Nationality is completely different to ethnic origin, and colour is...
“I’m Tired of Wearing a Mask” – The Impact of COVID on Headteachers

“I’m Tired of Wearing a Mask” – The Impact of COVID on Headteachers

  This blog comes from our associate coach, organisational expert and former school governor, Ben Gibbs.   “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile” Paul Laurence Dunbar – From ‘We Wear The Mask’   It’s fair to say that we have all experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently.   Depending on our context, our background, our character, and on the set of demands we found ourselves facing as school leaders, we each carry a different set of memories and lessons for our own practice from the last year.   In my work just over the last month, I’ve spoken to a school leader who had 20 children and 2 staff test positive on the Sunday after the June half term, another who was reeling from the COVID-related death of a parent with 4 children at her school, and another whose school has had less than a handful of cases since the pandemic began.   As I reflect back even further on the conversations I’ve had with school leaders throughout the last 12 months, there has been a common theme that has stood out for me.  It has been the theme of masks and how Heads have had to wear different ones at different times over the course of the pandemic.   By masks, I’m not talking about the protective PPE masks with which we’re all now familiar, but the metaphorical sort that leaders use to cover-up or repress their own fears when faced with anxiety and uncertainty.   Over...
3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

I recently wrote an article for the TES to mark the 12 month anniversary of the death of George Floyd. If you’d read my original article on the TES website, please click here   After George Floyd was murdered on 25 May 2020, a colleague said to me that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. I felt the same. Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed myriad manifestations of racism and a plethora of race equality and social justice initiatives.   Yet, despite the good intentions behind these, the single narrative of colonialism and empire still dominated our classrooms, along with deficit models for addressing the underachievement of pupils from racially marginalised groups. But over the past 12 months, I have felt a growing sense of hope.   I’ve seen that when attempts were made to silence those talking about the institutionalised racism here in the UK, people refused to acquiesce. Collective voices for social justice, equality and equity have continued to speak truth to power.   And I am hopeful because, after 30-plus years in education, things feel different. Schools that I have engaged with as part of our Race, Identity and School Leadership Programme are now recognising that new race equality narratives cannot be written overnight.   They are recognising that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong commitment, one that has as much to do with decolonising their own minds as it has to do with decolonising the curriculum.   The legacy of George Floyd: the need to tackle racism in schools   This gives me hope for the future. At long last, teachers and school leaders are beginning to see that, within...