Coaching & Leadership Development
Breaking the Cycle – How to Address Racism in Schools

Breaking the Cycle – How to Address Racism in Schools

  This blog comes from the Founder and Leader of Oasis Charitable Trust, Steve Chalke   The death of George Floyd, along with the events and debate that have filled the months since, have highlighted again the ongoing and deep-rooted structural racism, injustice and inequality that plague our society.   The toppling of effigies erected to men who grew rich through the trafficking of black human beings has delighted some and horrified others.   However, as historian David Olusoga commented, after the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was torn from its city centre plinth in Bristol and thrown into the harbour: “This was not an attack on history. This is history.”   The symbolic must become systemic   You may believe that a statue to a man who traded in human flesh being pulled from the pedestal on which a previous generation had placed it was a criminal attack.   You may believe that it was an act of liberation. In my view, it was probably both in exactly the same moment. However, what is clear is that lasting change has to be more than symbolic; it must become systemic.   Therefore, the real question, is how do we turn this moment into a movement? A movement that serves as the harbinger of genuine transformation?   Racism is the complex system of privilege and legacy, advantage and disadvantage, power and poverty. It is explicit and implicit. It is conscious and unconscious. It is the air that we breathe.   It impacts us all from birth. As Layla Saad puts it in her book Me and White Supremacy, “White supremacy is a system [we all]...
The “R Word” – What Schools must Learn about Race

The “R Word” – What Schools must Learn about Race

  This blog is from the co-founder of Teaching While White and the Associate Director for Mid-West Educational Collaborative, Elizabeth Denev.   A few years ago, I was sitting in a parent-teacher conference. A black mum sat across the table from me as we discussed her son.   By this time, I had been through a master’s program and had been asked to join a diversity committee. I considered myself a “good” white person, now “thinking” about racism (it was still an intellectual exercise for me).   I was particularly troubled by this young black boy who “was not living up to his potential.” I felt that he could do more, but he was not. I expressed my oh-so condescending concern as, “Look at all I’m doing. Why won’t your son meet me halfway?” — a sentiment I have felt and heard in schools more times than I can count.   This mum looked at me and said in a calm voice, “I think you’re being racist toward my son.”   And what did I do?   I doubled-downed. I proceeded to explain to this mum all the ways that I certainly was not racist, how much I had worked with her son, given him extra time. I had not written him off as so many other teachers had done, telling me that I shouldn’t waste my time with him.   Couldn’t she see how “good” I was? I defended myself, and my whiteness, just as I had been taught to do by centuries of white superiority and white silence on this topic.   Years later, I shudder when...
Talking about Race – 10 Steps to Progress

Talking about Race – 10 Steps to Progress

  This blog comes from teacher and the co-founder of the Anti-Racist Educator, Mélina Valdelièvre (@AntiRacistEd)     Many of us will have experienced the explosive nature of conversations about race. So much so that we become afraid of even mentioning the ‘r-words’ – ‘race,’ ‘racism’ and, the most explosive of all, ‘racist’.   Pointing out the racism behind someone’s actions often places us in precarious situations, especially if you are a person of colour. As a teacher of colour in Scotland, I have encountered numerous difficulties when speaking about race with colleagues, pupils, friends and my biracial family.   There is often a fear of offending, of being offended and many misunderstandings, making race a practically ‘taboo’ topic. And, unless we communicate clearly in this area, racial violence – be it discursive, physical or systemic – has a dangerous potential to grow even more.   There is a misconception that talking about race only makes matters worse and increases racism. However, there is a wide range of evidence suggesting that productive conversations about race can lead to:   – An expansion of critical consciousness – An increased ability to dispel stereotypes and misinformation about other groups – Less intimidation and fear of differences – Increased compassion for others – A broadening of horizons – Increased appreciation of people of all colours and cultures – Greater sense of belonging and connectedness with all groups    It was with the intention of exploring the importance of communication around race that I went on a research trip to the country with innumerable experts on race – the United States of America. On...
Race Equality: “Why we need Uncomfortable Conversations”

Race Equality: “Why we need Uncomfortable Conversations”

  “The national data in England confirms that Black Caribbean underachievement in education is real and persistent and they are consistently the lowest performing group in the country, and the difference between their educational performance and others is larger than for any other ethnic group “ (Demi and Mclean 2017)   This is a national picture that has remained unchanged for generations of children of Black Caribbean descent. Over the years there have been numerous enquiries followed by legislation and policy and yet… very little has changed.   If you were to look back on education initiatives designed to address racial inequality you might find a clue as to why our education system persistently fails to effectively challenge racial inequality in our schools.   Looking back (and I can say this with confidence, because over the past 30 years, I have been involved in various local and national race equality initiatives) you won’t find any work that specifically addresses conversations about white identity and white privilege. An unwillingness to have these conversations has meant that generations of black families have been let down by our education system. The real, the uncomfortable and yet potentially transformational conversations have not been had.   Addressing racism is not just a cognitive exercise   Addressing racism is not just a cognitive exercise. Past initiatives have treated it as such. Avoiding the uncomfortable white identity conversation. Instead there has been a heavy emphasis on analysing data, sharing the figures, delivering training and writing anti-racist policies. All important actions in themselves, but the sad truth is these actions have had minimal impact. We have to...
When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

  This blog comes from Integrity Coaching Associate Coach, Steve Russell.   Much is being talked about currently of the need to make staff wellbeing a priority as schools extend their doors to more pupils – and rightly so. COVID-19 has impacted on colleagues’ emotional and psychological health significantly.   No one person’s experience has been the same – ‘we are in the same storm, but we are in different boats’. Nonetheless, every colleague will have been impacted in some shape or form and either need and/or benefit from being supported.   To consider how best to tend to staff wellbeing, I’d like to introduce you to a model called the Cycles of Development. This offers a perspective on how the trauma of COVID might impact upon individuals from a developmental perspective.   Crucially, the suggestions that arise out of this model a) do not require you to be a psychologist or psychotherapist, yet is informed from sound psychological theory and b) can be framed as supporting post-traumatic growth, rather than a medical, and perhaps more deficit based, approach.   The central premise behind the Cycles theory is that as humans we move through distinct stages of development, each stage having its own set of developmental tasks or growing up jobs that need attending to.   Having visited each stage at specific chronological points in our childhood and adolescence, we then revisit these at various points in our adult lives. In particular, times of change, including traumatic events, trigger certain developmental needs within us that connected with these stages.   Below is an outline of some of the developmental stages, together...
I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

  Like many in recent weeks, the death of George Floyd, has left me almost daily swamped by waves of emotion.    I heard someone say the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy” and that’s just how I have been feeling. It’s as though my whole nervous system has been experiencing some kind of historical trauma.   The flagrant disregard for the life of a Black person, has surfaced many painful memories from my past and times when I had been made to feel ‘less than’ simply because of the colour of my skin.   As a young Black woman growing up in the 70’s and 80’s incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life.  When I was 15, I was told by my career’s teacher, that my aspiration of becoming a Nursery Nurse was too high and instead, I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket.   On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “Go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do.” During those times, complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option so I simply learnt to swallow the pain, some of which is undoubtedly bubbling to the surface today.   When I eventually qualified as a teacher, the weight of carrying this fear only intensified.   Throughout all of my teaching career, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of the schools that I taught at  was on the borders of a road that had been a flash point for the Brixton riots in the late 80’s....