Coaching & Leadership Development
What does it mean to be an Anti-Racist Teacher?

What does it mean to be an Anti-Racist Teacher?

This blog comes from the principal of Mission High School in San Francisco, Pirette McKamey.   Ask black students who their favourite teacher is, and they will joyfully tell you.  Ask them what it is about their favourite teacher, and most will say some version of this: “They know how to work with me”. So much is in that statement.   It means that these students want to work, that they see their teachers as partners in the learning process, and that they know the teacher-student relationship is one in which they both have power. In other words, black students know that they bring intellect to the classroom, and they know when they are seen.   As the principal of San Francisco’s Mission High School and an anti-racist educator for more than 30 years, I have witnessed countless black students thrive in classrooms where teachers see them accurately and show that they are happy to have them there.   In these classes, students choose to sit in the front of the class, take careful notes, shoot their hands up in discussions, and ask unexpected questions that cause the teacher and other classmates to stop and think. Given the chance, they email, text, and call the teachers who believe in them. In short, these students are everything their families and community members have raised and supported them to be.   I have seen some of these very same students walk into another teacher’s classroom, go to the last row of desks, and put their head down. I have seen them sit frozen in their seat, staring at an assignment—when earlier I...
4 Ways to Tackle Racism in Schools

4 Ways to Tackle Racism in Schools

  This blog comes from education content writer at Twinkl, Kerry Griffiths.    Teachers and school leaders are in the uniquely privileged position of standing alongside their young learners as they start to navigate the world and understand the way that different human relationships work in wider society.   Unfortunately, in many countries and cultures across the world, racism is still prevalent and the effects of this discrimination upon students is grave.   However, educators are uniquely placed to affect positive change around racism with their work with pupils, and this change has a ripple effect through the rest of society.   To do this, teachers and school leaders must first acknowledge that imbalance exists – both in the classroom and in society as a whole. Now this is not easy as talking about racism in the classroom can be difficult, but discrimination must be named and acknowledged before it can be addressed.   Teachers and school leaders must also engage with these challenging discussions if our schools are able to create learning environments where Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students feel safe and all pupils are equally supported to thrive.   With this in mind, what can we do as educators to dismantle these barriers to learning and success and begin to tackle racism in our schools?   1. Recognise and Challenge Your Own Unconscious Bias   Through our lived experiences, each person develops internal biases that, when left unexamined, can become troublesome. These are often unconscious, so the person hasn’t made a decision to think this way, but unless these biases are dismantled they can lead to inadvertent unfair treatment of...
Race Equality in Schools – 4 Things Heads Must Learn

Race Equality in Schools – 4 Things Heads Must Learn

  This blog comes from former teacher, Governor, MAT Trustee and Founding Member of BameEd, Penny Rabiger   On paper, schools have had a duty to ensure that they are places which are safe, happy and equitable for all staff, children and their families.   We know that in reality, this is much harder to achieve than could have been imagined when we signed up for the job as teachers and leaders.   When it comes to race, schools may have been busy with bureaucracy around racial incidents, but it seems like recent events have made many school leaders realise how deeply entrenched structural or systemic racism is in our institutions, and the real impact this has on people of colour, their life chances, access to opportunity, wellbeing, physical and mental health.   The start towards becoming an anti-racist school leader is the understanding that racism isn’t just situated in name-calling or focused attacks on individuals, but is more likely to take place in subtle and insidious ways that are the result of our implicit, inherent, learned, or as it is most commonly known, ‘unconscious’ bias.   We know that schools are microcosms of society, and schools are charged with fixing all of society’s ills. And recently, we have realised that society is very ill indeed. In short, racism is ‘in’ all of us and it resides in almost every aspect of life.   That might sound depressing but the first step to educating oneself as a leader, is to acknowledge that we all have a problem, and to understand that we all have a responsibility to be part...
Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

  It is my belief that good school leadership has at its heart a desire for wholeness. It is a wholeness which individuals seek to see manifested through a harmonious interplay of their deepest values and beliefs, by fostering right relationships with themselves and others.   Recent events sparked by the death of George Floyd have clearly illustrated that we live in a society that is far from whole. Fault lines run through the lives of individuals and organisations, teachers and school leaders, families and their children.   We have seen how people have come together to try and repair the damage but there can be no papering over the cracks. For the dream of racial equality to be real, complete healing and transformation is needed.   A gradual dawning   I have witnessed over the past few weeks, that there has been a gradual dawning for many white school leaders of what is being asked of them. This has been a significant paradigm shift. There has been a gradual awakening of the need to review and re-shape white identity in order to accelerate the change that the black community have cried out for.   I recognise and understand that this is unfamiliar  territory and can be scary for many. Never before in the UK has the debate on race equality in our schools shifted its gaze so steadfastly onto white identity and race. For as long as I can remember, it has been the other way around. Race equality work has predominately focused on the black experience of racism and strategies for enabling the black community to overcome...
BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

  When I trained as a teacher over thirty years ago, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard and his book on “How the West-Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British School Education System.”   Ideally, it is a book that I would have wanted to be introduced to privately. As although it was not the lecturer’s intention, as the only Black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British Education system.   For the majority of the white trainee teachers Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. I come from a Black, working class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years.   Not a single person in the lecture hall shared a similar story to my own.  So when the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many Black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see.   I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. Of course I didn’t, but I spent the whole four years at Teacher Training college wanting to escape: tiring of being in the minority; tiring of being on the outside; tiring of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen Black...
Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

  This thought piece comes from executive coach, former governor and Integrity Coaching Associate, Ben Gibbs. There is an ancient Persian tale about a householder who notices a bump in a rug. Whenever he tries to smooth the rug the bump reappears again, and again, and again. Finally, in frustration, he lifts the rug and out slides an angry snake. Of course, the point is that this is how we tend to try to change things in our organisations; dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause – the snake under the surface. This is understandable, for we live in a rational age when we’re taught to believe only what we can see and to value only that which we can know. And so it goes for our professional development as leaders and managers, which trains us to view our colleagues as nothing more than rational actors, moving about on a surface in ways we might try to predict, and motivate with carrots and sticks. This perspective is so pervasive that we rarely question it. Flattening the Bump We just keep on trying to flatten the bump. But – at the risk of over-extending the metaphor – the longer we leave the snake under the rug (and the more we hit it), the more disruptive it will become. Because the fact of the matter is that humans are far more complex than this impoverished view of the workplace allows. In all our beauty, we are subject to fantasies, contradictory wishes and desires, defensive and destructive behaviours, and anxieties. Put us together in groups and organise us with process and structure...