Racial Efficacy

Put yourself back in the shoes of your younger self it’s your first day at school you are full of energy and excitement. The next few years of your life will influence so profoundly that it will make you part the society that you will ultimately go in.

First, let’s talk about cognitive biases; these biases are held by people when processing information. Let us start with the anchoring bias. If I were to offer to sell you a board marker for £10 today, tomorrow I attempt to sell you the same product for £15. You would think that I am ripping you off. If I offer you the same board marker at £20 today, and then tomorrow I offer it to you for £15. You would think that you were receiving an enhanced price.

The only difference here is the order in which you hear the information. The price you received has not changed. Hence you anchor yourself depending on the first bit of information.

Recently I watched Darren Chetty’s talk (here). He skillfully deconstructs the impact of children’s literature on pupils of colour. Interestingly Darren points out that adults always buy children’s literature; adults, therefore, control the whole of this experience.

He talks candidly about the Secret Garden and the impact this has on pupils descended from colonised nations. Darren’s work got me thinking about my own experience in my formative years and thus the formative years of children of colour. 

In England, 32% of children ascribe to the BAME label, and when we look at their representation in children’s literature, protagonists of colour only appear 1% of the time.

Adults in power have a lasting effect on these young individuals. When we tell children, they cannot be characters in their stories; this instils an anchored state many adults will have to battle to overcome.

After those thoughts, my brain flittered to ideas around efficacy, Pygmalion and their intersections, bear with me on this as I write out my musings. This work initially came from Albert Bandura and his model. Self-Efficacy is a measure of well you believe you can do your job well. This belief has an impact on your productivity and ultimately, how successful you are. More here.

The Pygmalion/Rosenthal effect is the impact of expectations; higher expectations mean higher outcomes. I believe these two concepts are intrinsically linked. Expectations feed into one’s self-efficacy; these expectations tempt people into thinking they can do their job better. Similarly believing in yourself to complete a task well raises the expectations of those around us. 

Factors which impact on self-efficacy,

1.    Mastery Experience – Direct experience of mastery is the most effective way of increasing self-efficacy.

2.    Vicarious Experience – This source of self-efficacy comes from observing others succeeding.

3.    Verbal Persuasion – When influential people (people in power) in our lives can strengthen our belief.

4.     Emotional & Physiological States – The emotional state will always impact on how you judge how well you can do your job. For example, stress personally signals poor performance and leadership; the converse is also true.

5.    Imaginal Experiences – Visualising yourself doing your job well impacts on how well you believe you (James Maddux).

 We extend self-efficacy and apply it to groups, teams and even professions. Why not racial efficacy, ethnic efficacy or any other group. A measure of how well you believe your racial group can be successful?

1.  Mastery Experience –

 Let us start with teachers of colour, are they given the same opportunities to gain experiences. 

I hear all the phrase ‘wouldn’t fit in with the team’ all the time when discussing interviews; this is an example of (group-think) bias, this is discrimination, and probably illegal.

Now are pupils of colour given equal and equitable opportunities? 

I recently discussed in that in a London school (55% BAME) that the head boy and head girl are almost always exclusive racialised as white and middle class. Yes, they may be the most eloquent pupils, and I am not suggesting we denigrate them for that. I am, however asking what are we doing to ensure all pupils are ‘that’ eloquent?

2.    Vicarious experience –

Can we be what we can’t see? We have to start with what teachers and pupils see. BAME educators make up around 13% of the workforce and less than 3% of headteachers. Who do BAME educators envisage themselves being?

Pupils may see other pupils of colour succeed, and they may become role models in their eyes. In their teachers, the adults they look up to, the people they reach for validation. Do pupils of colour need to see themselves in their teachers? 

“Black primary-school students matched to a same-race teacher perform better on standardised tests and face more favourable teacher perceptions, yet little is known about the long-run, sustained impacts of student-teacher demographic match. We show that assigning a black male to a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grades significantly reduces the probability that he drops out of high school, particularly among the most economically disadvantaged black males. 

Exposure to at least one black teacher in grades 3-5 also increases the likelihood that persistently low-income students of both sexes aspire to attend a four-year college.”

Gershenson et al 2017

3.    Verbal persuasion –

Are teachers all nurtured in the same way? Are teachers of colour offered equal opportunities? Do headteachers measure leadership capacity by just knowing?

‘a significant gap of perception & awareness. 43% of #BAME teachers in Glasgow felt overlooked for promotion due to their ethnicity, yet HTs don’t recognise this’

 from @MorayHouseHoS

Do we encourage all pupils? With pupils of colour do we treat them the same? Burgess 2009 suggests not. Systemically we (teachers) under assess pupils of colour. Let that resonate, here is my blog on the topic. I’ll remind you about the Rosenthal effect from earlier. In the same study, Burgess states the Golem effect (the converse of the Pygmalion effect) is more pronounced in school where low diversity exists. 

4.    Emotional states

People (teachers and pupils) of colour as a whole have the extra stresses of society to contend with, do these bleed into our racial efficacy? Absolutely.

I’d also say that people of colour more likely labelled with SEMH issues (Golem effect again) :

A black person is ‘four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act’ and black boys.

Carribean and Pakistani pupils are 1.5 times more likely to be identified as having moderate learning difficulties. Caribbean pupils twice as likely to be identified with SEMH need when compared to white pupils.

With Professor Steven Strand stating

“Is it that these young people from this ethnic groups are more confrontational with their teachers because of gang culture or is it a perception of their behaviour?”

5.    Imaginal experiences

Earlier I referenced Darren’s talk on children’s literature, in it he talks of his black pupils stating that characters have to be white. If we are training our pupils (explicitly and implicitly) that they can’t imagine themselves or people who look them in stories. The impact is obvious in both adult and children alike.

 

Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. The exercise of control. New York:

W.H.Freeman and Company.Emory University, Division of Educational Studies, Information on Self-Efficacy: A Community of Scholars.

http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/self-efficacy.html

Maddux, J.E. (2005). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In C.R

 Snyder & S.J. Lopez, (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 227-287). New York: Oxford University Press.

https://twitter.com/robin_macp/status/1172103112884129793?s=20

 http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Executive-Summary_2018-12-20.pdf

Gershenson et al, 2017. The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers. https://www.iza.org/publications/dp/10630

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Where Do I Belong?

I sit here, on my way back from Cyprus to England feeling a little sad, somewhat excited (I’m going to see my children – it has been a long week in that sense) and slightly comforted. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a great flier, mainly because of the truly horrendous journeys (almost always exclusively to Cyprus) we had as a family when my sister and I were kids. My comfort, however, comes from the words I hear in my headphones. Akala talking about his “Scottishness” and the pull he feels of his Jamaican culture but at times not really fitting in anywhere. Too dark for England to light for Jamaica. Why does this comfort me? I’ll explain all but before I do let me tell you why I feel sad.

I’m leaving my Cypriot family on a small portion of that tiny island behind me. I never know if it’s the last time I’ll ever see my late father’s mum, Yasemin Nene (pronounced neh – neh it means grandmother). She is 88, so they tell me but I promise you no one really knows their age in North Cyprus (pronounced Kibris). She is weak in body but strong of mind. She almost has an ethereal quality a 6th, 7th and 8th sense when it comes to understanding how people feel and why they feel. She has an uncanny way of making you feel better – she makes my life better in a way that is unparalleled. Although my father has 3 brothers and 3 sisters and a multitude of cousins aunts and uncles, my Yasemin Nene is my final real link to my dad. She tells me stories about him and his youth that make my jaw drop. Seriously. It’s genuinely impossible for a human to feel the way I already do about my dad but my grandmother tells me things that make the pride I have in my heart overflow through my eyes. To make me gasp for breath.

When he was young, my father loved school. “His head was always in a book” my Nene tells me. Even during his summer job when working at the department of water, during his teens, he would sit under the olive trees for shade and read. He used to tell me this with his eyes closed and head tilted up, as though he was back there looking through the shade of the leaves at the sunlight flickering between them. He was a truly intelligent man, he was perceptive, worldly. He was the only child out of the 7 brothers and sisters to go to university which back during the early 70’s in North Cyprus was a massive deal. Unfortunately that was short-lived though.

My dad was a Socialist, a Communist, a “Lefty”. He believed in the ideal of power to the people and that all should be equal. He believed in his convictions to the point that he was involved in the Right/Left clashes in Turkey (where he was a university student), he attended marches and was part of mass rallies which would invariably end in bloodshed and death. To believe in a political ideal enough that you would die for it-Wow, I mean would you fight, I mean physically fight for the ideals set forward by the labour or conservative parties? My father was made aware by those higher up in his political movement that a manuscript from the opposition party had been intercepted and it had a list of people they wanted to be dispensed of i.e assassinated. My dad’s name was on the list. Needless to say, he fled Turkey and he ended up traveling to England to work with my uncle who had just set up a business (yes another take away!). The idea was that he would go to one of the universities here then go back to be a teacher in Kıbrıs. He never did, he never became a teacher. I’m truly gutted that he never had the chance of seeing me become a head teacher – I know he would have been proud!

My comfort from listening to Akala’s words comes from a feeling of not being alone. It’s interesting – I mean how many countless people in the last 70 years or so have felt the strangeness of not knowing where they fit, where they belong? They suffered in silence and solitude. Look I’m 40 and it’s taken me 28 years to articulate my feelings because I hear someone else, in a similar position, explain how it was for them growing up.

In Cyprus growing up I was know as the English boy. In England I was known as the ‘Fat Turk’. I am from both. I was born in Leicester (England) but my blood and culture belongs to Cyprus (both my parents were from there) yet both treated me in a less than welcoming way. This I feel can be someway explained by the colonial ruler and ruled mentality. I remember my dad talking to a customer in the shop. He was an older gentleman and seemed nice enough. It was only when he told my dad that he had served in the British army, in Cyprus no less, that the mantra “the customer is always right” was thrown out of the shop like an unwanted drunkard. My dad proceeded to tell the veteran that if the British hadn’t meddled with the country everything would have been better for the island. The man did not get it, to him “you people” wouldn’t have been able to settle your differences if it wasn’t for us. Did they feel the same about Ireland (northern and southern) and India/Pakistan. Cyprus had for centuries had Greek and Turkish Cypriots living side by side. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t without issue. There was some tension in parts of the country. But on the whole. we lived together. My grandparents and some of my older uncles and aunts can speak Turkish and Greek (fluently) and enough English to easily get by. The food we eat is almost identical and the names of the food we eat are so similar that they might as well be called the same thing. Our way of life, mannerisms, loud (shouty) conversational style and physical appearance are so similar that to the untrained eye they would be indistinguishable. But division, through hook or by crook, was imposed by the British on the island. The effects of which have had a detrimental (mainly financial) effect on the Northern Turkish side of Cyprus.*

My lack of belonging because of my ethnicity was further highlighted at my secondary school. At the age of 13, I remember walking into the canteen (my favourite place as you can imagine) and it was the first time I actually analysed the room. It unsettled me. It changed me and my self perception immediately. I hadn’t realised just how segregated the pupils were. Cliques and groups of people created by the children themselves. But it was visible. White British kids together in a group, black (mainly Caribbean) kids together, Indian children together but separated from the small Pakistani contingent. Damn it! Where do I sit? Seriously it was a real concern. Prior to thi,s I’d sit anywhere with anyone. I still do. But that sense of belonging wasn’t there. I was on my own. The binary of black and white doesn’t help explain this. Because I don’t see myself as either. They saw me as neither. I ended up sitting on my own that day.

For me, now as a headteacher, the hall where children eat is an important place. I don’t allow my children to be segregated in any way; girls and boys sit together, those that have packed lunch and those that have a school dinner sit side by side, and I encourage white children to sit next to the growing number of children of colour and/or different ethnic backgrounds. I am the model for this. I sit with the children and I continually talk to them about their lives, their beliefs their understanding of the world. It’s the best time to connect. Barriers down. I talk to them at length about belonging. It’s one of our four binding words that runs through the School and is part of everything we do (Belong, Care, Persevere, Succeed).

Bring your colour, your culture, your ethnicity to my school they are always welcome, they belong to us all and they will always have a place at my table in our canteen.

Further Reading

*Below is a link to the Economic and social research council “British divide and rule policies pitted Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities against each other, says study” which explains the impact of British divide and rule on Cyprus further.

https://esrc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/news/news-items/british-divide-and-rule-policies-pitted-turkish-and-greek-cypriot-communities-against-each-other-says-study/

 

The ‘Fat Turkish’ Boy’s Journey To Headship

Written by @HalilMrT1–  Halil Tamgumus

A wise man recently told me to write this blog, so I have, my first attempt at doing so (so please be gentle).

I am currently listening to an audiobook (another first). It’s called “Natives – Race and class in the ruins of Empire by Akala. I haven’t finished listening to it all yet but by chapter 5 I was crying. This, the same wise man as before assures me, is grief.  I am grieving. He is right I am.

When I first joined Twitter in June 2018, I came a little late to this particular social networking party, I felt then as I did when I first started secondary school. Lost, a little confused and not able to find my place. I was the only Turkish Cypriot child in a school that, still to this day, sits in a predominantly white working-class area of Leicester. I felt different. Not because I was because we are all unique right? But because I was made to feel different – by my peers and for the most part the teachers.

Ironically – one of my first “proper” tweets was me asking if there were any other Turkish headteachers out there. I mean seriously, I cringe as I type this. It seems a bit desperate doesn’t it?…but I was reaching out for a connection – someone like me. No joy as of yet.

Luckily, as fate would have it, I found Pran Patel,  my lahmacun loving brother from another mother.

As a 12-year-old boy growing up in Leicester, my family would tick every stereotype there was for Turkish/Greek/Cypriot people. My dad owned a kebab shop (tick), a massive extended family (tick) and an obsession with food which borders the ridiculous (tick).

As you can imagine a young lad … from a food-obsessed family, living above and working in a kebab shop (some of my fondest memories as a child were of my dad and I prepping salad together for the busy night ahead in the shop – the place where he talked to me about life and what it was like for him as a youngster) it was inevitable that I would end up a little bit larger than the average child of 12 years old. By the age of 18, I was tipping the scales at… Ahem, 21 stones… ahem.

And so I was known by the school bullies, “friends” and adults in the staff room I’m sure of it, as the fat Turkish boy.

It’s on this phrase that I need to dwell on. Just for a little while. Although it was part accurate, what purpose did the label serve? I mean yeah, ok, I was overweight, actually, I would have been classed as morbidly obese in today’s currency.

But what has my ethnicity got to do with anything. Why didn’t it end at just being called the fat boy?

Why the Turkish part? The fat Turk?

Actually, I’m Turkish Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots will adamantly tell you they are not Türkiyeli i.e from Turkey. The reasons for this are deep-rooted and needs a blog on its own to be explained.

My opinion (and that’s all it is), for those that called me that phrase must have felt a sense of power over me when they said it. By degrading my heritage, my background, my culture and by proxy my self worth they would imply that their self worth, being and belonging was more important than mine.

But listening to Akala say the following words it all becomes a little clearer “I am because you are not” I am better than you, more important than you because you are not important.

He goes on to state that, in a strange way, people who are put down by racism should feel quite flattered. And by looking back I do. I mean if I was so insignificant and so unimportant why spend so much time on me and other children from different ethnic backgrounds and with a different colour of skin to their own?

Wow. If I had this in my locker as a kid…wow. I would have been stronger for it. But I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

I knew from an early age I had a different wit to my peers. An acid tongue, a sharp brain (although age has worn that away a bit) and a decent sense of humour. It’s the humour that got me through relatively unscathed physically during my secondary school years.

I only got into one notable fight in which Richard, a local black boy (if I remember correctly both his parents were from Jamaica) 3 years my senior, “backed me up” because “we have to stick together” as he put it. I’ll never forget that moment. He knew. He got it. He saved me actually because I was in no way equipped to win the fight. But I would have held on to the chain my grandmother gave me with my life. I would have died for it. It had a small pendant with the Turkish Cypriot flag. Exactly like the flag on my father’s headstone. The tears roll down my face as I write this – the connection is real.

My father needs his own blog. A socialist, a protestor, he believed in power to the people and education for all. He was the kindest man I have ever known. If you needed to borrow money from him and he didn’t have it he’d take a loan out so that he could give it to you! An angel and that’s not me being biased. When word got out that my dad was seriously Ill customers that used to go to his shop would knock on his door to see him. They would come to the ward, where he would stay whilst the doctors did tests on him, and bring him cards, flowers and chocolates. My hero.

I used humour in a way that I have seen other Poc and people of other ethnicities use. I used it until recently, to defuse awkward situations. Or to laugh at me about myself before others had a chance to. Take the wind out of their sails. I mean I grew up hating my name. Halil Tamgumus. I mean what a mouthful (ironic it was too many mouthfuls that helped me to my not so fighting heavyweight!).

Translated from Turkish, Halil means good friend and Tamgumus means pure silver. Growing up I’d have to listen to some of the strangest pronunciations of my name. Register …oh my days just the thought of it make my toes curl. Habeel…no sir it’s Halil…Hamil …no sir it’s Halil (can’t he read? – phonetics not his strongest suit?) Hakeel. Seriously, I’d think to myself, we haven’t even got to my second name yet, please God, if there was ever a time for the ground to open up now was that time.

I remember going to the doctor’s to pick up my dad’s prescription when I was younger. He had high blood pressure which partly came from him being the proprietor of a business and mainly due to my mother*. At the age of 13, I stood at the reception and the receptionist tried to pronounce my name. She got it spectacularly wrong – Halul tomangmouse – I mean really – so instead of correcting her. I said ” I’m sorry about my name, I completely blame my parents (insert eye roll here) there not from here” she laughed. Where I got those words from and why I decided to put them in that order I cannot tell you. All I know it was a lot less awkward than having my name, which I detested anyway, pronounced incorrectly.

Now. I’m proud of my name. And so are my two beautiful children it’s a strong name. And it is powerful. It comes from a beautiful group of people from a beautiful country. It withstood the test of a war and the subsequent crown colonisation under Britain (where divide and rule was the order of the day). It was passed on to me and my sister and now it belongs to my children. My father’s unbreakable desire to do good will live on through our actions. I hope he’s proud. I hope he knows.

My name is Halil Tamgumus and that is what I shall be called.

*I could tell you things about my mother but you wouldn’t believe me. That’s one part of my life that could be turned into a film. One of those “you couldn’t make it up” things.

Not All Men #NAMALT

I will write this piece from my positions as a cis, hetero, male, able-bodied, et cetera. I will be discussing from my own experiences as a man of colour and as a person attempting to be a fem-ally (feminist), LGBT ally, disability ally, et cetera.

#Notallmen, #notallwhitepeople, #notallcishetpeople, etc.

I have seen various threads, and those who are privileged, ironically responding to tweets.

I have had various conversations around these generalisations.

Typical responses include: Not all men are like this. Not all men are acting in a way that oppresses women. These responses stem from the personal premise that ‘I have tried hard to make a change’.

I would postulate that these stem from a position of frustration and a fear of change. When we harbour such feelings, fragility often follows, but more on this later.

Let’s take this from the start; you have a woman describing her position and oppression in society. A man then questions the validity with an ‘all men’ statement.

Now the conversation has moved from the oppressed group to being centred the around the feelings of the privileged. We move from the woman’s voice to the man’s feelings. Removing the emphasis is a form of fogging. The act fogs, it takes away from the voices of women, anything which takes away from their narrative of resistance furthers the original oppression.

In my own experience, the phrase ‘not all white people’; adds to the problem, in the case of white supremacy, this act is certainly not anti-racist.

But Pran, it isn’t all men or all white people.

When people talk about their oppression, we may use broad strokes, when white people, when non-disabled people, when cis people, etc. It is necessary.

I would ask anybody who challenges these generalisations to look within themselves and the broad strokes they also use daily.

Examples

Boys will be boys.
Manchester United was crap last night.
England needs to be better.
Society is terrible.
No one cares.
(All) people need to be kinder.
Etc.

None of the above elicits similar responses; these responses do not challenge they reinforce the status quo. We have been taught to accept these as the norm. They maintain the structures that society has built.

What follows I say as a man who has and continues to benefit from those structures. Fragility manifests when we are scared of losing that power, and a fear that we have not earned our achievements through our hard work.

As a person of colour, I have faced overt/passive discrimination in the workplace, overcome this I to worked extremely hard. Even with this hard work, part the reason I became a senior leader was dependent on the fact I was born a cis man.

When a woman says all men, the statement is saying is be better as a gender, go forth and educate those of us in privilege systemically (including ourselves). Similarly, when a POC states all white people or discusses white supremacy, it is isn’t you. It is our collective duty to put away those feelings of fear. To overcome the fear and fragility for the greater good, by first keeping our mouth shut and second being better.

When a woman speaks about her oppression, our response should either be one of solidarity of one of silence. The most important thing to do here is to listen.

‘I Don’t See Colour’

This is one of the worst statements inflicted on people of colour. Yes, well-meaning people may say this with the best intentions; The road to hell is also paved with good intentions.

Colour blindness (apologies about the ableist language, I’m highlighting the use of it in common language) is damaging. It supports white supremacy, yes this puts you on the racist end of the spectrum.

Colour blindness (apologies about the ableist language, i'm using the common language) is damaging. It supports white supremacy, yes this puts you on the racist end of the spectrum. Click To Tweet

In a lot of ways race is not self-ascribed. I may declare that I am part of the global majority. However, no matter whichever box I choose means very little when labels and prejudice are placed upon sight.

To state that you don’t see colour is incorrect. I’m talking neurologically (reference).

Let’s postulate we live in a fantasy world where you are the bias-free mythical beast. The next step is to recognise that even if you do not see colour, the rest of the population does.

The statement implies that as long as you don’t see colour, the world is excellent. Hurray, we have solved racism, oppression is has been slain, let me get your medal, actually let me get your O.B.E (sigh).

let me reiterate ‘As long as individual people don’t see colour, racism doesn’t exist’.

This statement not only denies the lived-in experience of people of colour but even more dangerously it denies the power structures we live under.

Come with me on a journey into Narnia.

Pran Patel hates white people. All white people, I will not hire/promote, ignore the views of white people, etc. I will engage in prejudice towards people without colour in all aspects.

What happens next…

Really, what happens next?

Yes, some abhorrent discrimination and some white people are disadvantaged on the day they interact with me. The next day life returns to normal; they go to another establishment and the resume in their position of power.

Nothing has changed. Systemically nothing changed.

As my single fictional act of hate made no impact on the lives of white people.

What impact do you think that the declaration that people don’t see colour has?

Pupils of colour are still disadvantaged by their teachers. If you are a teacher, you are biased, accept that, there is not a teacher in the land who would state that they treat their pupils differently. It still happens (reference bias and underachievement).

The only thing the declaration does is fog the oppression. I’m okay, so the world is okay, and thus implying that racial discrimination doesn’t exist. We have to be better.

Recently, I wrote on being ‘not racist‘, not racist does not exist; there are two sides of the coin racist or anti-racist. If you want to be in the latter, you have work to do. Simple damaging declarations do nothing but force you into the former.

Decolonise the Curriculum International Schools

This piece is a guest blog from @Pak_Liam. An experienced International School Headteacher.

Schools for the future

“Listen, we are not growing to move all this forward with tokenism, we really have to grasp the thing and move forward in a spectacular way!” (Heppel, 2011) 

Schools are already adapting, such as many of the plethora of Charter schools in the US, and many IB schools in the international circuit.  The International Baccalaureate has based much of its Middle Years Programme, for students aged 11-16, on the work of several researchers, such as Wiggins & McTighe and Lyn Erickson  (International Baccalaureate, 2014) and in the next five years, many more schools will move towards this type of learning.  The big key to the work of these researchers is based around curriculum, how we teach, what we teach and how we assess. 

Concept-based Curriculum

“Understanding by Design, not by good fortune, not be dumb luck, not by virtue of just having a few smart articulate kids, but by design” (Wiggins, 2012).  Schools need to move away from their old ideas of a curriculum being based around a series of topics or content heavy curriculum. Wiggins & McTighe make the case that just covering content does not indicate mastery or allow students the skills they need to do anything with that random knowledge.  A curriculum needs to be purposely designed, starting from the mission statement of the school outlining what we what to achieve, what we expect the students will be able to do, once they complete their schooling.  

In the next five years, schools will have begun the important task of deconstructing the curriculum and rewriting the curriculum in a series of final performance goals.  Science students will be able to design experiments, mathematicians analyze patterns and data, language students communicate effectively in their target language, artists create meaningful pieces of work and historians analyse source documents to create a picture of a historical period. 

Schools should also have a coherent and continuous curriculum document or platform that allows all stakeholders, students, teachers, parents, and administrators, appropriate access to the curriculum and shows articulation both vertically and horizontally. 

Decolonise the Curriculum 

In the process of rewriting the curriculum schools will also have made excellent steps in, what a blogger, Pranav Patel, describes as ‘decolonising the curriculum’.  The curriculum of many current international schools is western-centric, English courses might be full of the English classic novels, science courses full of achievements of English and American scientists, History biased towards a Western time period.  The achievements of People of Colour (POC) are not always highlighted as often as they should be. Thus a decolonised curriculum will be rich with novels written by a variety of people, not just White. A decolonised curriculum will have units of work from the perspective of countries, not just England or America. “Decolonising the curriculum is not about people of colour or the global majority, it is more about the global minority (those racialised as white). “ (Patel, 2019).  In the next five years, schools will have rewritten their curricula with decolonising in mind. 

Assessment Practises

Assessment is intimately linked to performance goals, in the process of rewriting the curriculum, assessment practises also need to change and move beyond mere factual recall.  (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007) Schools need to understand that the process of rewriting a curriculum that is based on learning skills for the 21st Century is that their assessment practises and understanding of assessment will need to change also.  Learners need authentic assessment tasks that are based around worthy academic challenges and rich and complex tasks. Assessment needs to include a variety of modes to be fair for all learners and be a complete picture of what students can do. 

Nominated School

As I am moving to a new school, I envisage that one of the first things I will need to do is audit the current curriculum, work with the coordinators, and discover where my new school currently is at.  From visits, I suspect that their work has only just begun, so I will have a challenge in building the case for curricula (and teaching and learning) change and then work towards the whole school rewriting the curriculum in a coherent manner with the ideas and concepts outlined above.  However, the potential for improvement is tremendous and rather exciting as the school will move towards a school that really prepares students for their future rather than mundanely and predictably plods through a mish-mash of topics and unconnected content K through 12. In other words, my school will rewrite their curriculum by Design!

 

References

International Baccalaureate. (2014). MYP: From Principles into Practise [Ebook].

Patel, P.  (2019). Decolonise the Curriculum.  The Teacherist [Blog]. Retrieved from https://theteacherist.com/2019/05/26/decolonise-the-curriculum/ 

Heppell, S. (2011). Learning Without Frontiers. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbGTl5UN-_o&feature=endscreen&NR=1

What is UbD?  (2012). Grant Wiggins Answers, with Video Cases.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsDgfC3SjhM

Wiggins & McTighe. (2007). Schooling by design: Mission, action and achievement.  

Alexandria, VA.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

 

 

Somali Poetry: Resources for a SOW

This piece is also found here https://terraglowach.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/somali-poetry-resources-for-a-sow/ by Terra Glowach.

Rationale

This year I want to develop a year 8 poetry SOW on Somali poetry. Why?

  1. Somalia is known as The Nation of Poets in Africa, and has a long tradition of oral poetry which is enjoyed and created by all. I want to challenge students who see poetry writing as an artistically elitist or narcissistic endeavour, from which the pragmatic shy away. So the Somali tradition is a gift.
  2. I have a large cohort of Somali students, and I want to recognise and share the cultural capital they offer.
  3. The bulk of racism I have witnessed here in Bristol has been aimed at Somalis – being both black and Muslim, they take the brunt of our media’s racism and Islamophobia. It’s my job as a white ally and a teacher to promote appreciation and respect over ignorance and hate.

Context

The context I would recommend for time-poor teachers is Al Jazeera World’s documentary on Somalia before the civil war, and since. The two-part documentary, Somalia: The Forgotten Story, can be watched online in classrooms. As English teachers, we must balance context with content, and so I would recommend the opening of the documentary which gives crucial cultural context, and only sections you deem appropriate and necessary on the war. I will focus on those which challenge dominant perceptions.

A fascinating account of early Somali-British relations is recounted first hand here in the diary of Somali seafarer Ibrahim Ismaa’il: from Cardiff to the Cotswolds.

Finally, an enlightening documentary on traditional and modern diaspora poetry is Somalia: Nation of Poets, which includes incendiary and beautiful poetry in Somali (subtitled) and English.

Poetry

The Poetry Translation Centre is a trove of diaspora poetry written in the original language, with initial and final translations on offer so you can explore how meaning is distilled in the process, and also use the original in a class with Somali speakers to explore key terms via translanguaging. This could be a powerful way to introduce theme and context, as well as explore the use of sound, and how translators have worked to preserve sound features.

Some background on metre may be of use. Here’s an excerpt from Martin Orwin and Maxamed Cabdullaahi Riiraash’s ‘An Approach to Relationships between Somali Metre Types’, published in African Languages and Cultures, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1997), pp. 83-100

The study of Somali metrics was revolutionized in the mid-1970s with the publication, in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar, October Star, of a number of seminal articles by the two Somali scholars and poets Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’ (referred to in this article as Gaarriye, except for bibliographical reference) and Cabdullaahi Diiriye Guuleed, who made the long-awaited breakthrough in Somali metrical studies, apparently independently. These two scholars noted that Somali poetry scanned by counting vowel units, or moras, which were arranged in specific patterns according to genre. In other words, they showed that Somali has a quantitative metrical system in which only the vowels count, and that the lines of different genres vary in the number and pattern of those moras. They also differed a little in their approaches to understanding the metre, but all subsequent work on Somali metrics…is founded on these original articles. Since the mid-1970s, further work on Somali metrics has been ongoing and now the patterns of individual metres are well understood, as are the rules by which various vowel sequences may count as long or short. The most recent studies on Somali metrics (Johnson 1996,Banti & Giannattasio 1996) have included work on the musical aspects of the performance of poetry, which has deepened our understanding of the link between the rhythmic aspects of performance and the realization of the abstract, metrical patterns in certain verse instances.

In short, it would be wise to examine stress, assonance and rhythm when looking at Somali poetry, as with any poetry which is meant to be encountered in voice rather than text. As students will be reading the poetry in English, I will only touch on the complexity of genres and moras to develop the sense of tradition.

Maxamed Ibraahin Warsame ‘Hadraawi’ is a good place to start, being regarded as ‘the greatest living Somali poet’. I would use ‘Settling the Somali Language‘ to establish the link between identity and language, and explore tensions around the dominance of English. Important ideas here linking to the documentary Somalia: Nation of Poets.

The work of Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’  is an excellent example of the power of poetry. Note this excerpt from a Guardian article:

The power of verse to cause social upheaval is not something we’re very familiar with in the UK, but in Somali culture it’s taken for granted. One poet starts a theme, others take it up, then a chain develops, drawing people into the arguments. “I wrote something against tribalism that became an attack on the president,” Gaarriye explains. “Within four months the chain was more than 70 poems long.” And that was when the secret police came to visit. Shortly afterwards he fled to Ethiopia and an exile that lasted until 1991.

His poem ‘Seer‘ explores the nature of poetry through repeated metaphors.

Asha Lul’s ‘Harmony‘, is a strong example of the speaker’s embodied knowledge of her land, and uses both imagery and sound symbolism to locate the reader in a vivid sensory experience of Somalia. I would abridge and use the first verse – it’s a long one.

On love and self-knowledge, many students will relate to ‘Taste‘, and both the sense imagery and topic will yield rich discussion.

Looking at poetry written in English by the diaspora, my first experience was Warsan Shire’s ‘Home‘. This video, with simple but emotive animation, featuring Shire’s breaking voice is likely to bring a class to tears. I totally lose it EVERY TIME. Warning: there are references to rape and use of the N-word, and I cut these bits when teaching the poem to years 7 and 8.

Finally, I will use a poem entitled ‘Sheffield Children’s Hospital’ from Warda Yassin‘s seering collection Tea with Cardamom. You can buy the collection at Waterstones or online. The poem itself is two seven-line stanzas about a boy pretending to be a man, who swears that “people only care when you are stabbed, in prison, or dead.” Like many of Yassin’s poems, this one forces you to imagine the details in order to put the story together, and uses some Somali words to hold hands with heritage as you traverse a terrifying new terrain.

Actual lessons and questions will be shared when I’ve learned more. At this point I need feedback and suggestions from those with a good knowledge of Somali poetry. At the moment I have six poems, but looking to expand with suggestions.

Action Research – What works?

I have long been a fan of action research, I first engaged in action research in the classroom in the mid-2000s. As a leader or a practitioner, this piece is well worth a read.

The following is written by Mark Quinn.

It can also be found here. https://markquinn1968.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/what-works-teacher-action-research-works/

What was the Teacher Action Research Project?

Between October 2018 and June 2019 I delivered a Teacher Action Research Project – TARP – to a group of 8 secondary school teachers from across England, meeting on three occasions at UCL Institute of Education (IOE), where I work. The project was funded by UCL Widening Access and Participation, whose remit is to increase the uptake of places at leading universities by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The teachers chose themes and interventions that they judged likely to make a substantial difference to their own students: some focused on aspects of their classroom practice that they wished to adapt; others conducted their action research on an element of their wider school responsibility. The only stipulation was that they must concentrate on outcomes for their disadvantaged students.

Summary of the interventions and outcomes

Three were interested in the process of student learning; they were keen to increase their students’ awareness of how they learn, and to see the extent to which this would contribute to their academic progress. These projects may be labelled metacognitive strategies. The self-regulation of learners was a feature across several other projects. One hypothesised that, to address the demands of new linear exams at A level, teachers needed to address the metacognitive skills of their students and could best achieve this through explicit modelling of written responses; two English teachers conducted projects which focused on boosting subject-specific vocabulary in Key Stage 4. These three enquiries can be loosely grouped as language and literacy. One teacher, whose whole-school role embraces Careers Education, was interested in the link between students’ self-efficacy and realistic career choices; the project of the final practitioner-researcher saw her department take a range of new evidence-informed approaches to teaching Geography at Key Stage 3. These last two come under the very broad heading curriculum development but, like the rest, are complex interventions concerned largely with students’ self-regulation.

There were many common findings across the eight action research projects. Many saw student confidence as a prerequisite to progress; others saw that increased confidence was an outcome of their projects. The same could be said for the issue of teacher-student relationships: some saw them improve, while others identified them as a continuing threat to successful outcomes. Teaching strategies that placed an emphasis on student self-reflection, their metacognition and self-regulation all had promising results for disadvantaged students and others. Likewise, modelling of exemplar answers, emphasis on appropriate subject vocabulary and the embedding of strategies which force students to retrieve prior knowledge: greater focus upon these pedagogical approaches did bear fruit for many of the disadvantaged students whose progress was tracked. Not all projects succeeded on their own terms. Those where the number or complexity of interventions were greatest found it difficult to implement change or to track the impact of the changes they did implement. In some few cases, the participating teachers speculated that their innovation may have in some way hampered the progress of the students they were trying to help, but this was a minority finding. Others were able to reflect upon the extraneous factors which continue to impede the progress of their disadvantage students.

What TARP has to say about innovations that make a positive difference to disadvantaged students

Modelling

Modelling happened in several ways across the projects. In some cases this involved the use of a visualiser in class to highlight features of exemplary practice; in another it included the repeated use of model answers provided by exam boards; one teachers referred to the ‘talking aloud’ strategy, whereby the teacher models their thinking as they construct an answer ‘live’ in front of their class. One found that ‘it was clear that all students, disadvantaged or not, wanted to see what excellence looked like and had a genuine thirst for knowledge.’ The progress of her High Prior Attaining Pupil Premium students improved, but so did that of most of the rest of the two Year 11 English classes in her study. Another – who had analysed the planning and teaching of A level subjects that had performed well since the reintroduction of linear exams – wanted to see what lessons could be learned by those departments whose results had dipped. A student survey identified more modelling of exam questions as the area that would help them improve the most. Teachers in two subjects agreed to a six-week implementation of explicit modelling – specifically of exam board answers and typically within homework – and to track the impact upon the bursary students through internal assessment and mock exams. In maths half the bursary students in the set improved their grade while the rest remained as they were. The picture was similar in economics, where one bursary student improved their grade while the other remained static.

 

Building good relations and a culture of trust

One teacher contended that ‘establishing a culture of trust within a class is central to students making progress.’

Some participating teachers pointed to the trust that was an outcome of involvement in the project. One (who did a lunchtime group intervention focused on the students’ knowledge retrieval skills) saw that ‘as the interventions progressed, the girls started to become more and more accountable for each other and encouraging one another to meet the demands of their courses.’ She spotted a relationship between that burgeoning culture of trust in the group and their regard for themselves as learners, which (for all but one of the group) improved also. Another noted that, the more familiar his Year 13 English Literature students were with simple cognitive processes and the rationale behind the approaches to feedback he was taking, the more they trusted him and the tasks he was setting.

 

Student confidence

For this teacher, this trust in him and his teaching was a contributory factor in the students’ growing confidence going into their exams. One of his students said she had begun to ‘trust my own thinking’.

Among one teacher’s Year 10s, after the four months of her careers and options guidance programme

‘82% of the students felt that they were now more confident to make decisions related to their career paths highlighting that the project has been somewhat successful in breaking down the barriers to career self-efficacy and increasing student confidence.’

She concluded that it was the early and structured nature of the intervention which helped the students be more confident in their decision-making.

A geography teacher, implementing a new Key Stage 3 curriculum, explicitly measured the confidence of her students using ‘feedback circles’ in the lessons. She and her colleagues were alarmed at the high rate of students describing themselves as within the ‘panic zone’ when they were asked to think hard. But, persisting with their innovations – and in particular the demand that their students ‘speak like a geographer’ – they found gradually that ‘most of the students moved out of the panic zone and into the stretch zone’.

Teaching which boosts vocabulary

An English teacher noticed that students, who were unfazed at the prospect of producing two to three pages of work would still feel anxious about giving ‘the right answer’, and this stopped them writing. A ‘heightened focus on relevant terminology’ was one of the factors leading to improved progress for Pupil Premium students with higher prior attainment. The geography teacher’s students, as they moved out of their panic zone, began to expand their discipline vocabulary.

‘This started to finally pay off and after a few weeks teachers and students started to use these words as a matter of course (in the interviews this is something teachers referred to again and again and were quite amazed by.)’

Another English teacher delighted that some of her students had become ‘word hungry’ – asking for vocabulary and prepared to use the thesaurus – but she sounded a warning note too.

‘Students accessed and used a range of complex and higher level vocabulary that they would otherwise either not have the tools or confidence to access… Students are empowered when given tailored vocabulary – however students do not have the skills to be able to build upon this independently.’

They remained reluctant to source higher level vocabulary for themselves, or to transfer the new vocabulary they had learned to other subject areas.

 

Metacognition and Retrieval Practice

Several of the TARP teachers used their enquiries to test their supposition that students make better progress the more they are aware of the processes of learning. As noted already, an A level English teacher found that his students trusted him and his methods the more they recognised that they had some basis in cognitive science. He concluded that placing subject knowledge at the heart of the curriculum yielded significant benefits that seemed to go beyond simply recalling knowledge.

‘The ease with which the students retrieved information decreased cognitive load. It seemed that being able to retrieve knowledge with relative ease freed up cognitive space to concentrate on structuring essays and writing well.’

The teacher of the lunchtime intervention group found that they began to bring in examples of dual-coding they had produced in Science and discussed flash card examples for their humanities revision.

‘It was evident that they had not only taken a more independent approach to selecting and using appropriate recall and retrieval strategies but were also open and willing to share these with their peers.’

Caveats

These were small studies, a few conducted across a department or between two or three groups, most confined to a single class. Within that, the teachers tracked the impact of their projects on the much smaller number of specifically disadvantaged students. It is an advantage of action research that it allows participating teachers to spot the often very small, yet significant, changes that can occur when a modification is made to teaching. The methodology is essentially qualitative, which allows the teachers to report on the attitudes and behaviours which are both factors in and outcomes of learning. But the datasets are necessarily tiny, and the measures of attainment – short of public exam data – are assessed by the teachers themselves. (TARP concluded before the end of the Summer term, i.e. before the release of the 2019 public exams.)

The teachers on TARP were clearly invested in the successes of their interventions, and they were mindful of the pitfalls of bias. Several, in their own reporting, speculated upon the possible negative consequences of their study. One teacher’s English department colleagues undertook a lesson study into the expanded use of higher order language to enable their students to express perspective. She noted that they enjoyed the ‘safe’ bank of vocabulary they were given and asked

‘Are we inhibiting students by providing them with too much? Do we over-stimulate or confuse students with SEN? Some students feel they have to use every new word, which then makes their written responses convoluted.’

 

The geographer in the group also expressed a residual concern for her lower prior attaining students. When she and her geography colleagues rewrote their Key Stage 3 curriculum, they found that their higher and middle prior attainers responded well. But the lower prior attainers – especially those deemed to be at Levels 1 or 2 – did not. She remained confident in the approaches taken by her colleagues but was cognisant also of making too bold a claim.

 

Final comments

The Teacher Action Research Projects have made a positive difference to disadvantaged students in the eight schools. They have also affected the teachers themselves, their confidence as practitioners and their sense of their place in the profession. All intend to continue with the practices they innovated this year, and several have expanded their plans.

Reflecting on TARP, one commented

‘I think that to be effective educators, we need to be able to process, explore and consider the research before it is implemented, so that it can have a more positive impact on our students.’

The final word should go to another, for whom the project has made her think about

‘how small changes can have an impact without adding to workload and that sometimes it is doing more of what already works rather than incorporating something completely new.’

 

The full version of this report will soon be available on the UCL website at:

www.ucl.ac.uk/widening-participation/TARP

The Problem With Mr Dahl

by Dr Meg Roughley, NSC, University of York

 

There are very good reasons for giving the books of Roald Dahl to children to read, alone or in the classroom.  For a start, he always gives ‘good story’ in that, like Shakespeare, he gives what we expect of the successful narrative.  The essential classical elements—an imperfect or undeveloped hero/heroine; proper villains; reversal of fortune or an incipient condition of loss or lack; mistaken identity or misrepresentation of the truth; subsequent revelation of that truth and catharsis of pity/fear—are all in place and functioning, and the narrative path adheres to the Aristotelian arc—a unified plot consisting of an exposition, followed by rising action leading to a catastrophe/climax and then by falling action ending in a revelatory denouement, which in Dahl-land is always a happy, ‘comedic’ ending.  As a story-engineer, it is hard to fault him.

It’s also hard to fault him as a wordsmith:  he gives ‘good story’ and he also gives ‘good language’.  His paronomasian, neologistic gobblefunk practices are very like the creations of children learning to express themselves through a linguistic system of which they don’t yet know all the rules.  There is something quite liberating in that.  Not knowing the ‘proper’ way of saying needn’t inhibit your saying at all.  And, this is language ‘play’:  it is meant to be, and is, creative fun as well as liberating.

For me, however, the real strength of his writing for children is the on-going critique of the hegemonic relationship between ‘child’ and ‘adult’.  In Dahl’s fictional universe, power is wielded by the ‘evil’ nasty, brutish, bullying… Click To Tweet

For me, however, the real strength of his writing for children is the on-going critique of the hegemonic relationship between ‘child’ and ‘adult’.  In Dahl’s fictional universe, power is wielded by the ‘evil’ nasty, brutish, bullying adult over the child.  This power is only ever slightly mitigated by any ‘good’ adults present (Miss Honey, the grandparents in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and The Witches, for example) who are weak, disenfranchised and ultimately unable to help the child-hero.  In the political economy of Dahl’s world, children are the oppressed, but Dahl is, if nothing else, a late Romantic.  The child may be oppressed in this fallen world, but is constituted by that original innocence and imagination which gives it a ‘natural’ moral and intellectual superiority to its oppressors.  More than merely ‘good’, the individual child has a ‘natural’ ability to confront and overcome the ‘evil’ that adult human beings do.  The message is one of possible justice and hope that an oppressive regime can be revolutionised by the innate ‘genius’ and agency of the oppressed.  Could this be why children really like Matilda and Danny, Champion of the World?

The textual world of Roald Dahl is as ‘white’ as the class, education, and culture from which he emerged and into which he re-submerged himself, in a suburban garden. One might have hoped that his wartime experiences in North African… Click To Tweet

It is a real shame, then, that such ‘liberating’, Romantic, storying should be so ambivalent about colonialism and imperial supremacy.  The textual world of Roald Dahl is as ‘white’ as the class, education, and culture from which he emerged and into which he re-submerged himself, in a suburban garden. One might have hoped that his wartime experiences in North African and the Middle East might have broadened his scope, but it would seem that, not unusually perhaps, he retained the racial prejudices of the time and of his class.  As much as he would rail against the injustices of the British public school and military systems, he remained inured to the injustices of colonial systems.

The most obvious, blinking neon-orange, sign of his ambivalence to colonialism, and in fact, racism, is the creation of the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. These are the only significant people of colour in Dahl’s childverse.  Willy Wonka’s workforce, he tells us, comes from “a terrible country …. thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the world” where he found them living “in tree houses to escape from the whangdoodles and the hornswogglers” and starving on a diet of “mashed up green caterpillars”.  Wonka has saved them from this savage, primeval environment:

“I smuggled them over in large packing cases with holes in them, and they all got here safely.  They are wonderful workers.  They all speak English now.  They love dancing and music.  They are always making up songs…. They like jokes.  They still wear the same kind of clothes they wore in the jungle.”

Shipped like animals from their “infested” homeland, saved by the white man and imported to work his ‘plantation’ for nothing more than the cacao bean that “they longed for more than any other” food, dancing, singing, joking, happily semi-naked: this is all so unhappily familiar. That they willingly go with Wonka (at least, according to Wonka) is worrisome.  Who would so gladly resign their independence, their sovereignity, for cacao beans?  Who but a natural slave, the very opposite of the naturally superior child?  Swapping freedom for food is something the white children in C&TCFare punished for, after all.

And to where have the Oompa-Loompas been shipped?  To a paradise, “a lovely valley” with “green meadows” with a river of chocolate and edible trees, bushes and grass.  But, it is a subterranean paradise, an artificial Eden, part of a factory, one of Blake’s “satanic mills”.  It reminds me in some way of Lucifer’s building of the marvelous city of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost:  there is something truly demonic about the construction underground of fields of temptation serviced by a ‘race’ of the happily enslaved.

I’m not entirely certain what Dahl is doing here.  I find Willy Wonka a very ambivalent character/creator and Dahl an equally ambivalent author/creator.  I wish he had implied, at least, some sort of critique of the hegemonic master/slave relationship or of colonialism on offer here, but he hasn’t.  The question arises, then, how we, as book-dealers to children, justify hooking them on such ambivalent text?

What would be marvelous is if some young writer of colour would take on the task of doing what Jean Rhys did to Jane Eyre with her The Wide Sargasso Seaor Chinua Achebe did to Heart of Darknesswith his Things Fall Apart and re-write the chocolate factory from the Oompa-Loompa point of view.  Until that happens though, perhaps the best strategy would be to encourage children to realise and to use the critical strategies that Dahl gives us to question his own texts.  Let’s let Matilda read The Chocolate Factory.  Then let’s let Zanib Mian’s Omar read it, and let Nadia Shireen’s Billy read it.  And, let’s get together with them and have a right critical gobblefunking go at the ambivalence of it all.

 

 

Decolonise the PE Curriculum

A guest post from Andrew Milne. @carmelhealth

I’m not the finished article as a teacher, and helping me on my journey towards becoming a master teacher are the connections I have made with other educators from around the world. 24 years into my career I am still as enthused about teaching PE and Health as I was as an NQT in London in the mid ’90s. 

Eleven years ago I emigrated to America and found myself in a department of 3 and I was the only one teaching Health. In need of a support network, jumping onto Twitter allowed me to get off of my small island and find other teachers from whom I could learn.

Once I was settled in the States and had collated a Twitter PLN of teachers that enabled me to hone my craft and improve my strengths I went to work on my weaknesses. America is a diverse country but I teach in a predominantly white and wealthy school of 4,000 students and felt that I needed to improve my conversations regarding race, inequity and diversity. Following passionate activist-educators from both sides of the Atlantic pointed me to books and other resources that gave me the language that I needed to feel confident in having difficult conversations about race with students and friends.

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As an immigrant, albeit with immense privilege, I immediately started to question the sports and games that I was expected to teach in my PE lessons. I made a list and explored the modern history behind each and realized that a disproportionate number were of North American and European origin. My experience when teaching in London was the same – I taught traditional games, in a traditional manner, and never questioned why. 

When Pran Patel talks about ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’ he is essentially asking all of us to question what we are teaching, and ask ourselves whether what we teach speaks to all of our students. He’s also encouraging us to take a more worldly view of our curriculum. If we expect our students to be global citizens then surely we should be teaching them from a global perspective.

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Why is it that my PE curriculum is dominated by North American and European team games and activities? What is it that I am hoping to teach my students when I ask them to participate in PE and can I achieve those same outcomes, or more, through a new sport or activity from another part of the world? If I want to look at passing, receiving, finding an open space to receive a pass or shutting down a player when I’m a defender in football, surely I can do exactly the same with games and activities from other parts of the world. For that reason, I explored the Maori game of Tapuwae and reached out to teachers from New Zealand to help me understand the game, its brutal history, and the correct Maori language accompanying the game.

“Hit the tupu using the kī”, “Don’t step in the Te Motu!”. It felt strange using language of which I was unsure, but if I was to teach a historic Maori game, it was only right that I introduced my students to Te Reo (Maori).

To me, the game has similarities with netball in that it is an invasion game in which players have specific zones in which they can play. One student informed me that she explained Tapuwae to her Lacrosse coach because she saw that the two games were similar. Another student, when asked why she was having success at the game replied that her basketball skills transferred over to Tapuwae.

Connections were made. I connected with my New Zealand counterparts. I deepened my connections with students by introducing them to a game of which none of them had ever heard, and my students made connections between their traditional curriculum and an ancient game from a distant culture.

By following Pran Patel’s advice from his recent TEDx talk, all it took was “One teacher, one lesson, one classroom” to question the status quo and take steps towards decolonizing the curriculum. It required some work on my part but the results were awesome. I became a better teacher and my students had a more enriching, global experience.
You can find me on Twitter as @carmelhealth and read more about my Tapuwae journey here, which is taken from my blog www.slowchathealth.com