‘Stop and Search’ – Our Classrooms

The universe is compelling me to write.

Stop and Search.jpg

In 2010-11 You were six times more like to be stopped and searched if you are a young black male. Being six times more likely to be stopped and searched based on the colour of your skin is abhorrent.

But Pran, Life is better now it’s 2019…

Random teacher

This ratio increased to 8.4 times in 2018.

When the Macpherson report (20 years ago) stated that the metropolitan police are ‘institutionally racist’. These figures were half as many.

Racism is on the decline. Things are getting better. Right?

Same Random teacher

Unsurprisingly, you are more likely to stopped search in a less diverse area. Dorset and Suffolk topped the scales with ratios 25.6 and 17.8. I’m going to say that again,

You are 25.6 more likely to stopped and searched in Dorset and 17.8 times more likely in Suffolk; if you are black than if you are white!

Pran Patel

The effect of disproportionate negative impact where you have lower numbers of people of colour is echoed in education, I write about the Gollem effect here.

 

Also, let me make clear you are less likely to carry drugs if you are black. There is no reason this should be happening. The literature also states that an increase in stop and search has no discernible impact on knife crime.

As for the use of weapons searches, the evidence is clear: increases in the use of stop and search do not lead to any discernible drop in violent crime.

Micheal Shiner

Stop and search is racist, yes I said it, stop and search is a systemic tool, which is disproportionately used by the establishment (kyriarchy) to disadvantaged PoC.

Used as an antibiotic to a resistant infection, stop and search is overly prescribed to the detriment of its own effectiveness, squandering police time and energy that could otherwise be expended on protecting the wider community.

David Lammy

‘Nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young, black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.’

Theresa May

The statement was justified by our former prime minister with the finding that 27% of incidents in 2014 did not contain grounds to stop and search (although senior officers had authorised them). As we increase these powers, I fear we will see more of the same.

I write this as a man of colour who has endured/witnessed the indignity of being stopped and searched. The only thing I learned from that experience is we live in a world where there are people who care, and their people want to exert their power upon others. I was below those officers that day because of the colour of my skin; the power structures were made very clear. I was just playing the role of who I was expected to be.

What does that do to the psyche of a young man? Living a society in which you belittled because you look ‘dodgy’ because you look different, you deserve to be treated as less.

Parallels in Education

Teachers aren’t racist. There isn’t a teacher in the country who would regard themselves as racist.

Random Teacher 

I’d agree, with would also hope that there isn’t a police officer in the country would regard themselves as racist either. The individual label of ‘racist’ is pointless and damaging to equity (future blog coming0.

The national statistics are clear. The damage that has and is being done is clear.

A British black Caribbean boy with SEND is 168 more likely to be excluded that a British white girl without SEND. To compound this, you are twice as to be diagnosed with a SEMH needs (there is a statistical significance when factors such as social-economic, etc. are accounted for)

“Black Caribbean children may be suffering an inappropriate and narrowed curriculum, from unwarranted over-identification, particularly [in] secondary schools.

“This might mean they get less academically challenging, more vocationally orientated work perhaps,” he said, “like being shifted from maths to motor maintenance, or experience a lowered expectation of what they can do.

“From the factors that we have measured – socio-economic background, poverty and neighbourhood deprivation, and children’s development on entry to school – we can’t explain why, in particular, black Caribbean children and mixed-black-Caribbean-and-white children are more likely to be diagnosed with SEMH.”

Professor Strand

Is this unconscious bias at work? The question we should be asking is, why are we making choices that lead to these national figures?

Whether this is conscious or unconscious is irrelevant.

I have written about the impact of the Pygmalion and the Gollum impact here with regards to pupils of colour. Simply put, pupils conform to what people expect of them. Are we part of the cause of the disproportionate exclusion lower achievement and ultimately the system which propagates this as the status quo?

Please do reflect on the question ‘What do you ‘actually’ expect from your pupils’?

Things we can do as Educators

1.    Admit you are biased; without this recognition, you are likely causing harm.

3.    Analyse your behaviour records and act accordingly, which groups are receiving which sanctions? After working with a school in London, black pupils were often receiving the behaviour consequence of defiance from staff. Since the introduction of ‘words, not tone’, there has been a significant fall in the numbers and anecdotally ‘pupil-teacher relationships are much better’.

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

“It’s important for schools to look at their policies and see that there isn’t anything that would cause a systematic bias in the way special needs and SEMH is identified.”

Professor Strand

3.    Analyse your biases. Teacher assess where you think your pupils are then blind mark your assessments (or even better swop with a colleague) and then compare. (We know pupils of colour are often disadvantaged as their teacher think they are below where they are. link). Then act to change your expectations.

 

References

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/oct/13/racial-bias-police-stop-and-search-policy-black-people-report

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/apr/30/theresa-may-reform-police-stop-and-search-powers

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/oct/13/stop-and-search-is-unjust-unfair-ineffectual-david-lammy

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47240580

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Guest Post: Teacher Ear

This is a guest post, well sort of…

As I am not supposed to be posting over the summer, I’m allowing people to catch up.

Today I’m posting something different. Darren Chetty’s ‘Beyond the Secret Garden’ at The Royal Opera House #ThrivingChild Conference is below. Chetty explores issues around identity and representation as they relate to how children thrive at ‘The Thriving Child’

He literally moved me to tears, tears which should have been cried years ago.

 

Change is in your hands. One teacher, one lesson and one pupil at a time.

 

No Outsiders:​ Our Strength

After the recent news around Anderton Park School in my native West Midlands. Protests against the Birmingham school’s equalities education. Protesters, most of them Muslim, moved on to Anderton Park after other schools nearby dropped their “no outsiders” LGBT education programme.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47738863/school-lgbt-teaching-row-what-is-in-the-no-outsiders-books-that-sparked-protests

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/sarah-hewitt-clarkson-headteacher-anderton-park-primary-school-birmingham/

I feel compelled to write something.

I will not use the argument that those in glass houses should not throw stones. Marginalised groups have a right to protest whatever their views; this should not impinge on their rights.

My message is one of solidarity, this is not a simple case of I like this, but I don’t like this. All discrimination is a product of systemic problem, racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. These are all derived from a system which ‘other’ groups to keep the majority together.

All collectives are doomed to fail (Von Mises).

Collectives cannot create meaning. Individuals create their meaning within the group. Remember, all collectives are a group of individuals.

As a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, I like all football fans want my football club to succeed. However, there are apparent differences between fans. Some will wish success at any means others will favour the quality of football over everything. The way all collectives stay together is through the process of othering. Othering provides the premise that all ‘decent’ people would be part of our collective and therefore provides meaning to the whole.

Your choice is clear, you either support the freedoms of all or you support the same system which oppresses us all. Through the othering of groups, we make all of our struggles more difficult.

Your choice is clear, you either support the freedoms of all or you support the same system which oppresses us all. Through the othering of groups, we make all of our struggles more difficult. Click To Tweet

The Logo is available here for free. Please do share, retweet and show your solidarity.

The No Outsider resources are here.

Fighting the Norm #NotMyAriel

Here is one of the many dangers of having an ethnocentric curriculum.

If we live in a world which constantly assures you that you are the norm. I have asked educators to complete a similar this task previously.

Think about the last 5 people you mentioned in the stories in your lessons, people you credited, people who wrote the books you are reading,

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

Now remove all the people that are men, then all who are white, heterosexual, middle class, able-bodied, etc. Who are you left with? I will not accept that less than 20% of the world population (white) have contributed so largely to the sum of all human knowledge that this would warrant these proportion of our curriculum and wider society.

With the wider media also being whitewashed, through poor representation and the white saviour and magical negro tropes. All of these factors lead to those racialised as white expecting they are the norm.

This was called out by Star Wars actor John Boyega,

“There are no black people on Game of Thrones,”

“You don’t see one black person in Lord of the Rings.”

With the same argument with a fan, George RR Martin responded with.

georgerrmartin.png

This is fiction, if you can write about ice zombies, resurrections and red witches. I’m sure you can write about people of colour. Unless you’re saying that in your made-up world with your made-up population you’ve chosen to make it wildly white supremacist. It also begs the question of the inclusion of people of colour at all, who are, as usual, depicted as rape loving savages. The Dothraki are portrayed as a savage uncivilised horde who need to rescued and civilised by a saviour.

So, the #NotMyAriel hashtag trended, with the most ridiculous arguments around melanin and exposure to sunlight, etc. This is the problem, if you see your face in everything, you will ‘other’ everybody else and when presented with alternatives to your truth and the knowledge you are taught. People may reject them as out of hand because of course, they’re superior in their knowledge and truth. Superior.

I’m going to leave you with a little bit about mermaids (and their like). This is a picture of the Matsya Bhagwaan the first avatar of Vishnu. Who appears in the Matsya Purana (as well as various other text) which was written around 2000 years ago.

220px-Matsya_avatar.jpg

 

 

Reference

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2017/07/19/john-boyega-criticizes-game-of-thrones-for-lack-of-diversity/#7aba84c9137c

Losing A Pupil

This is by no way professional advice, a substitute for therapy or a ‘what to do when’ article.

This, unfortunately, is almost inevitable in the life of teachers, through your career you will lose a pupil, I have lost many pupils, to multiple different causes including suicides, road traffic accident, violent crime and illness. It hurts until a numbness envelops you.

This, unfortunately, is almost inevitable in the life of teachers, through your career you will lose a pupil. Click To Tweet

The teacher-pupil​ relationship is really complex, to some of these pupils you are the constant in their lives and although this is ‘work’ for us I would argue that our whole profession is predicated on the basis that we care for those we serve.

After losing a pupil, the intrusive thoughts of ‘should I have said something’ and ‘done something’, No matter how irrational these thoughts are, I call this the ‘what if’ phase, then for me comes the I don’t care phase. The world is so cruel why am I even playing this game and slowly the acceptance game. Everyone goes through feeling pupils similar to these, teachers, staff, the community I mean everyone.

We are trained to be the pillar of strength. We are strong for the kids, our colleagues, we are trained to be the adult. I am going to admit, I have cried many tears over my pupils, being the pillar of strength may be​ the right thing professionally but we need to recognise this takes its toll.

A pupil’s death is rarely an event that can be compartmentalised. This trauma can take months, sometimes years to deal with. Personally,​ I used to have a feeling of dread every year pre-holidays, with no idea of what and why I was feeling that way. Until I did. The community, teachers, our pupil, and the school family should be supported throughout these times.

I have no real answer to what this support looks like. Yes, I could suggest ​various things but like I said earlier I am not a professional. I would state again this is support is important and should not be pushed on to anyone other than the appropriately trained professionals.

Losing pupils to suicides is the hardest thing I have ever faced in a school. Every feeling described in the earlier paragraph is heightened. The hardest part is acceptance. Only once I accept that at that point it’s what that pupil wanted where I could move past rationalise any of it.

I’m going to leave this here. I will add to this. Just not today.

Anti Racism Vs Representation

This is a summer post, I know I was going to let people catch up with reading over the summer. I’m writing this after the announcement that Boris Johnson has become the UK’s new prime minister and he has included a Hindu, a Muslim and a Jew into the great offices of state.

boriscrew.png

How we are seen determines in part how we are treated; how we treat others is based on how we see them; such seeing comes from representation.

(Dyer 1993: 1) in Gilbourn 2000

I have already seen people comment that this diversity is something to be applauded and to be completely fair, this is a more diverse set of people. Similar parallels were made with respect to Obama in the US. However, this means very little. I have also heard in our own field that sexism cannot exist as our current headteacher is a woman… discourse is important.

‘Not only is discourse always implicated in power, discourse is one of the ‘systems through which power circulates’

Hall 1992a: 294, original emphasis in Gilbourn 2000

Representation is a small incremental step towards equity. Nobody has ever said that oppression can be dispelled by individual acts. I will state what racism actually is. Acts of violence, discrimination and white solidarity are symptoms of the root cause of this oppression, this is the power structures and through the will of those to protect the status quo.

Racism is systemic oppression decided on the basis of race, the lines of power flow from oppressor to oppressed. By systemic oppression, I mean health care, judicial service, education, employment, etc. (reference the world or various previous blogs).

Racism is systemic oppression decided on the basis of race, the lines of power flow from oppressor to oppressed. By systemic oppression, I mean health care, judicial service, education, employment, etc.  Click To Tweet

The appointment of these people above may be a gesture in the right direction but it serves no purpose when the faced with these structures. Yes, representation is important, however, if having a melanated person in role serves only to discriminate against people of colour, the vessel is yet another force which maintains the status quo regardless of its colour.

Sajid Javid: In his role as Home Secretary removed the citizenship of a British born woman of colour leaving her stateless. The same was and has not been done to scores of white British fighters. This along with his refusal to call Donald Trump racist after his now-famous  ‘sent her back’ speech.

Priti Patel: This former disgraced has repeated against the 2013 Same-Sex couples marriage bill. Her work with foreign aid is interesting…

Dominic Raab: Until February 2018, was a member of British Ultra Liberal Youth facebook group which advocated that those in debt be sent to the workhouses.

Gilbourn states that when talking about equality, deracialisation (the removal of specific words) should only be employed when race is not genuinely implicated in the issues at stake.

Having read the above 3 statements, is the race of the members here really implicated in the issues at stake? The issues being systemic oppression.

image

The test is simple, do these actions lead to the oppression of people? If your answer yes then it is a problem rather than a godsend.

What do we do?

  1. Stop linking racism or any other oppression to individual act, think systemically and about structure.
  2. Shout the above statement to every single person in the range, people need to understand that the representation simply serves to fog efforts to redress the balance.
  3. Disrupt the discourse. The discourse, in this case, a systematic tool for oppression.
  4. Use your power to support those who are underprivileged, whether that is by making sure you cite their work when you use it, or offering to support them.
The test is simple, do these actions lead to the oppression of people? If your answer yes then it is a problem rather than a godsend. Click To Tweet

References

Gilbourn 2000 Racism and Anti Racism in Real School. Chapter 2.

 

‘Not Racist’ = Racist

When we live in a world that is so imbalanced with respect to power. It is easy to stay quiet while witnessing oppression. In fact, I would say that the whole system is built by this process.

What are you talking about Pran? These are good people that you’re implying are being racist. My main issue with well-meaning people is their silence and therefore their complicity. Yes, my tone may be a little hostile, but please bear with me.

If I were to tell you that people of colour in this country (the UK) in 2019 are discriminated against in terms of education, healthcare, and employment, etc. Many well-meaning people would disagree with me. Even when faced with the bare facts and cold hard data, often people tend to question its authenticity, deny its existence and cite personal anecdotes, it goes on.

If I were to tell you that people of colour in this country (the UK) in 2019 are discriminated against in terms of education, healthcare, and employment, etc. Many well-meaning people would disagree with me. Even when... Click To Tweet

This is or may be described as white fragility (please google the work of Robin Di Angelo if you are unaware of this term). However, I believe this questioning (and fragility) is partly caused by the deliberate act of unknowing. The act of questioning data, the direct testimony of people of colour, even judicial reviews, etc. not only fogs the issue but it gives all in power a get out of jail free card.

As a man, I benefit from patriarchal structures, it is difficult for me to accept that I live in a world where I accept (through my silence) that women are treated worse than men. If I accept that this is wrong, if I accept that this happens, I have to then consequently accept that this is okay by me because after all I have benefited and continue to benefit from this imbalance. The easiest option here is to deny the existence of this power.

This denial and self-protection are normally expressed in the form of defensive moves.

‘These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.’

Robin Di Angelo White Fragility

There have been many narratives that have been deliberately used to excuse people in power. There are parallels here with the justifications for slavery;

1. Slaves were grateful to their benevolent slave masters for the opportunities to work in the “new world“. This denies the existence or minimises the impact of their experience.

2. Slavery has often been based on scripture, once you assign meaning to a higher power, it is no longer our responsibility as human beings it is the responsibility of God. This becomes a holy duty. This is a textbook example of passing the blame.

3. People of colour are heathens and savages. Thus it falls to the white man and the ‘white man’s burden’ (Rudyard Kipling, the colonialist writer of the jungle book and the poem by the same name) to civilise them, bring them democracy and ‘help’ them. This is how the white saviourism/white saviour complex is often justified.

4. People of colour are of different races, ‘the Negroid race is a form of great ape species’, 3 and 4 both serve to dehumanise people of colour. This narrative is the most powerful, good people would and could not, treat other human beings in this way but as soon as we don’t see them as humans or lower forms of humans. Things look different.

Within education, let me quote some statements I have heard and read over the years;

‘These black inner-city children need strict structures, this is absent in their home lives. It’s our responsibility to provide this at school.’

‘My vocation is to help these poor children. (from a score of middle-class people who have moved to London).’

‘We are all these pupils have, their parents don’t even speak to them in English, how are they ever going to move forward in life.’

‘If parents aren’t going to give these children the cultural capital, as a school has to, it is our social responsibility to show them the great work of Shakespeare’

‘These kids need training (behaviour) their parents don’t have the skills to do it.’

‘These kids from the estate are like animals.’

‘These pupils need punitive measures, it is the only way they learn.’

The longer we accept this narrative, and I know that we benefit from them, it makes life easier. It makes life easier for us, those in power and firmly put people of colour or any protected characteristic in their place.

This pervades throughout society, we have one of two options, we choose to continue with the current structure (racist structures) or we choose another way (anti-racist). The act of saying ‘I am not racist…’ is silence. Thus yes, not acknowledging, staying silent or not fighting against these narratives, leaves you duplicitously complicit, yes, this leaves you a racist.

This pervades throughout society, we have one of two options, we choose to continue with the current structure (racist structures) or we choose another way (anti-racist) Click To Tweet

 

Edutwitter. A Dangerous Place?

Every so often, I get an email, a DM or a phone call, from someone that wants, no, needs their voice heard. Guest Blog.

TW: Online grooming.

As I am about to write this, I already feel like a fool. I start typing, read, delete and repeat. I’m not a blogger or a writer, I don’t use long, flowery words, so please forgive me. This experience is extremely difficult to articulate and write about.. but I will try my best and here it goes.

About a year and a half ago, I had a twitter account that I set up a few years ago when I was an NQT. I wasn’t a huge Twitter user at the time and dabbled in and out of Edutwitter although never became heavily involved with it. Over a couple of years, my account shifted from being focused on education to my personal account, posting photographs of what I was cooking for dinner, photos of my friends and I, rubbish jokes and puns as well as making fun of my horrendous dates from Tinder.

One day a message popped into my inbox from someone, let’s call him… Paul. Paul wrote to me ‘Hey, your tweets are so funny, they really make me laugh, how are you?’, before I reply to any message the first thing I do is suss out the person’s profile, I scroll through their tweets, look at the number of their followers, who they are following, I check to see if we have any mutual online teacher/education friends and look at their photos. Paul, quite clearly knew his stuff, a Head from London, all tweets where SLT/school-related, this was someone who had a thirst and a passion for education, however, there was one thing I did notice in particular, he had no picture. So what? Many teachers keep themselves private on Twitter. Headship is a lonely place, Twitter was a safe place for him, after a few months of this first message, I found out Twitter wasn’t a safe place for me.

Twitter was a safe place for him, after a few months of this first message, I found out Twitter wasn’t a safe place for me. Click To Tweet

I politely replied, small talk, chit chat but did not ask any questions. He messaged me again the next day, asking about my job and hobbies. This time, I tried to imagine how old Paul was, I assumed much older than myself given his position in school and/or married. After a couple of friendly messages exchanged I decided to ask him outright about his age. He told me he was thirty-four, whilst that is a young age for a Head it is possible, my previous Head was younger than that. After a few weeks of messaging, he asked for my number. I was hesitant, I didn’t know what Paul looked like but he seemed so interested in me, my job and I suppose after a while I became interested in him.

I gave him my number and immediately he sent me a Whataspp message, he sent me some photographs of what he looked like, one photo was of him standing in a school playground, suited and booted surrounded by secondary school pupils with a proud smile on his face. We Facetimed and chatted about each other’s day, he said I looked beautiful even though I was exhausted. We would speak on the phone for hours each day over a couple of months, Paul told me all about his interview for his Headship, he told me about his deputies and how two of them didn’t get along with each other. One day he told me about an NQT in the English department who was struggling so had a meeting with her and had gone to support her in her lessons. I enjoyed finding out about the ups and downs of his day and that he could vent and offload to me. I remember him telling me that a student had dislocated his shoulder and that the parents wanted to take the school to court.

Meanwhile, I was having a difficult time at work, I felt frustrated with my Head of Department for different reasons. I’d ask Paul for advice and he suggested a few things, my Head had asked to see me about my issues with my Head of Department and of course, it was something I wasn’t looking forward to. Even though I hadn’t met him yet, Paul had given me lots of support, he had run through what I should say to my Head. I’m definitely not the most diplomatic person so always tend to get flustered in situations like this but I felt confident what to say as Paul had advised me. I was getting text messages from my Head of Department and abusive messages from my ex-boyfriend, Paul told me to change my number, so I did.  Nobody had my new number apart from family, very close friends and Paul.

With a whirlwind at work and having just come out of a difficult relationship I felt that the best part of my day was talking to Paul. Every time I put the phone down I felt full of confidence and self-belief, he oozed enthusiasm and positivity. After a few more weeks, Paul said he was going to be visiting the city that I live in for a Head’s conference and asked if I’d like to meet him for a drink. I felt nervous, we had been talking every day for months and I agreed. We arranged to meet in the city and he was already there waiting for me, I slowly walked towards him and he turned around and beamed and wrapped his arms around me.

We went to a bar, it was busy but we managed to get a table, we were chatting away and he put his hand on mine and said he had something for me. The bar staff bought over a bunch of flowers, they were beautiful.  We spoke a lot about my job and that I needed to move schools, he suggested looking for a job in London and that if I could work in a London school I could work anywhere, I’d progress quickly if I wanted to work up (I hate London so that would’ve never happened). My phone ran out of battery and I had no cash on me so I used his phone to order an Uber for myself, he jumped on the train back to London. At the time, I was living with my parents, as soon as I walked through the front door with a bunch of flowers a barrage of questions followed which I avoided answering! I started to think and realised that even though I had been speaking to Paul for a few months, there was still a lot that I didn’t know about him.

Paul called me the next day and we had our usual chat however I decided I would dig a little deeper into his history. He had grown up in the city where I live and I was eager to know where and how his teaching career started. I asked him where he did his training and he would reply but not actually answer my questions. We met for a second time and he came to visit me from London, he took me to a lovely Italian restaurant which he told me it held happy memories before his mother passed away. So after our dinner, we were drinking red wine, I asked him about his school, I still didn’t know the name of his school or his second name, we had only met twice (I also wanted to read the OFSTED report for his school!). He couldn’t look at me directly in the eye and I knew something was off. He took his bank card out of his wallet to pay for the bill, so I played detective and managed to read the name on his bank card, let’s call his second name.. Smith (very original).

When I arrived home, I opened my laptop and my Google search began. No Head called Paul Smith, nothing. Not one single thing. I remembered I had the photograph of him and the students from our Whatsapp messages. I reversed searched the photograph (I had watched the programme Catfish many times!), nothing. So I turned into a ghost and vanished from Paul, I wouldn’t reply to his messages. Gut instinct is so powerful and usually, it is always right.

One evening Paul called me in desperation to talk to me again, I answered and told him I knew there was something that he wasn’t telling me. Then there were a few seconds of silence.  He said there was something but he couldn’t possibly tell me what it was. I told him if he didn’t tell me what he was keeping from me, he would never speak to me again. The first three questions I asked him were “Are you married?”. No. “Are you engaged?” No. “Do you have a family that you’ve not mentioned?” No. I remained calm although in my head my conscience was shouting “WTF” over and over again.

Now if I reveal too much detail here,  his identity will be exposed. After he told me his secret, he had been lying about his name, Paul Smith was the name on his bank card (remember Paul Smith is the name I’m using for this blog), he told me that he had legally changed his name. I asked what his previous name was and he told me. I Googled his original name and my mouth dropped open, there were articles published in the national press with his photograph and his original name. Although what he had been accused of wasn’t illegal but definitely a case of breach of trust and I’m pretty certain that no school would want him working them if they knew this information, true or not, his name and photograph had been dragged through the media with a pretty serious accusation.

I stared at his previous name, printed in bold. I felt angry at him and myself. There was no way this guy was a Head, it was all a lie. He had told me so much about his job, a complete web of lies over a few months. For someone to be able to manipulate and lie to this extent could potentially be dangerous. I changed my number, even a couple of colleagues made a comment about how much I changed my number. He knew what school I worked at, I was worried he was going to turn up outside the school gates or even turn up at my parents’ house (I remembered using his phone for an Uber). I felt like I had been groomed, even as a grown woman. I deleted my twitter account and completely disappeared. I was at work and had an email sent to my work address from a teacher who had been following me, he had guessed my work email address, I could see the numerous attempts in the ‘CC’ bar of the email. He guessed correctly and asked why I vanished. This was getting weirdier.

I moved out of my parent’s house and did move school. After a year, I made a new Twitter account, I wasn’t frightened anymore. After I gained a few followers, after a few months it became a few hundred and then thousands. My tweets occasionally get retweeted hundreds of times and I went to check Paul’s account only to find he had already found me and blocked me.

Twitter can be a great place for many, I’ve met some great educators from there and even friends and they are the people who will know my identity because they have heard my story already. However, it can also be a dangerous place. I’ve not spoken to Paul since he doesn’t deserve to be anonymous but I do. Male or Female, Look after yourself.

However, it can also be a dangerous place. I’ve not spoken to Paul since he doesn’t deserve to be anonymous but I do. Look after yourself. Click To Tweet

Me x

 

TedXNorwichED: Decolonise the Curriculum

IMG_5290

The reason I’m Mr Patel the school teacher and not Pran Patel the famous scientist is because of one question I could not answer on my first day at university.

 

But to help me understand why I did not have the answer back then, I went back into the school system I grew up in – the British school system – to see it from a teacher’s perspective, and then a school leader’s perspective, and as a curriculum lead and mental health advocate…

 

I’m from a working-class town in the Midlands and I was blessed with a great upbringing and an amazing family structure so I learnt and learnt and learnt everything my teachers had to teach me and then went onto university. My first lecture was on quantum physics.

 

…and this lecture included ideas, thoughts, and provocations on the advancement of knowledge.

 

But in today’s TALK we are going to deconstruct the knowledge that is taught in British schools so that TOGETHER we can find a better way to reconstruct it.

 

This conversation matters for all current teachers, all future teachers and anyone who has or will ever be educated in the British school system. So that only about 66, 67 million people, and counting.

 

Here we go!

 

What is knowledge?

 

What do we accept as knowledge?

 

And the question I couldn’t answer…

 

What have Indians ever done for the advancement of human knowledge?

 

Another student asked me this in our friendly chat after our first lecture. Before he asked, he just wanted to check one thing, ‘Is your dad Indian?’ He said. I said yea. This doesn’t rub off.

 

I shook off that question to answer the other one on knowledge. I thought I’ve got this:

 

‘I’m pretty sure Mahatma Gandhi is /’ ‘No no no no no,’ he said. ‘Gandhi was an activist…’

 

he repeated the question for me:

 

‘How have YOU Indians ever contributed to the sum of human knowledge?’

 

The answer was not obvious to this white-British student at a British university.

 

And it wasn’t obvious to me a British-Indian student on a physics course.

 

Because I didn’t have an answer, I felt ashamed of who I was. I thought it meant I couldn’t contribute to human knowledge, no matter how much I wanted to.

 

To this day I have never felt more Inferior.

 

Is this what education is for?

 

I was 18 years old product of the British school system. The only people I could think of who had contributed to the sum of human knowledge were white and British, perhaps European origin

 

It was like there had been no other players.

 

Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Tesla, Galileo.

 

I knew what scientists like these had contributed like the back of my hand. I could talk about them all day. But ask me what people who looked like me had contributed…

I knew what scientists like these had contributed like the back of my hand. I could talk about them all day. But ask me what people who looked like me had contributed… Click To Tweet

 

 

I had nothing to draw on.

 

If we agree that this isn’t right and that the purpose of our education system is much more… we have work to do…

 

If we say ‘No! This is not what education is for!’ Then we have work to do.

 

The thing is…

 

Saying to teachers ‘we have work to do!’ (no matter how much energy I put into those words) – it’s like asking footballers to juggle as they run. We are flat out already. I get it. The BBC have literally interviewed me about the anxiety, sleeplessness and depression that seem to come with this amazing job. Like a whole range of anti-bonuses!

 

What I say to teachers is…

 

Make changes that inspire you.

 

Because when you do that you get energy. When you do something because you believe it is right and you see the difference it makes for your students, everything else becomes a little bit easier.

 

I’m calling this project ‘Decolonise the Curriculum’ and to make it easy for everyone I’m going to tell you about some great scientists I think all British students should know about too…

 

Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman: Indian. Ever wonder why the sea is blue? These scientists did and he discovered why. His discovery became the well known the Raman effect and this earned him a Nobel Prize for Physics.

 

Flossie Wong-Staal: An Asian immigrant to the US, in the during 1980s AIDS epidemic, became the first person to clone HIV and genetically map the virus, a critical step in developing blood tests for the virus

 

Charles Richard Drew, This African American doctor was the first to create a blood bank during world war 2 and his work and expertise in plasma preservation is still used today.

 

It’s time for British schools to acknowledge and celebrate all the players in the game of advancing human knowledge.

 

I first realised how easy it was to uncover all this hidden knowledge about where our knowledge has come from right after that conversation on my first day at university.

 

Instead of following all the other students to the pub,

 

I went to the library.

 

Get this, there I learnt that ‘zero’ was discovered in India in the 6th or 7th century and that changed everything. Our number system (12345) is Hindu-Arabic and it was introduced to Europe through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians. Who were they? I found out.

 

I hope you see how easy it would be to mention this in school, at home, wherever. I mean, teachers had only been teaching me maths since I was 5 years old!

 

What I want to leave you with is news that the work to decolonise the curriculum has already started.

 

Researchers and teachers are becoming uncomfortably aware of how white our Literature curriculum is and how nationalistic the History we teach is. It’s time to acknowledge the valuable contributions from all nationalities in the wider curriculum too.

Researchers and teachers are becoming uncomfortably aware of how white our Literature curriculum is and how nationalistic the History we teach is. It’s time to acknowledge the valuable contributions from all nationalities in the wider… Click To Tweet

One teacher, one lesson, one classroom at a time we can decolonise the curriculum.

 

Just think about it. You could be teaching the next Raman, Wong-Staal or Drew.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership: Meeting Agendas

Guest Post from @_theteachr

How to have Impactful Meeting Agendas

  1. How can we improve teaching and learning?  – 55 mins
  2. AOB  – 5 mins

Before I continue, I might add here is if you have serious issues in the department with, for example, significant staff absence, the stability of the department, all the things that are stopping the department from functioning, you have to deal with those first. The point I was trying to make with the agenda above, of course, is that the main event in a subject or department meeting should be Teaching and Learning. What often happens is a lot of the time, subject meetings are dominated by administrative items and sometimes just plain, unnecessarily long monologues, about something unimportant.

People often ask how the housekeeping type of things are dealt with. Well, the reality is, that while you can make the main focus of meetings teaching and learning, sometimes you just have to deal with admin or address what you have been asked to by your line manager. The key, however, is to manage meetings well, because you usually only have an hour.

When I was a Head of Subject, I devised a way to help me do just that. I viewed department meetings as crucial and that every minute of time was valuable. The department all had strengths and contributions to make, and to not tap into that at every possible opportunity was a waste. Planning department meetings was a high priority and I never rushed out an agenda at the last minute in order to fill the time we had.

So bearing in mind that the main priority had to be teaching and learning and also, that sometimes it was just more effective to deal with some types of admin with the whole team together, I developed a way to help me plan the department meeting time and also let the team know what to expect at the meeting. It was a simple case of having a little icon next to each item. The icons stood for:

  1. a presentation
  2. a task, e.g. team planning a lesson for EAL students.
  3. a discussion, e.g. what the department felt were key priorities for the development plan.
  4. information, e.g. last minute information for an imminent event, e.g. open evening.
  5. upcoming dates or events.

Now some of these are mundane and could be done in other ways, but as I say, sometimes you have to deal with them. The key is to not let them dominate. So any agenda, to my mind had to have the majority of the time spent on 2 and 3. And adding those icons, with timings allowed me or anyone, at a glance to get a feel for what was going to happen in the meeting.

Oh, and I always asked for AOB items to be stated up front and noted them so that AOB didn’t become an open-ended, ‘let’s talk about whatever comes to your mind’ or worse, somebody drives the agenda with a random thought that has come to mind.

Oh, and I always asked for AOB items to be stated up front and noted them so that AOB didn’t become an open-ended, ‘let’s talk about whatever comes to your mind’ or worse, somebody drives the agenda with a random thought that has come… Click To Tweet

It takes a little time and effort to plan out a department meeting like this every time, but, teaching and learning is of the highest priority. You’ll notice this meeting’s learning focus was those well-behaved classes that are quiet as mice and work really hard. Very easy to neglect them and to often set unchallenging work for them to get on with for an hour. Every meeting had a different learning focus, differentiation, formative assessment, challenge and stretch, pupil premium, etc.

To me, department meetings were for allowing teachers to give their input, plan together and try new things and improve as teachers. This usually won’t happen by spending an hour telling them administrative things they could read in a bulletin.