Race, UK and​ feeling Othered

Guest Blog from @HalilMrT1

The grief still pours out. No matter what I do the pain lies heavy in my heart which makes it sink further in my chest.

I recently saw this on twitter.

trumprats

https://twitter.com/DoctorJonPaul/status/1155153062941511681?s=19

It’s this rhetoric, by the likes of President Trump, that makes people of colour and those from ethnic minorities as a group feel like they will never truly be equal to their white counterparts. This is because it makes it ok, for those of a certain disposition, to be outwardly racist. It makes it ok for government policies to be created to oppress groups purposefully and without shame – you only have to look at the goings-on in the detention centres at the American Mexican border or the stop and search laws here.

It wasn’t until my late teens that I truly started to appreciate how hard my father had to work. He had always wanted to be a teacher – but due to his first-year course at a top university in Turkey not being “of an equivalent educational value” for the universities here in England he had to defer. Unfortunately, once he started to work that was the end of the dream for him in becoming a teacher. He worked until the early hours 7 days a week enduring verbal and sometimes physical racial abuse from drunk customers.

Up until the age of 16 I rarely had friends over. Our “house” was a flat above a kebab shop. But this wasn’t the reason for my not entertaining friends. I was allowed. I mean both my parents were liberal but I guess I didn’t through embarrassment. It’s strange as I write this it makes more sense than it ever did.

Society, whilst I was growing up in the 90s, saw ethnicity and skin colour as a negative…a flaw. Something to laugh at not celebrate. Something to sneer at not embrace. Something to blame rather than engage with. I’ll never forget the one time two of my friends came over to the shop and met my dad for the first time. I was about 13years old. My dad’s English was broken and he had an accent. This amused my friends so much that for weeks they would mimic some of the words my dad had said using an accent so offensive and caricature that it could have belonged on Harry Enfield’s sketch show (“hello peeps”). Yeah…they didn’t come around again. Not because they hurt my feelings but because I felt embarrassed.

Society, whilst i was growing up in the 90s, saw ethnicity and skin colour as a negative...a flaw. Something to laugh at not celebrate. Something to sneer at not embrace. Something to blame rather than engage with. Click To Tweet

Immediately and for a long while after I wouldn’t want people around the house/shop. I found myself exasperated with my dad … I’d rectify him when he said things “wrong”. I made sure I spoke with received pronunciation.

I felt ashamed – worried that our way of life would bring more laughter and ridicule. They made me feel less. Below. Inadequate. The food we ate, the pictures, the mashallahs (evil eyes) hung up, the Turkish books my dad read, the rugs on the floor, Turkish TV and Turkish music blaring through the speakers – in my mind all fodder for anyone wanting to degrade my culture and way of life.

What effect did this have on me? It meant I wasn’t exposed to some activities that my friends were. I distanced myself from many others outside of school so I didn’t socialise with my peers in a non-educational setting. As a result, I didn’t go to the park with them ….to play football…or go swimming… go out to eat…or go shopping (actually I did once I was about 14… it was an experience that ended with the police knocking on my dad’s shop door – another story for another time). These are activities that help to build and develop social interaction, foster a love with nature and help people to be healthy (the last one I failed at spectacularly!). I missed out on this.

Our shop was very much inner city and we didn’t have a garden to speak of really just a concrete yard where we were not allowed to play. Luckily I had my sister (my rock) and a Turkish friend who would come over occasionally. We would tend to stay in play computer games and watch TV whilst my friends were out on their bikes.

Now, as I begin to conceive writing the next few words, my palms are little clammy and my heart rate has increased.

I can’t ride a bicycle.

There I’ve said it!

Partly down to my own self perception of my own being, which had been transferred on to me through fear of being different and the fear of being chastised and ridiculed for being so, didn’t allow for this to happen.

Yes, my parents could have taught us but they worked long nights and didn’t have the time. Although 13 was a little old to be learning to ride a bike (I mean most children learn whilst they are at primary school) it would have been something I could have learnt given the right environment/opportunity to do so. Ironically my father bought me a bike but I never used it.

I longed to learn. I wanted to. But the embarrassment grew as I got older. I bought myself a bike when I was in my late twenties but I never took it out for worry about what others would think. Watching a grown man fumbling around on a bike. I laugh at the thought never mind what others would think.

Only as recently as last year, as a 39 year old man, I was still hiding behind the shame. I was sat in a meeting where my bosses had an idea to raise money for charity by having, yes you guessed it, a sponsored bike ride. “Halil you could ride one of the stages!” Holy Moly, what do I say? my brain says “tell them you can’t ride a bike, tell them you never learnt” my mouth says ” yeah that sounds great. Yeah, why not. I’ll even source the exact type of bike needed” whhhhhhyyyy!? (it was a rickshaw granted it would be easier than a two wheeled wobbly monster but still riding on a road …pedals….brakes…. handlebars! Urgh I shudder at the thought). Luckily for me, it didn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong I love my heritage, my background, who I am and who I was. I never hated myself but I felt embarrassment for being different. I never felt equal. As a result, limited myself from experiences that would otherwise be normal for others.

My role as a head teacher is fuelled by the desire to give every child these opportunities. A curriculum with breadth and depth enriched with trips that level the playing field. I want their lives to be as smooth as cycle lanes. Where their only worry should be which way they are going. Not riding in a lane where the potholes of lack of privilege have to be navigated.

My role as a head teacher is fuelled by the desire to give every child these opportunities. Click To Tweet

Right. I think it’s time to learn how to ride a bicycle… don’t you think!?

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Why do Teachers Resist Anti Racism?

I’m sitting on the tube, it’s noisy, there are no seats, and I’m squashed against the door. Full disclosure, I’m exhausted, and if I’m honest, I’m stumbling haplessly towards half term. 

In this current state, my mind flickers towards my activism and the work that has to done to decolonise the curriculum. After writing the tweet below, I wonder about the counter-argument and why some teachers are reticent to engage. 

tweet21

This morning, my brain was tired; it’s dark, it’s wet this morning and all I wanted to get my day’s work out of the way. The priorities I set out in September have changed to survival being promoted to the top of the list. The likelihood of me engaging with anything that isn’t survival-based feels wrong at the moment, but I am an educator. 

In these times, it is certainly not the money that gets me out of bed and brings me to this tube. I get to work because of my vision and core purpose. 

‘To serve the children in my care, in the best way I can.’

People can be hesitant to engage in work to decolonise the curriculum, due to it ‘not feeling right’ because of, anxiety around the extra work. A possible admission that for years, we have been causing damage to those we serve.

People can be hesitant to engage in work to decolonise the curriculum, due to it 'not feeling right' because of, anxiety around the extra work. A possible admission that for years, we have been causing damage to those we serve. Click To Tweet

We have to remember that the content of the curriculum we teach is relatively static and has been propagated for 100s years. Teachers have been indoctrinating pupils for generations; this includes our childhood teachers. As a Wolves fan, the early part of the tweet makes sense as it bolsters my opinion of my club, but like our curricula, after a while, nothing else sounds right or as right. Recently I engaged in a conversation with James Wren about how West Bromwich Albion was a great family club, the work they do with the community, etc. Interesting isn’t it, even typing that out feels off, a part of me couldn’t wait to get to the ‘etc.’ It feels wrong. Rationally this cognitive dissonance around my marriage to a football club makes little sense.

The impact of being inculcated into a world of gold and black (Wolves colours) has implications on my perception of the world; I and only I suffer the consequences of my actions. However, as an educator, sometimes the outcomes are not mine to own, the impact not only impacts my pupils but society as a whole. 

The impact of being inculcated into a world of gold and black (Wolves colours) has implications on my perception of the world; I and only I suffer the consequences of my actions. However, as an educator... Click To Tweet

We are going to go the back to our collective visions. When things are tough, we remind ourselves of our core purpose. No matter how ‘off’ our positions are, the questions I ask are,

  1. Do our pupils deserve to be taught a fair representation of the world?
  2. Do you believe that the current curriculum represents knowledge well?
  3. What is the best that has been thought and said, are those voices usually in English and uttered through homogenous lips?
  4. What is the impact of my actions on society? Am I causing further inequity? Am I setting pupils up for superiority or inferiority?
  5. Are we serving the pupils in the best way we can?
Yes, to decolonise the curriculum takes work. No matter how tough it gets, it is still time to get on the tube. To continue with the repetitive chants of wolves aye we or the propagation of our ethnocentric curriculum serves no one… Click To Tweet

Yes, to decolonise the curriculum takes work. No matter how tough it gets, it is still time to get on the tube. To continue with the repetitive chants of wolves aye we or the propagation of our ethnocentric curriculum serves no one well least of all our children. 

  

  

  

  

  

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.

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… Click To Tweet

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.

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. Click To Tweet

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?

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? Click To Tweet

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

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. Click To Tweet

Do we encourage all pupils? With pupils of colour do we treat them the same? Burgess 2009 suggests not. Systemically we (teachers) underassess 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 adults 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

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.

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. Click To Tweet

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/

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’.

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'. Click To Tweet

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 she is making (probably) 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 says 'all men', the statement she is making (probably) is be better as a gender, go forth and educate those of us in privilege systemically (including ourselves) Click To Tweet

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.

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. Click To Tweet

‘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. 

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) Click To Tweet

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. 

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… Click To Tweet

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.

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.

 Click To Tweet

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.

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… Click To Tweet

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

Black History Month. Really?

Things that don’t make you immune to racism,

  1. Dating a person of colour.
  2. Engaging with friends of colour.
  3. Loving ethnic cuisine.
  4. Ascribing to another protected characteristic.
  5. Learning and speaking another language. 
  6. Having PoC in your family  
  7. Being a good person. 
  8. Having good intentions.
  9. Working with PoC for a charity. 
  10. Saying I’m not racist but … 
  11. Being a person of faith.
  12. Loving world music.
  13. Teaching in a school which is majority GM.
  14. Being a feminist.

All of the above does not provide us with a get out of jail card, nor does Black history month.

Black history month has been a feature in UK schools for several years but has it made an impact on students and educators alike. I don’t just mean pupils and teacher of colour either.

Things that don't make you immune to racism, Dating a person of colour. Engaging with friends of colour. Loving ethnic cuisine. Ascribing to another protected characteristic. Learning and speaking another language. Having PoC in your… Click To Tweet

The lack of representation in our school’s curricula is an obvious problem; I have repeatedly called for the need to decolonise our thinking, delivery as well as the content. 

While black history Month delivers fresh insights and introduces new concepts and constructs to our teachers and pupils, I would question the ‘why’, the purpose and the intended impact behind the month.

If the purpose of black history month is to raise awareness of black figures throughout history, I would say that, at least in part, the current practice in schools achieves this. Is the purpose of black history month is to reduce inequity through portraying a more authentic version of history-changing the lives of our pupils. I would say Black history month indeed fails spectacularly.

I have often thought that any inclusion of people of colour into our curricula Is a good thing. However, the only way we make any initiative sustainable is through integrating change into our day to day lives. 

The issues with black history month is that it often falls into the realm of tokenism. It merely provides most people with an excuse when challenged on the diversity and the suitability of the curriculum.

The issues with black history month is that it often falls into the realm of tokenism. It merely provides most people with an excuse when challenged on the diversity and the suitability of the curriculum. Click To Tweet

Let me ask the question. How does your curriculum serve the pupils of colour in your school? How does it help those pupils racialised is white?

Black history is simply history; although this may sound like a deliberate flippant comment, it is the absolute truth. Not recognising the achievements of the global majority and answering with we have a month where we include black people into the history faculty is nothing but a copout.

Not recognising the achievements of the global majority ALL YEAR round is not only lazy; it is damaging.

In its current form, black history month provides the anti-racist pill, which stops people from thinking they uphold the structures which support white supremacy. I’m sure you can see the dangers here. Well-meaning people, instead of interrogating their own experiences and the resulting bias, swallow this pill and feel they are doing right by their pupils.

Activity 1.

Which figures are you incorporating for these four weeks? How many are experts in their field? 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Now remove the people of colour who are there because they fought for freedom. Rebellion is not all people of colour can achieve. I could list hundreds of thousands of examples of excellence, but how teachers ever learn if they never do the work?

But Pran this is a start?

Yes, it is a start, but how long is it going to be a start? How long do we continue to provide this get out of jail card? This panacea?

But Pran this is a start? Yes, it is a start, but how long is it going to be a start? How long do we continue to provide this get out of jail card? This panacea? Click To Tweet

Do I think it’s wrong to incorporate black people and their stories for one month? I would say if it’s not interwoven into your day-to-day life as a school community, it likely does more damage than good.

What to do?

First, interrogate your ‘why’? 

Why are you as a school leader, teacher and school engaging in black history month? 

  1. It’s what we do.
  2. I’m told to do it.
  3. So pupils of colour do not feel let out.
  4. To introduce figures which are not usually in our curricula.

The evaluate if your actions achieve that goal. 

I would say most of the above is achieved relatively easily with current models. If your ‘why’ something along the lines of,

At Pran Patel Academy, we believe that inclusivity, citizenship and knowledge are the pillars of our school society. Through incorporating a wide array of global experience into our curriculum ensures a more accurate, a more authentic and fairer curriculum. Our curriculum fosters inclusivity and creates an environment where global citizens thrive.

Through incorporating a wide array of global experience into our curriculum ensures a more accurate, a more authentic and fairer curriculum. Our curriculum fosters inclusivity and creates an environment where global citizens thrive. Click To Tweet

Then we have work to do.

Let talk about the content you will be teaching, are you solely teaching about black people who have rebelled, fought and won their rights? Although I think this recognition is essential without paying credence to the vast achievements of black people, this further enshrines the false impression of master and servant. 

The servants rebelled and won their freedom but achieved nothing before or after their servitude.

We have to remind ourselves that we grew up in a system which taught us that some people achieved more than others. Undoing this ‘inculcated epistemology’ although arduous is a journey we have to take before propagating to our pupils.

Now within your subject areas, you have to look at the 

What I wrote next may be contentious; well, let’s be honest pretty much all I write can be read as controversial. What do you mean by Black? This week Dr. Muni Abdi pointed out that the concept of Black history month came from the USA, where the word Black has completely different connotations to the UK.

  • Politically black?
  • The global majority (around 80% of the world population)?
  • Those of African descent?
  • Those who were born in Africa?
  • People of dual heritage?
  • Etc.

What do you want to be the focus your ‘month’? All of the above are very different categories. Your answer here is inconsequential as you control the school culture.

October has 31 days, the school year has typically 36 weeks, you can see where I am going with this. If your ‘why’ values the contributions of Black people surely this should be a part of your culture. 

A day a week incorporating the curriculum around a figure and more critically the achievement, (I’m not talking about the civil rights movement, which is the usual go-to). 

Yes, this is difficult, but if it is important enough to incorporate into a month, it is important enough to incorporate into the week. Then next year pick another day, and in 4 years we have a representative curriculum.

In conclusion:

  1. What is the purpose of Black history month?
  2. Who do you include under the label of Black?
  3. Evaluate if what you are planning will achieve that purpose.
  4. Consider spreading the month across the year.
  5. Provide time for staff to plan in figures in their subject areas, to discover the truth around the knowledge we have accepted.