It’s OK to be Anxious.

Written by @Joanner79Jo

Originally posted here

I have never blogged before but having seen a number of tweets expressing anxiety about the new academic year I thought I’d give it a go.

I am prompted to write my first blog after reading a number of tweets expressing anxiety and nerves about the new academic year. I too experience anxiety at this time of year, despite 20 years of teaching and entering my seventh year as head, so I have been thinking about the reasons why.

I guess really I want to reassure. I honestly believe that being anxious is fine! Our job matters. In some ways it should give you sleepless nights, not because you are worried about your school’s position in the league tables or because this year is an OFSTED year but because you are being trusted to educate young people. It doesn’t matter whether you are teaching in Nursery or Year 13, the job comes with a huge amount of responsibility so if you are going to survive it you need to care. I hope though that your anxiety is also tempered by excitement whatever your current role in school. I can’t wait to get to know my new Early Years Children and their families but am also excited to work with my NQTS and further develop ethical leadership at all levels. Of course alongside the excitement is anxiety but isn’t that the point?

Although it might appear flippant to suggest sleepless nights are okay, I want to make it clear. I do not want anyone to feel so anxious they cannot sleep and their long term health to suffer, but I do want everyone involved in… Click To Tweet

Although it might appear flippant to suggest sleepless nights are okay, I want to make it clear. I do not want anyone to feel so anxious they cannot sleep and their long term health to suffer, but I do want everyone involved in education to be motivated not by their personal ambition but by the desire to make the world a fairer place for all children. This means there will be times when you spend hours thinking and pondering on the child you are finding it most difficult to reach or even how to bring in a balanced budget without yet another restructure. You will occasionally wake up at 3 am in the morning worried about the child with a Child Protection Plan, or with what you think is an amazing idea for a whole school street party, (not realising that that alone is enough to give your long suffering Deputy her own sleepless nights) and the night before results day, whatever level, is likely to be pretty tough. However, what I have learnt and what helps me generally sleep at night is knowing that I generally have done my best. I cannot fix everything and nor can you. I cannot fix affordable housing for my families living in overcrowded and temporary accommodation but I can listen, make phone calls and adapt my policies to recognise what an achievement it is for some children to get to school at all let alone on time. I can’t overcome every challenge and barrier faced by my children with SEND but I can listen to them and their parents, I can try and walk in their shoes and if this means changing my uniform policy to accommodate a child’s hypersensitivity to certain fabrics or bringing in whole school training on attachment and trauma to better understand our Looked After Children, then I will.

I will do all I can to reduce teacher work load but not at the expense of the children. It is a hard job – there are different points in the year when we are all on our knees, but it is also the best job. If my staff come to me with ideas for reducing planning I will of course listen, but nor will I just go down the route of doing something because it is easier for staff. Our curriculum needs to be responsive to my community and relevant to their experiences and interests. This year we are working on children seeing themselves in the books they read and the history they study and this has of course created work for class teachers and subject leads. I make no apologies for this. I do all I can to provide time for leaders to lead and teachers to teach but ultimately, well our kids get one shot at this so it needs to be the best it can possibly be.

I guess in conclusion, what I am trying to say in my clumsy way, is that it is okay to be anxious and nervous. I’d be pretty surprised if you weren’t. However, find ways to live with yourself and look after yourself. You’re anxious because you are in a profession that cares passionately about getting it right for our children. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed talk to someone, anyone. But also, embrace the nerves and the worry, it’s what drives us all to keep getting better.

‘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


Race: What is RACISM? 

After various different challenges, let me set clear my position on racism. After a google search of the definition of racism the above appears, to base a phronetic definition of something so complex on a dictionary definition is fickle. Using the dictionary in this way is also problematic with the inception of its very concept. (More here in this great article

Reverse racism does not exist; I cannot say this enough. All oppression is when people from a collective exert their power over another. When I’m saying power, I’m talking systematic and systemic power. That means that members of the global majority can hate white people all they want, the chances of them impacting of their life chances, the healthcare they receive, the judicial system, even abuse in the street, etc. is minimal.

What do members of the global majority face? UCAS has admitted it has more ‘work to do’ because black students are 22 times more likely to have their university applications investigated. 2675/260,550 black applicants investigated compared to 995/2,127,965 white applications. Just look at those numbers, let it digest, this is the body in charge of the gateway to university.

A black person is ‘four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act’. It’s not that simple (other factors are in play), however, when coupled with the deaths of members of the global majority in police custody (6 out of 11 from 4/17-12/17) this isn’t looking great.

With the chair of the IPPC (police watchdog) saying ‘We need to look closely between the relationship between ethnicity and the use of force.’ Stop and search also disproportionately targets black people, to the tune of 9 times more likely to stopped and searched compared to white counterparts. Before you accuse me of making this up I have referenced some examples below.

“Young black people were more likely to be identified with ‘gang concerns’ and be considered a ‘risk to others’ on entry to custody than any other ethnic group between April 2014 and March 2016.”
Exploratory analysis of 10-17 year olds in the youth secure estate by black and other minority ethnic groups September 2017. Ministry of Justice.

This is absolutely the worst, in 2006 the Healthcare Commission published its first ever national review, which noted ‘some disadvantaged groups are more likely than others to fail to receive services. As well as the elderly, there are also inequities in provision that particularly affect people with mental health problems from black and minority ethnic communities. So do not be poor, black, old and depressed in England right now, because you’re very unlikely to get treated.’

Before I go on, I will state race is social construct, the differences in biological terms are meaningless, physical differences in skin colour have no natural associations with group differences in ability or behaviour. (Clair and Denis)

For sake of more clarity, for members of the global majority to be racist, this means that they would benefit from privilege and the societal structures of the system, looking at the articles and the lived-in experience of many, this simply is not and cannot be the case.

Cazaneve & Maddern 1999 and A Sivananden 1993 both express racism in terms of social power which stems from the competition of resources.

“Contemporary sociology considers racism as individual – and group-level processes and structures that are implicated in the reproduction of racial inequality in diffuse and often subtle ways”

Sociology of Racism. Clair and Denis

Similarly Di Angelo state ‘Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual “race prejudice”, which anyone of any race can have, Whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and people of colour (Hil-liard, 1992)’

With the ‘processes and structures’ implying power and privilege and ‘reproduction of racial inequality’ implying discrimination, I conclude ‘Oppression = Privilege + Discrimination’ or Racism = Power + Discrimination.

Empirically, and this is an honest challenge, I am unaware of a single case of a systemic race crime brought by the CPS to a member of the GM against a white person. A high profile case against Mustata Bahar was dropped after an incendiary tweet was unearthed, yet no charges around race were considered (see link below).

Yes, this may make you feel uncomfortable. This is a natural reaction to the challenge of a collectivist mindset. Hope this has made you think.

When I challenged, actually I was challenged to acknowledge my male lens on the world, I exhibited male fragility, however this was temporary. Hopefully this clears up the definitions of racism.

References and Further Reading

Why Reverse Oppression Simply Cannot Exist (No Matter What Merriam-Webster Says)

Click to access sociology_of_racism_clairandenis_2015.pdf

Sivanandan, A. 1993, ‘Race against time: there isn’t just one form of racism in Britain, but two’, New Statesman & Society, vol.6, no.274, p16.

Cazenave, N. A. & Maddern, D. A. 1999, ‘Defending the White Race: White Male Faculty

Opposition to a White Racism Course’, Race and Society, vol. 2, pp. 25-50.

Black people in England and Wales are almost nine times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched for drugs, according to a report.

Click to access QuiteLikeHeaven.pdf

“So do not be poor, black, old and depressed in England right now, because you’re very unlikely to get treated.” p48 p8