Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Doors: A Metaphor for the Diverse Curriculum

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

In the dynamic landscape of education, the curriculum serves as the foundation for shaping young minds. As we strive for a more inclusive and representative educational experience, the metaphor of Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors offers a powerful framework for curriculum development. This metaphor, introduced by Dr Rudine Sims Bishop, encapsulates the essence of diversity, equity, inclusion  and belonging within educational content, emphasising the importance of reflection, observation, and engagement for all learners.

Mirrors: Reflecting Students’ Own Lives

Mirrors in the curriculum are essential for students to see themselves – their cultures, identities, and experiences – reflected in what they learn. When students encounter stories, histories, and perspectives that resonate with their own lives, they feel validated and recognised. This reflection fosters a sense of belonging and self-worth, which is crucial for their overall development and academic success.

For curriculum specialists and subject leaders, this means incorporating diverse voices and narratives across all subjects. For example, in literature, selecting texts from a variety of authors who represent different backgrounds ensures that every student can see themselves on the page. In history, presenting a more inclusive perspective that acknowledges the contributions and experiences of marginalised groups and provides a fuller understanding of the past.

Windows: Viewing Others’ Lives

Windows offer students a view into the lives and experiences of people different from themselves. Through these glimpses, learners develop empathy, understanding, and a broader perspective of the world. Windows help dismantle stereotypes and prejudices, fostering a more inclusive mindset among students.

To create these windows, educators need to curate a curriculum that includes global perspectives and diverse narratives. In geography, this might involve studying various cultures and their relationships with the environment. In science, discussing contributions from global scientists highlights the universal nature of discovery. Providing opportunities for students to engage with content that portrays different lifestyles, beliefs, and challenges cultivates an appreciation for diversity and interconnectedness.

Sliding Doors: Engaging and Interacting

Sliding doors represent opportunities for students to enter into, and interact with, different worlds. This element encourages active engagement and personal reflection. When students can metaphorically ‘step into’ the experiences of others, they gain deeper insights of different identities and build meaningful connections.

Interactive projects, collaborative learning experiences, and role-playing activities serve as sliding doors in the curriculum. For instance, a history project where students re-enact historical events from multiple perspectives can provide profound learning experiences. In literature, writing assignments that ask students to create narratives from the viewpoint of characters unlike themselves can deepen empathy and understanding.

Integrating Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors

To integrate these concepts effectively, curriculum specialists and subject leaders must be intentional and thoughtful in their approach. This involves:

  • Reviewing and Revising Existing Curriculum: Conducting thorough audits to identify gaps and biases. Ensuring that the content reflects a diverse range of voices and perspectives.
  • Collaborating with Diverse Communities: Engaging with parents/ carers, community leaders, and organisations to gather input and resources. This collaboration can enrich the curriculum with authentic, representative materials.
  • Providing Professional Development: Equipping teachers with the skills and knowledge to deliver an inclusive curriculum. Training on cultural competence, unconscious bias, and inclusive teaching strategiesl.
  • Utilising Technology and Media: Leveraging digital resources to access a wider array of content. Using online platforms, virtual exchanges, and multimedia can bring diverse voices and experiences into the classroom.
  • Encouraging Student Voice and Choice: Empowering students to share their stories and choose projects that reflect their interests and identities. Designing student-centred approach fosters a sense of ownership and relevance in their learning.

The metaphor of Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors provides a robust framework for creating an inclusive and representative curriculum. By reflecting students’ identities, offering insights into others’ lives, and facilitating active engagement, educators can cultivate a learning environment that values diversity, promotes equity, centres inclusion and builds belonging. As curriculum specialists and subject leaders, embracing this metaphor not only enriches the educational experience but also prepares students to thrive in a diverse and interconnected world.


#AllTheThings

Helena Marsh portrait

Written by Helena Marsh

Helena is a WomenEd co-founder, mum of three and experienced school and Trust leader. In her ninth year of secondary headship, Helena has also held the role of MAT CEO. An advocate of flexible working, Helena co-wrote the ‘Flexing our Schools’ chapter in the first WomenEd book and has been an active supporter of the Flexible Working Ambassador Scheme and the MTPT Project.

Spending the day among some incredible inspiring women at the ‘Breaking the Mould’ event on 9th March at Milton Road Primary School, Cambridge, was a fabulous way to mark this year’s International Women’s Day. 

Hannah asked me to contribute to the event when we met for an after work mocktail in May 2023. At the time, having this little spot of feminist joy to look forward to on the horizon really uplifted me at a particularly bleak moment in my leadership career. 

Several months later, I was not disappointed. Featuring amongst a programme of kick-ass women gave me a real sense of personal and professional rejuvenation. 

My session, entitled ‘What’s the point of cake if you can’t eat it?’, focused on my experiences, as a mum of three, of gendered perceptions of leadership. In my 15 years as a senior leader, I’ve been conscious of women stepping away from the profession, and their leadership potential, citing selfishness and a pragmatic need to focus on their families, as the reason. 

To coin a phrase by Summer Turner, I questioned: ‘Are the boys also worrying about this?’ Do men perceive becoming a dad and maintaining their career as ‘having it all’?

Gender pay gap research reveals that they don’t. The Fatherhood Bonus, in stark contrast to the Motherhood Penalty, rewards men for becoming fathers. While women are stepping down or away to focus on caregiving and accepting the inevitability of this pause/permanent freeze in their professional journey, men are, statistically, enjoying promotion and pay progression when starting a family. 

My presentation focused on the factors, institutional, societal and personal, that lead to women feeling as though progressing professionally is not a viable choice once becoming a mum. I concluded that wholesale changes to sector expectations of leaders is necessary. As Jill Berry wisely observes, if having a job and a life isn’t achievable, there’s a problem with the job. 

The other inputs to the day complemented this theme. Particularly Niamh Sweeney’s rousing cry to tackle the injustices within the profession that inhibit and preclude. Niamh’s anecdote from her recent trip to the States chimed with many of us in the audience. The audacious goal of winning ‘all the things’ spoke to a refreshing cultural ambition. Meanwhile, many of the other talks highlighted the importance of acknowledging feminine leadership traits and valuing the benefits of diversity in leadership teams.   

I left the day reflecting on how often ‘having it all’ is misunderstood for ‘doing it all’. My Mother’s Day stash of gifts that I received the following day from my little ones included various iterations of listing pads. As a fan of organisational stationery, I was chuffed with my haul. However, it did make me recognise how much of my sense of success as a mum and leader is measured through my accomplishment of ‘stuff’. Many women that I have worked with pride themselves on getting all the sh*t done and to an exceptional standard, often at the expense of their personal health and wellbeing.

As I acknowledged in my IWD talk, the weight of the mental load that mums carry, let alone mum leaders carry, is immense. It’s important that having #AllTheThings doesn’t necessitate us doing everything but having our fair share of whatever it is we strive for, whether that’s cake, career development opportunities or childcare responsibilities. 


Diversifying Coaching in Education – A Funded Opportunity for the #DiverseEd Community to Train to Coach

Yasmin Ariff portrait

Written by Yasmin Ariff

Yasmin Ariff is a Partner and Director of Education at the CVP Group. CVP Group specialise in professional coaching training for managers and business leaders. They create coaching cultures across UK organisations, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

I wish I’d found coaching earlier in my teaching career. It has made me a better person on so many levels. But it came at a cost. Having invested £8000 of my own money into coaching training, it’s fair to say, although it’s been worth it, it also broke the bank balance. 

It made we wonder whether coaching would ever be a truly diverse and inclusive profession when only those with a higher-than-average income could afford the training. Even hiring a coach can cost around £100 per hour. 

So, how can we, as leaders, democratise coaching in Education?

How can we create a pool of coaches that represent the diverse backgrounds of our Educators?

If only there was a government-funded training programme for aspiring coaches that removed the barrier of cost…

If only there was a coaching training programme that promoted and included a range of diverse educators… 

Look no further!

CVP Group and #DiverseEd are partnering to deliver a funded training programme in October 2024 for aspiring coaches in England.

To apply, you will need to complete this #DiverseEd EOI and they will then send you the CVP ROI with the #DiverseEd Referral Code.

Introducing the Level 5 Coaching Professional Apprenticeship

Our unique approach supporting aspiring and existing diverse leaders will support you to:

  • engage with your workforce
  • promote active listening skills
  • deepen your understanding of what motivates teams
  • improve staff retention
  • support other aspiring or existing diverse leaders 

The 12 month apprenticeship programme is delivered online including an End Point Assessment.

The Level 5 Coaching Professional Apprenticeship enables learners to work towards a nationally recognised qualification that meets coaching professional body standards (ICF, EMCC and Association of Coaching). The coaching professional standard has been created by leading organisations with existing coaching cultures and expertise in leadership.

Selection of company logos

Figure 1. Organisations who created the coaching standard

In a group dedicated solely to Diverse Educators, you will cover coaching disciplines such as:

  • how to plan and structure coaching sessions;
  • cognitive behaviour techniques to reframe limiting beliefs;
  • principles of neurolinguistic programming;
  • schools of psychology such as Carl Rogers, Gestalt and Freud;
  • leadership theory and change management;
  • managing and celebrating diversity in your coaching practice;
  • ethics and professional codes of conduct for coaches as well as how to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders.

Over 12 months you will be provided with the tools you need to create a coaching model tailored to organisational needs.

Our #DiverseEd cohort will also have the unique opportunity to attend additional #DiverseEd sessions with Hannah Wilson to explore diversity, equity and inclusion in coaching further. 

Coaching Professional Level 5 Pathway

Figure 2. The Coaching Learning Journey

The apprenticeship requires the application of coaching skills in the workplace which will be tailored to fit into your day-to-day job role. Coaching apprentices will receive wrap around support throughout the year so they can apply their coaching skills in the workplace. Many of our current apprentices are using their coaching skills to develop different aspects of education such as:

  • teaching and learning
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • well-being and leadership.

Ongoing careers guidance and support for apprentices includes attending a range of webinars delivered by expert coaches which demonstrate how your coaching skills support career advancement. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities to develop personally through CVP’s well-being events, an online community and learning forum as well as your bespoke personal development plan, including an opportunity to win our Easter fitness hamper with CVP’s annual spring into fitness competition.

The #DiverseEd Coaching Community

We are building a #DiverseEd coaching community which will be the first of its kind.

We know the current coaching landscape in Education is not representative of the leaders it serves so we want to upskill educators as coaches in our community to empower each other.

CVP Coaching apprentices will be the first to pilot a funded coaching programme for the #DiverseEd community, where CVP coaching apprentices will have an opportunity to join the #DiverseEd Coaching directory. 

The inaugural cohort will run October 2024 and we anticipate that places will be in high demand.

What Attendees are Saying About Us

Here’s what our current trainee coaches have to say about the programme:

“This course has been the perfect opportunity to keep learning and development at the heart of what I’m doing. It’s extremely well organised and resourced. Yasmin’s care, expertise and passion ensures we as the participants are motivated and supported every step of the way.” 

Claire, Senior Leader Education.

“Great session, the demonstration where we got to see it in action was really powerful to have that practical example. It is about simple steps being done well. You have to learn the art (which can be complex) and then not let it cloud your basic best practice.” 

Apprentice, Masterclass 2.

“The level 5 professional coaching course was thoroughly enjoyable and purposeful. I refined skills that were instantly transferable to the workplace but also deepened my reflective practice to understand how my own principles surface at work. I felt fully prepared going into to EPA and confident enough to show off my portfolio. Lots of elements in the portfolio I still use in my coaching sessions today. The course complemented full-time employment in education and didn’t seem too laborious as all the tasks seemed purposeful.” 

Rosie, Assistant Headteacher

Join Us in October 2024!

To be eligible for funding you must meet the following criteria:

  • Work 16 hours or more per week;
  • Have lived in the UK / EU for 3 years or more prior to enrolment;
  • Spend over 50% of your working week in England;
  • Have a contract of employment.

Are you interested but not in employment? Do you live outside England? We are pleased to open this programme to diverse leaders beyond England on a self-funded basis. If you would like to have a conversation with one of the team at CVP Group to find out more, reach out to sarah@cvpgroup.co.uk

What Next?

Whether you have made your mind up or would just like to find out more about the course content, please complete the Register of Interest Form that #DiverseEd will send you and our coaching engagement team will contact you to set up a meeting.

I will be delivering a large part of the programme. With over 20 years’ experience in schools, I am looking forward to reconnecting with leaders to create powerful coaching cultures in schools.

To find out more about my own journey as a leader in education, visit my website here.


Leaving a Legacy: Saying Goodbye to My Shero – Karen Giles

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

There was a flurry of activity on my social media timeline yesterday following the devastating news that we have lost the beautiful soul that is Karen Giles. The outpouring of love is not a surprise as Karen is a well-known, well-respected and well-loved educational leader. We had been expecting the news for a while as she had been really unwell for a long time, but it is still a shock to realise that she has gone forever.

I had received an early morning text from a mutual friend and spent most of the day crying as different people reached out with personal messages to share their pain of losing our dear friend. I did not know if it was public knowledge so I did not share anything on my socials – just in case people who knew her had not heard the sad news, and to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time, but by the evening I realised others had shared the news and the ripples of shock had widened. I thought about her and her impact on me all day and went to bed penning a piece to capture the essence of what a special human being she is (struggling to write her in the past tense).

Karen was and will continue to be the epitome of everything I believe in when it comes to leadership: she lives and models her values; she practices what she preaches; she is authentic; she has integrity; she is humble; she serves her community; she advocates for others; she has impact. Above all she has a huge heart, she is very kind and she nurtures everyone around her. She has a very special gift of making you feel like the only person in the room – totally seen, totally heard, totally understood and totally supported. Anyone in her orbit is lucky to sponge up a little bit of her presence. I think we all need to be a bit more Karen Giles.

I met Karen multiple times in a short period of time nearly a decade ago: we were both school leaders in London; we were both committed to empowering women leaders – she attended and supported #WomenEd events; we both contributed sessions to the Leading Women’s Alliance events; and as I started my NPQH she was one of the facilitators on our residentials with Ambition School Leadership. Every time I crossed paths with Karen I fell a little more in love with her. I don’t put many people on a pedestal but Karen was up there – she was one of my ‘wise women’ who became not only a guide but a friend. She relentlessly cheered on, championed and sponsored people around her. I am very lucky and very grateful to have been able to stand in her light and feel the warmth of her soul.

Every time I needed Karen she was there for me, and I know she was there for everyone else in her multiple circles too. She supported me out of a tricky Deputy Headship into Headship, she supported me out of my Headship and into my independent work. She held a mirror up to me to consider my future and helped me realign my Ikigai. I can remember visiting her at her school one morning following a breakfast meeting and she said to me: “Hannah Wilson, where ever you have been, whatever you have been doing, this is your calling”. I supported her through a relationship breakdown and into an Executive role; I supported her in considering her options post-retirement. I was excited at her becoming a coach, finding a home in Barbados and training to be a celebrant. We joked that if I ever got married she would host the ceremony for us. I told her she had multiple books in her and I think she had started a few of them.

We called each other for professional favours and the answer was always a Yes, no matter what it was/ when it was. She contributed to our #DiverseGovernance series during lockdown and she was one of our keynotes at our #DiverseEd event post lockdown. Lots of the posts on X reference how inspiring she was and comment on how she modelled inclusive, servant leadership. I spoke at a few leadership events at her school and spent some time with her associate headteachers. Karen was an introvert and a quiet leader but she had an enormous, yet gentle, presence, she hustled me into many an event that I was not on the guest list for with a smile and a polite request!

‘Yes’ was a word we had bonded over at LWA. I had a run a session at LWA on The Power of Saying Yes inspired by the book by Shonda Rhimes, about grabbing opportunities with both hands. She had made a deal with me, there and then, that if she said yes more could I say a few more nos.  As we negotiated there was a twinkle in her eyes – we were total opposites in so many ways but had so much in common when it came to the important stuff. I really valued the mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual love we held for each other.

When we were writing the first #WomenEd book, 10% Braver, each chapter author chose a role model to amplify and showcase. Karen was my natural choice. At the end of chapter 1 this is what I wrote about her:

“Role Model: Karen Giles

Values-led leaders demonstrate that you can be a leader with a soul. Karen Giles is an Executive Primary Headteacher in London and a facilitator for Ambition School Leadership. I remember meeting her at one of my first NPQH sessions where she invited 64 aspiring headteachers to go for a leisurely jog around the conference room. She was immaculately dressed in a purple shift dress, matching tailored jacket and heels and gracefully leapt like a gazelle. I fell a little bit in love with her on the spot. 

I was delighted Karen came to my session on The Power of Networking at the second Leading Women’s Alliance event. She is an old school networker and I am a new one, and we had a passionate discussion about Shonda Rhimes’ book ‘Year of Yes’. We both agreed that whilst ‘Yes’ is an enabler, women also need to be empowered to say ‘No!’ 

Karen has local, regional, national and global impact as a leader. She has taught and led in London schools for twenty-eight years and is currently a Local Authority School Effectiveness Lead Professional, working with leaders in sixteen schools. Karen has been a Leadership Coach since 2012, leading and facilitating a variety of mixed phase coaching groups and workshops as well as working with both Primary and Secondary participants. She served as an Ofsted Inspector from 2010-15, has been appointed as a Coach for the pan-London GLA Getting Ahead programme and is Primary Director for the London Leadership Strategy. She was the winner of the London Region National Teacher Award for Enterprise and Innovation in 2009 and serves as an advisory board member for the Varkey Foundation. Karen currently serves as Headteacher, a position she has held for thirteen years”.

I didn’t tell Karen I was writing about her, but I sent her a copy of the book with a post-it in it and a card when it was published. I know she was really touched and ever the humble person she was shocked I had chosen to spotlight her. Throughout her illness I have regularly sent her WhatsApp messages and voice notes to update her on the things we would normally discuss. I also sent her  Mum a copy of the book so that her family could read it and play it back to her so she could hear the impact she has had on so many.

Leaving London our in-person catch ups happened less frequently, but whenever we could squeeze in a lunch or a brunch we did. I often drove down to her flat and she would spoil me rotten, and if we met somewhere central she would often arrive giggling that I had made her come out to the sticks to see the cows and the mud. Those who know Karen will remember her for resembling a Hollywood actress as she climbed out of her nippy sports car in a glamorous faux-fur coat.

One of the last times I saw her in person I took her out for a belated lunch to celebrate her 60th birthday. She was so full of life and excited for what the future held for her. It seems so unfair at the timing of her illness, as she stood on the cusp of her 3rd quarter.

Preparing for her next chapter in life and her career she asked me to run a session for her and some of her friends on how to leverage LinkedIn to grow their network/ profile. Not that she needed help with either as Karen was a brilliant connector. This is my LinkedIn testimonial for her:

“I can still remember the first time I met Karen Giles, she glided into the NPQH room and captivated 64 aspiring Headteachers. I have had a professional crush on her ever since! If you have read the #WomenEd book 10% Braver, I wrote chapter 1 and Karen is my role model at the end of it. Making a big impression on me as a senior leader and aspiring Headteacher, Karen became my unofficial mentor and my critical friend (she didn’t have much choice in the matter!) I had coaching as a Deputy Headteacher, a Headteacher and as an Executive Headteacher but it was often Karen I would turn to in a crisis to tap into her calm wisdom. She has supported me through pivotal decisions in both my professional and personal leadership journey. I have learnt lots from her, but we have also become friends through it all. I have heard Karen speak on numerous occasions – for Ambition School Leadership, for the Leading Women’s Alliance and for Diverse Educators – what always shines through is her integrity, her resilience and her quiet determination to do the right thing by her people (her pupils/ her staff/ her community/ her network). She is a brilliant role model, a supportive mentor, a transformational coach and an inspiring leader. If you have not connected with her, then what are you waiting for? Witness her fabulousness for yourselves”.  

As you read the posts of Facebook, X and LinkedIn about Karen you will really capture the essence of her character, and will be able to appreciate the impact she had on so many people. Serving her community as the Headteacher of Barham Primary School for 20+ years she leaves behind her a huge legacy. More than that she was a global thought leader advocating for the rights of children around the world to have a good education.

To remember her, I was going to send something to plant in the school garden and some books to continue her commitment to diverse representation to the school but I have instead decided to create a Just Giving Page for her. The school can then work with her family on how to memorialise her. I love the idea of creating a school peace garden, or a mural, in her name if we can raise enough funds.

Find out more and donate to our fundraiser HERE.

Dearest Karen – you epitomised sisterhood and female solidarity. I am blessed to have met you and to have had you in my life as a mentor and a friend. Go join your loved ones and be an angel looking over us all. Thank you for everything you have done for us all. You will always be my Shero. All my love, Hannah xx