Meghan and Harry show young people how to speak their truth and the rest of us that we need to listen with compassion

Zahara Chowdhury portrait

Written by Zahara Chowdhury

Wellbeing and education coach. She is founder of a new digital platform for students, www.schoolshouldbe.com and www.zenworkhub.com supporting professionals with their wellbeing.

In years to come, I’m pretty sure Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry will feature on the curriculum in some way: history lessons on the monarchy; English lessons on the impact of digital media; Psychology lessons on trauma; PSHE lessons on familial relationships. At the moment, especially in light of Piers Morgan’s resignation from Good Morning Britain, ‘freedom of speech’ is again up for debate, probably the biggest debate on the matter since Trump was removed from Facebook and Twitter. It’s uncomfortable, yes. But, I see it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to positively engage with the Teacher’s Professional Standard regarding the expression of personal beliefs. By speaking their truth, their lived experience, Meghan and Harry have shown young people that we can have personal, uncomfortable conversations around race, equity and the status quo with grace and integrity. And, if I was still in the classroom, I would see it as the best environment to teach young people how to have these personal discussions with dignity, compassion and empathy. 

 

After watching the interview a few Mondays ago, I went to bed thinking, how brave and how graceful. I had listened with compassion, empathy and welcomed what seems to be a turning point in the expression of lived experiences and truth. Tuesday morning, I turned on the news, and it felt like I’d watched a completely different version to the journalists before me. In many ways that’s a good thing, opinions differ and that’s how we learn.  However, a rising and ongoing problem with social and digital media is a lack of knowledge around how to manage a discussion. I’d like to think the majority of people know how to frame an ethical, written response whether that be in the form of a tweet, comment or direct message. But the overwhelming rise of keyboard warriors, online bullying and trolling is doing more to polarise our society than unite. What’s worse is that students are surrounded by it 24/7 on their phones, iPads and on the TV – more often than not without context or an understanding of how to think about it. Unfortunately, Facebook and Twitter have yet to introduce some form of workable regulation to prevent the rise of anxiety, fear and mental health (we all know they can do more and should do more). Until they do, I think school and the classroom are the best place to nurture an environment where students can have these open, uncomfortable conversations in a safe and equitable environment. 

 

How do we do this? How can teachers have uncomfortable conversations around race, equity and truth in the classroom? 

 

Looking back on my time as a South Asian, Muslim, female head of department, leader, teacher, manager, mother, daughter, sister, I always shared my identity in an honest way, to give my students perspective and context. I shared stories and my viewpoints framed by who I am and my lived experience. This then gave my students the confidence, the model to share their own truth. Modelling is key here, and dissecting Meghan’s approach (ever an English teacher!) to sharing her truth is a lesson in how to share your truth with context, integrity and reason. 

 

Managing those stories and lived experiences is a challenging and scary responsibility for a teacher. The amount of times I ended a lesson, heart racing, from the classroom worried about a parent calling, a colleague challenging my approach on discussion is insurmountable! Equally, I walked away fulfilled. I’d created a safe space that gave students the confidence to share, challenge, agree and disagree with one another. Did it always end well? No, of course not! But it always, eventually ended with respect. That doesn’t happen on Facebook, and I’m not sure it can. If we integrate compassion, listening and equity into our school ethos and classroom culture – just like Oprah! – we can absolutely have moral, ethical and difficult conversations around race, status and the world to make learning that little bit more purposeful. 

 

What is there to discuss? 

 

Meghan and Harry made it abundantly clear on the differences between the institution and the family, and I came away from the interview thinking how multifaceted the dynamics of the Royal Family are – as a job and as a family member. This is a discussion I would love to have in the classroom. 

 

The differences in British and American culture shined through Meghan and Harry. Meghan quite rightly spoke about the change in environment, politics, her identity as a career woman almost changed over time. Harry said meeting Meghan helped him realise he was trapped in a system. Discussing these issues with compassion and empathy can teach young people so much more about ‘real life’ than any careers lesson. 

 

Is it ok for a white man to so out rightly defame a woman of colour? Or maybe people in class don’t think he was defaming at all? What is there to learn and unlearn here? Use the works of Rachel Cargle, Dr Shona and even Edward Said to start a conversation. 

 

With all of these topics, it’s important to teach students that we are all entitled to an opinion, but not one of hate and plain nastiness. The presence of compassion in discussion is quite possibly what marks a successful and valuable conversation. 

 

Will we, as professionals, make mistakes? Of course! Will we come across barriers at school? Absolutely. Should that silence or limit the space for these conversations? No. If the dynamics between digital media, TV, the Royal family and Meghan and Harry’s transparent honesty have taught us anything, it’s that we need to share our lived experiences. More importantly, we need to work together to create a global community that enables them. And, I think the classroom is the best place to start. 

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How Can We Create a Curriculum that is Inclusive of Queer Theory?

George Hayward portrait

Written by George Hayward

(he/him), English Teacher in East London, LGBTQ+ Advocate.

During my time as a student, I often felt a lack of inclusivity in the curriculum I was studying. Reading great classics and beloved page turners such as To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies, I found myself wondering why none of these stories were about people like me. When I reached university, I discovered Queer Theory and I was mindblown. Not only were there stories about people like me, but there were academics studying and rereading the texts I grew up with and held dear through a lens of queer understanding. One such text was Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I had the opportunity to study these readings during my time at university, so when the opportunity arose to deliver a lecture on it at my school in East London, I was overjoyed. While planning the session, I drew upon the essays and research I had from my undergraduate degree, revisiting the work of prominent theorists such as Elaine Showalter, Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick and Michel Focault. The most extensive in relation to Jekyll and Hyde being Showalter’s paper Dr Jekyll’s closet

 

Queer Theory aims in principle to challenge heteronormativity: the assumption that heterosexuality is the default state of being. It digs into the structures of understanding within art, literature and society and dismantles them. This is an important area of theory as it provides visibility. It allows students of all backgrounds and identities to see themselves in the curriculum they study. It shows them that they are seen and that different people exist. There is a lot of talk about ‘acceptance’ of LGBTQ+ peoples and while acceptance is a great first step, what we need is celebration and understanding. The teaching of Queer Theory and narratives provides this understanding and promotes the celebration of all our students and their identities. It promotes a culture of inclusive allyship and support, where students, staff and their families from all walks of life can lift each other up and be their true authentic selves. All our students deserve to feel they are lifted up in a space where they are safe and important.

 

The session was received well by staff and students alike. I was able to offer the session twice, firstly to the staff of the English department and secondly to our year 10 students. Staff were engaged with the topic and felt that Queer Theory provides another framework of understanding to utilise in our classrooms. It provides another tool in our analysis toolbox to dig deep into language and encourage our students to be critical thinkers. Similarly, students in my year 10 class that attended the session found the subject refreshing and interesting. I found that while Queer Theory and readings may seem oblique to some, students and staff alike were able to engage with the topic and take away some food for thought. The opportunity to deliver the session was incredibly fulfilling for me on a personal level and it is my true belief that the teaching of these theoretical frameworks is of benefit to every student. I believe it is crucial to foster this culture of inclusivity and celebration for all our learners and I hope that Queer Theory will be a valuable step on this journey. 

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An African Teacher’s Experience of a British Classroom

Chinwe Njoku portrait

Written by Chinwe Njoku

Qualified teaching professional with a background in Engineering. I have written three books related to the education space (Good Morning Year 11, Raising an ‘A’ Student and From Diapers to Doctorate Dollar-Free).

Try teaching as an African teacher in a non-African country to a mix of students from various backgrounds as different as the colours of a chameleon! This is true hard work! All your paradigms of how children should (not) behave are upended and challenged. Sometimes completely obliterated, you wonder why you lived by those beliefs in the first place. Either culture clash or languages blended.

For example, a student from one of the most popular Asian countries that can also be ‘black’, joins in about halfway through the year and it soon became clear that she and her family must have recently migrated to the UK.

Because, at the start of the next lesson, she walked over to my desk where I was sat and greeted me, “Good morning, Teacher”.

I did not know how to respond as it took me by surprise. Without making eye contact, I just said, “You don’t need to greet me like that every lesson”. I felt embarrassed. Thank God I’m brown skinned or I would have turned red.

Next lesson, I made sure I was at the door welcoming students in to avoid the intense attention of being called Teacher, which I am but dang, just call me “Miss” or “Dr Njoku” like the others. 

Second example. A fellow African student was revising after school for her upcoming exams in my classroom, with her friends. But they were chatting quite a bit with this girl being the loudest, most animated and more loquacious of all.

I called her by her last name with the tone of, you need to stop talking and getting on work, or you shall hear from me in a not so fun way! And child, your parents would not be happy either!

Calling children by their last names or rst and last names is an African thing. To remind the child of whose they were, and not to bring disgrace to their ancestors and everyone on their family tree?

In response to hearing her last name, she said “Yes, Ma!” And this was not the first time African students have responded to me this way. I have even had, “Yes, Aunty!”, “Yes, mummy!”

Her friends responded with audible arghs, expecting me to caution her against saying that. She quickly caught herself, recanting that she was just used to saying it. I simply raised my eyebrows, shook my head and carried on doing what teachers do after school. 

Her default response which caught her off guard, got her to be quiet, but only for a while as nature sometimes trumps nurture.

Last example. One Maths topic I teach KS3 students is Introduction to Data, including the different classifications of data that there are. Data can be classified as either Continuous or Discrete, or as Qualitative or Quantitative. To help students distinguish between the later, I typically go through different contextual examples getting them to decide which class the data type belonged to.

Now because Qualitative and Quantitative sound alike, it was difcult to know which one was being said as an answer. I tried enunciating it for my students so that they could emphasize the ‘li’ and ‘nti’. But try as I may, it seemed not to be working.

Ideally, they would each have mini whiteboards so that they could just show me their answers, saving me the tongue twisting/biting! But not this time for some reason.

Eventually, my tongue could take it no more. Repeatedly asking them to repeat themselves and make a clearer distinction in their pronunciation, I blurted out, “Qua-gini?”

Gini, in my native tongue, Igbo, means ‘what’. By the time I realised I had spoken a different language in an English-based Maths lesson in a British school, it was too late. I could not take back my words.

My students who looked at me confused. But since no one else knew what just happened, I kept a poker face, swiftly correcting it to, “Qua-what?” 

All was calm. Teaching and learning resumed. Except in my mind, of course, as I tried not to laugh at my blunder. 

Then it happened again in a different lesson. I was in the throes of solving one question after the other on the board and taking requests from the audience – my Year 11 students. Then, someone called out, “Question 36, Miss!”

To gain time to gure out the solution to the problem, I responded as I walked to the board, “Thirty-gini?”

From the eyes at the back of my head that all teachers have, I could ‘see’ the two students who had Igbo heritage chuckling to themselves in mutual knowing of what they just heard.

Somebody, help!

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Reflections on My First Term as D&I Lead

Jami Edwards-Clarke portrait

Written by Jami Edwards-Clarke

Director of D&I at Hurstpierpoint College, Housemistress and PE Teacher

As I sit and reflect on my journey so far as Director of D&I at Hurst, I am overwhelmed with positivity, hope and joy. What has been achieved since March 2020, is something Hurst’s community should be extremely proud of. Every initiative has been fantastic and that’s down to our pupil platform. They have been the engine throughout this journey and the work they have put in to ensuring its success, is phenomenal. It’s evident that there has been a visible amount of real, meaningful and immensely valuable progress and I am so proud of what has been achieved. 

  

Upon returning to the college in September, the platform began arranging our first big event: Black History Month in October. As curricula still all too often erases Black existence and achievements in history, we wanted to encourage students to engage with this annual celebration as a starting point for learning outside the curriculum. We put up posters just about everywhere and kicked each week off with an email full of resources like books and films which could help students learn about Black history. 

 

The next date on our agenda was the UN Disability week in December, with the theme ‘not all disabilities are visible’. Students often receive little education about disability and how to treat people with disabilities. We started to change that, with daily emails containing videos or articles that we hoped would broaden people’s understanding of disability. A shout out to Luke Morris and Mrs Naumann for heading this up, the work you put into making this a success was superb. 

 

As well as celebrating such events, Hurst pupils have been inspired by several speakers. Outside speakers include polymath Sophie Cook, the first transgender woman to work in football’s Premier League; Abdi Omar, a motivational speaker and Youtuber who lives with cerebral palsy; and Siya Twani, who was imprisoned for speaking out against injustice in South Africa – to name but a few. Additionally, members of the D & I group have delivered assemblies to the Shell and Fifth form on the aspects of Diversity & Inclusion that the platform hopes to promote across the college. The D & I group also created a PowerPoint slideshow, like the assemblies, to be presented to Year 7 & 8 by the D & I pupil ambassadors in the Prep School – who’re equally as keen and motivated to enact change in the college as those in the senior school.  

 

We have not been deterred by lockdown either, with Teams Q&A sessions with figures like Harry Hitchens, an ex-Hurst pupil who is now a key figure in the fight to Ban Conversion Therapy in the UK, and Devin Ibanez, a USA rugby player who is openly gay despite the stigma which remains in the sport. In fact, one advantage of online talks has been that parents can tune in too: 57 families watched Jude Guiatamacchi’s talk on their experiences as a non-binary model and campaigner. These thought-provoking talks have been incredibly valuable in giving students, parents and staff an authentic and ‘real life’ perspective on such important topics. 

 

D& I’s weekly Friday lunchtime meetings continued remotely and have also provided the opportunity for more talks – this time by teachers within the school. Highlights include Miss Cave and Miss McNeill’s talk on mental health, and Mr Cuerden’s frank discussion of his experiences at the time of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Additionally, Mrs Watson-Saunders delivered a powerful speech during the staff inset on her experience of being a person of colour in the UK. This teacher engagement with D&I is incredibly exciting – HoDs have been encouraged to reflect on their department’s curriculum to make it more inclusive; the History department have done a talk reflecting on Black London, hosted by Olly Ayres, the Drama department is planning to put together an LGBTQ+ themed monologue and the Art department have had a Black Lives Matter focus; a sign of change across all levels of the school. 

 

D & I have also been looking for ways to engage not only pupils but also parents. That’s why we have teamed up with Hurst’s Climate Awareness Group to create the Engage for Change newsletter, a monthly newsletter, sent to all Hurst pupils and parents. It contains articles written on a broad range of issues, from pollution to body positivity – all written by Hurst pupils from Shell to UVIth under the direction of Ms Lewis, Mr Jordan and Mrs Edwards-Clarke. The newsletter includes think pieces, advice, and interviews with pupils, staff and parents. Look out for the third volume in your inbox next month!  

 

The READI group (Rainbow Education Alliance of Diverse Identities / Individuals), a subsection of D & I, also began meeting during a Monday lunchtime towards the end of the second Half of Michaelmas term. The aim of this sub-group was to provide a safe space to talk about the experience of being LGBTQ+. In the first meeting of the group, we introduced ourselves, with those who were confident talking about their experience of being LGBTQ+, something which allowed people to overcome barriers – if individuals thought they were previously alone in their experience of being LGBTQ+, they knew that this was no longer the case. Something that came from this group was conversation over ‘identity and gender’. This got us onto the development of a gender-neutral uniform for the college. This takes time to get right, and there have been numerous meetings with SLT and discussion groups between staff and students to ensure pupils feel heard. However, we still have a bit of work to do in this domain, as we do not want to rush this process. We want all voices heard and a plan that suits all. We are hoping for some changes to come into place for September 2021. 

 

Lastly, I think it would be completely outrageous if we didn’t talk about what we are celebrating throughout February, so far, I would say it has been our biggest success. Hurst has thrown itself into celebrating Pride History Month with a push from the pupil platform and our marketing team. Planning started in January, with guest speakers taking the stage (Teams) for whole school tutorials. These events saw up to 500 pupils all tuned in for very exciting Q&As. The month started with a Prep and Senior School wide video made by a range of staff and students responding to what ‘pride’ meant to them, and why it’s important we celebrate this month. It was fantastic to see the prep school speak alongside senior school – feeling like a true moment of community during online learning. The weekly emails sent out by the amazing Ms Lewis highlight a few media options for staff and students to engage with and this has been well received. There have also been some initiatives for students to get involved with, like an Art department creative challenge to produce a timeline of events in LGBTQ+ history. Additionally, we offered LGBTQ+-themed books to any students and staff who wanted to get involved, sharing their views after the half term in a book-club session and even a PHM Bake Off! The involvement is going well and hopefully we can make this an annual initiative. Something that I personally enjoyed was connecting with OJs ( some dating back to 1979!) on their own LGBTQ+ memories back when they were at the College. It’s safe to say, that the work we are doing presently, has brough much joy and it’s evident that huge progress has been made. I really do hope we can form a stronger bond on all things D&I in the future with our Hurst Foundation programme, as it’s all about creating a strong relationship of past and present to really encapsulate the ‘community’ feel.  

 

What has easily been the highlight of the month is the fantastic tutorial talks we have had. Speaking from a pupil, staff and parent point of view, the feedback and engagement has been first class. The range of experience and viewpoints from Jude (a transgender, non-binary activist and model), to Harry (a gay, male activist) to Sarah and Leah (professional athletes, competing for GB and Wales in hockey). The eloquence, respect and genuine interest the student-body has reinforced why it’s important we as a school engage in celebrating LGBTQ+ History month. We are really proud at Hurst to be taking such a lead in celebrating all things diversity and inclusion, and we appreciate the active support the parent-body has shown us this month. Something that has really resonated with me from all of the online CPD sessions and Q&A discussions is how effective having a positive presence of allies and role models. Typically, people get inspired to do something when they see others like them do it and I believe as educators we have a huge responsibility in supporting, guiding and listening to everybody as the individuals they are, both academically and pastorally. We also have a significant responsibility in challenging those who do hold adverse opinions. Standing up for respect and kindness is something I stand by and with our mantra #Be #Yourself at Hurst at the forefront of this initiative, I will continue to do my absolute best to make sure every pupil and member of staff feel that they can stay true to just that.  

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Wellbeing Lessons for the Diverse Primary Classroom: Teaching Through Inclusive Practice

Manisha Tailor portrait

Written by Manisha Tailor MBE NPQH

Former Deputy Headteacher and Author, 50 Wellbeing Lessons for the Diverse Primary classroom.

Teaching about wellbeing through inclusive practice is about ensuring that all young people feel like a valued member of their school community and beyond.  It is about ensuring that all those who have a duty of care and commitment to the welfare and safety of children demonstrate responsibility in making sure mental health and wellbeing is at the heart of school ethos and culture.  

Learning about mental health must be developmental, and for young children, rehearsing ways of asking an adult for help, persevering and showing resilience if they find something difficult, lays the foundations for confidently accessing sources of support when they are older. 

There is a growing mental health crisis in schools and mental health problems affect children in every country across the globe.This pandemic is changing the lives of people, including the lives of children all over the world. A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation UK found that young people are feeling more anxious, a trend which is 10% higher for black and mixed heritage children. Research from the World Health Organisation suggests that 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder and globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability.  Furthermore, in 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19. 

How can we impact learning based on what we know?

Mental Health is also very closely linked to poverty, discrimination and overall health and wellbeing. Teaching through inclusive practice is designed to support teachers in promoting social and emotional wellbeing within a diverse classroom, inclusive for all learners. Children will experience lots of highs and lows and at times in rapid succession. They will go through situations that make them feel excited, exhilarated and happy, to sad, disappointed and frustrated, caused by change in environment, missing friends, bereavement or change in circumstance e.g. parents loss of job and income as a result of the pandemic. 

This rollercoaster of emotions can cause emotional suffering leading to poor self-care, personality change and withdrawal. It is therefore important that children are given the opportunity to reflect upon the ways in which they can control, regulate and self-manage their emotions and recognise their impact on others.

Children learn morals, values and beliefs from their family, peers, teachers, the media and others around them. The influence from this socialisation informs their view of the world and their view of others. This can lead to stereotypes and prejudiced views of individuals and groups of people. The way in which they treat others as a result of these views can have an impact on the emotional health of the victim.  This could include racism, disability discrimination or homophobic abuse.

Our detailed lessons plans and supplemented resources help to promote discussion with each lesson plan containing learning outcomes, activity descriptions and further questions to stimulate critical thinking, especially around areas of diversity specific to race, culture and LGBTQ+. The content covered in this resource includes topics such as the psychological impact of discrimination, the Black Lives Matter movement, Islamophobia, disability, prejudice, coping with loss, feeling left out, moving school and managing as a young carer.

The message is simple and clear – representation matters if our young people are to grow as independent, resilient, life-long learners, equipped to manage the adversities that life presents.

We want to be able to provide young people with the opportunity to explore their feelings and understand empathy and reflect, ask questions, analyse and find solutions through open discussion and collaboration on the things that matter to them. Helping children to reflect, feel comfortable to ask questions and most importantly, feel as though they can talk about their feelings and emotions, without fear of judgement will lead to improved mental wellbeing.  

Preparing children for the complexities of life in an ever-changing world will help them to develop resilience and adaptability as 21st-century life-long learners. 

50 Wellbeing Lessons for the Diverse Primary Classroom is available to pre-order: 

Routledge Education:

https://www.routledge.com/50-Wellbeing-Lessons-for-the-Diverse-Primary-Classroom-Teaching-Through/Tailor/p/book/9780367708252

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wellbeing-Lessons-Diverse-Primary-Classroom/dp/0367708264

WHSmith: 

https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/50-wellbeing-lessons-for-the-diverse-primary-classroom-teaching-through-inclusive-practice/manisha-tailor/paperback/9780367708252.html

Waterstones:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/50-wellbeing-lessons-for-the-diverse-primary-classroom/manisha-tailor/9780367708252

References:

Samaritans:

https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/?gclid=CjwKCAiA65iBBhB-EiwAW253W30QuktPQHsF2MslxNIY0EMi5ChGc6EiJr6lG4qVFiXgp9xxOs0DvBoCBowQAvD_BwE

Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-uk-and-worldwide

Mental Health Organization:

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders

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Diversity and Inclusion through the use of art and philosophy in the STEM curriculum

Dr Christine Challen portrait

Written by Dr Christine Challen

23 years research experience in the field of cancer research. She has taught at Higher Education, Further Education and more recently as a Supply Teacher in Secondary Schools.

Imagination is more important than knowledge” 

Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think” Albert Einstein

 

One of the many challenges schools face is to explore ways in which to enhance diversity and inclusion in the curriculum. The Chambers Dictionary defines diversity “as the state of being diverse/different.” In order to be able to respectfully acknowledge different  cultures, opinions and learning/social barriers through either mental health or special needs you need to know you! Importantly you need to have self belonging and esteem to be proactive towards diversity and inclusion. While the cruel arrival of covid 19 has increased the inequality gaps it has provided a

catalytic incentive for rethinking education and curriculum. In particular,ensuring that it strives to support diversity and inclusion through strategies that consistently and continually enhance “passionate self-reflection” and consistent metamorphosis through “first hand experience and immersion in the living.” If we want to achieve this we cannot do it solely by a subject based education but additionally require a holistic journey embedded within the curriculum to support self-actualisation through a transient passage of being becoming and thriving.

 

During lockdown I have been somewhat surprised at the amount of non-pedagogy literature which links the use of art, philosophy literature and nature to a sense of becoming independent, resilient innovative spirits. This made me reflect and question; how we could implement such strategies and techniques to improve diversity in education. This approach could not only improve positive and effective emotional responses but also embed much needed tolerance towards enhancing awareness of diversity and inclusion. These attributes are essential for our children to be successful in society and develop diverse global and cultural communication skills enabling resilience and emotional regulation towards education for diverse social justice. As Amber Makaiau states “It’s important that we make room for this learning how to get along with one another…. People skills being conscious of our cultural differences what makes businesses succeed and economies run.”

 

Harari (2011) describes the importance of the cognitive revolution; new ways of thinking and communication as being responsible for Homo sapiens thriving by adapting to social changes and behaviour. The recent successful adaptation of Phillip Pullmans’ Dark Materials highlights the importance of exposing children to a wide range of literature philosophers and religious voices to enhance rich experiences and imaginative questioning. This supports the view and statement from Robert McKee that “Storytelling is the most powerful way of putting ideas into the world today” and exploring various literatures from different cultures and social backgrounds is still the key technique for enhancing diversity, inclusion resilience  and emotional self reflection. Unfortunately while this is  a frequent activity in primary schools, it does not continue in secondary. Such would be impactual in building respectful diverse cultural discussions and enhance emotional regulation which during the “difficult” teenage years could act  towards a restorative means for challenging behaviour by providing a safe “pupil voice” environment. The introduction of individual subjects is a necessary transition to secondary school nevertheless it is essential to maintain curiosity and questioning and ensure diverse interdisciplinary subject connection here and beyond. Some of the greatest creative minds including Davinci and Einstein had no formal education. Their ability to think innovatively

and communicate diversely was through art and building.

 

Davinci’s detailed anatomical sketches are widely used today to enhance the teaching of an otherwise “dull” topic anatomy in medical schools. Such techniques have changed the view of anatomy and allowed an overall different outlook and greater accessibility to the detail ,beauty 

and diversity of the human body. I have extended this idea to enhance the teaching of organ systems in biology and cells by getting the pupils to build organs/cells out of sweets otherwise known as “Candy Anatomy.” This extends cognitive skills through “modelling” and supports students’ understanding the different structures and how these relate to function. It encourages and builds team working and social skills as well as creating space for student voice.

 

 Another useful way is to allow students to design their own you tubes while building a three dimensional biological process e.g. DNA translation/transcription. This deepens visual and visceral conceptualisation and broadens deep understanding. These can then be posted on remote learning platforms and used as a means of diverse peer support and discussion.

The use of questioning techniques can be built in simple concepts such as what is a rainbow this can be further developed building in diverse ideas as to how the colours link to physics, maths history, music and literature. Similarly The Beat of Life where pupils build a heart from clay and create story boards as to how it connects with literature music and poetry. Such activities encourage diverse connections between, the sciences, arts, spiritual and musical humanities enabling critical thought analysis necessary for self-development.

 

Experience and conceptualisation are key to self reflection and belonging towards diversity and inclusion. The relationships/connections between the arts sciences and humanities enable this process and provide an excellent  strategy and approach to reenergise self and human stable creative and innovative diverse social and cultural tapestries (Challen 2020)

 

References

The Chambers Dictionary Thirteenth Edition (published by Chambers Harap Publishers 2014)

 Human Values Foundation {accessed 5/11/19}

https://www.valuesbasededucation.com/vbe-guide/vbe-material/articles?layout=edit&id=196 

https://twitter.com/HVF_Values 

 

Challen, C. (2020). Rethinking higher education policy and leadership for the 21stcentury: Enhancing strategies for global citizenship and justice. Journal of Higher Education Policy And Leadership Studies, 1(1), 77-81. http://dx.doi.org/10.29252/johepal.1.1.77 

Challen, C.(2020). The importance of art/poetry and philosophy in educational leadership, well-being and engagement of STEM subjects.Journal of Higher Education Policy and Leadership Studies, 1(3), 41-54. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.29252/johepal.1.3.41 

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February is UK LGBT+ History Month and the theme this year is ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

Different groups of people have been impacted in different ways through Covid-19 and lockdown. There are growing concerns about the mental health wellbeing of our LGBTQI+ young people who may not be a safe space to show up as their authentic selves.

Here are 10 things you can do as a teacher, a school leader or as a school to get involved, from resources to events, from training to awards to help to raise awareness and increase understanding:

1. Schools’ Out have a directory of fantastic free resources for schools here:

https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/resources/  and you can download the free posters here: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/resources/lgbt-history-month/  

2. The Proud Trust have a free downloadable resource pack for schools:

https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/LGBT-History-Month-Pack-2021.pdf

3. Check out all of the organisations listed on the Diverse Educators’ website under the Protected Characteristic of Sexual Orientation:

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/sexual-orientation/   

4. Diverse Educators partner with the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett, home to the LGBTQ+ Centre for Inclusion in Education, find out more about their research and their Schools’ Award:

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/centre-for-lgbtq-inclusion/  

5. Read and share a #DiverseEd blog about the lived experience of a LGBT teacher, Jared Cawley, and understand how to support the wellbeing of our colleagues:

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/my-wellbeing-as-a-lgbt-teacher/

6. Dual Frequency have created an interactive digital calendar for all things Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Download and start using your copy here:

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/dual-frequency/

7. Diversity Role Models have released season one of Role Model Stories that includes six episodes, with stories from Vicky Jane, Simeon, Mon, Barry, Richy and Simon, packed with inspiring personal stories covering a range of topics from history, intersectionality, faith and LGBT+ inclusion, gender identity, different families and more. Each video comes with a downloadable teacher resource.

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/diversity-role-models/

8. Diversity Role Models have also recently published a report: ‘Pathways to LGBT+ Inclusion: Report’ revealed only 20% of secondary students learnt about LGBT+ identities and HBT bullying at school, while only 27% of secondary students said their school would be safe for a fellow student to come out as LGBT+.

9. #LGBTed have recently published a book: Big Gay Adventures in Education and they host a weekly twitter chat:

https://www.diverseeducators.co.uk/lgbted/

10. Find out how your LGBTQI+ staff feel about your workplace culture with Edurio’s free EDI survey:

https://home.edurio.com/edi-review

Reflections:

  • If we believe in a whole education to develop the whole child, how are we enabling our staff to bring their whole self to school too?
  • How can we be inclusive allies to support our pupils and students, staff and governors, parents and carers, in feeling physically and psychologically safe in our schools? 

As a tangible action for change we recommend that you check out the Queer Knowledge Organiser created by David Lowbridge-Ellis in our Cross-Curricular resources drive and review your provision.

 

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Bringing a Diverse Curriculum to Life Through Human Stories

Rahul Karavadra portrait

Written by Rahul Karavadra

Engagement manager at Lyfta, and has been working in the education sector for a number of years. His background is in Philosophy with a Masters degree in Global Citizenship, Identities and Human Rights.

We recently had the pleasure of taking part in the Big Virtual Conversation III as part of the series of #DiverseEd events organised by Diverse Educators, organised by the brilliant duo, Hannah Wilson and Bennie Kara. The session was a chance for us to hear from a range of amazing speakers in the diverse education sphere, including from our own Rahul Karavadra, Engagement Manager at Lyfta.  The key themes of Rahul’s session, about bringing a diverse curriculum to life through human stories, are outlined in this blog.

Growing up, I was always on the edge of my seat when family members told stories of their lives in Uganda and Kenya, and what it was like living in the 70s and 80s as first generation migrants. Hearing their stories allowed me to see them as multifaceted individuals, with passions and interests of which I was previously unaware. 

As I grew up, this inquisitiveness developed into an urge to find out more about people from other communities and cultures. This eventually led me to do a masters degree in Global Citizenship, Identities and Human Rights, specialising in diaspora identity construction in relation to host nation experiences and long-distance nationalism. In essence, I was, and still am, trying to understand how my human story is shaped, influenced and connected to the stories of others.

And as a species, we have always been drawn to stories – from paintings on cave walls to the blockbusters we see on our screens.

If we look at western Africa, we can see how important human stories were to society through the ‘griot’; the repositories of oral traditions and history. People would tell their stories to the griot and it was their responsibility to remember them, and recount them to others, passing down lessons that could be retold and learnt from. It was said that when a griot passed away, it was like a library had been burnt down – that’s how important they were.

In this age of postmodern globalism, where identities are negotiated and stretched across permeable borders and interconnected histories, it’s important that a diverse range of stories are told. 

It is through the acquiring and exchange of cultural capital that the division between self and the ‘other’ can be dissolved. We are then able to build bridges and lay the foundations of understanding and empathy, as well as an awareness of connectivity, both on a micro and a macro level  – ‘we are each others environment’.

As educators, we find ourselves in a similar role to that of the griot – but with ever more relevance.  We are responsible for sharing human stories and perspectives from all across the world, and these stories have become more urgent for us to tell. In the past few years alone, we have seen a rise in neo-nationalism, xenophobia and global temperatures, not to mention the physical and mental scarring of Brexit, the death of George Floyd and more recently the storming of the Capitol in the USA.

We must remember to harness the power of humanity for the common good, and human stories allow us to do just this.

At Lyfta, we capture human stories in the form of short documentaries. These are presented through immersive and interactive 360° spaces where teachers and students can experience new perspectives and build vital skills and values. At a time when school trips are on pause, and the ability to travel and have close human interactions are severely restricted, Lyfta invites students to explore the world from the comfort of school or home, and meet the likes of Qwensley in the Caribbean, Kootyin in Hong Kong or Enaney in Ethiopia.

Teaching and learning through human stories can be a useful and powerful way to ensure that students have experiences of the world as part of their entitlement to cultural capital. Lyfta can be used as a tool to develop an understanding of the protected characteristics, and show how equality and diversity can be promoted and reflected within our schools. 

We have seen that teaching through immersive human stories can bring a depth, breadth and meaning to complex concepts for children, moving learning from information to knowledge. 

Our vision at Lyfta is that by the time a child completes their education, they will have visited every country in the world and will have met at least one person from each of these countries; experienced different cultures, different languages, different jobs, roles and perspectives. They will have seen, and formed a connection with hundreds of positive human stories that model resilience, problem-solving, teamwork, and many other critical skills, values and competencies. They will be able to understand for themselves how interconnected and interdependent we are, and will have gained a deep awareness of their power and role in the world.

You can watch the Diverse Curriculum panel session in full here.

If you would like to explore using the human stories on the Lyfta platform as part of your diverse curriculum, please sign up to our training here. State schools in the UK can enjoy free training and access to the full platform and resources for 12 weeks of term time.

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Ethnography and its relevance within the school environment

Cas Germain portrait

Written by Cas Germain

Primary School Teacher living and teaching in the UAE. She has a Masters in Gender Studies in the Middle East, is a qualified SENCo and a certified Life Coach.

Before we begin I wish to break down the terminologies I’ll be using within this article to ensure we are all speaking and understanding the same language.

Ethnography:

“The scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences.” * 

Bias:

“Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.” ** 

Inclusive practice:

Inclusive practice is a teaching approach that recognises the differences between students and uses this to ensure that all students can access educational content and participate fully in their learning.” *** 

As educators we all strive to ensure all of our children are getting the best out of the curriculum, however, more often than not there are some crucial indicators and factors which are overlooked.

We humans tend to gravitate towards what’s familiar to us. For some people it can be having a cup of tea when travelling abroad, or gravitating towards people who like the same hobbies as you. It’s part of our human DNA, which is to create meaningful connections, we’re hardwired for it. 

When in the classroom and creating a fully inclusive environment for learning, I wish to provide some useful strategies on the importance of checking our bias to ensure all children are represented.

Why is this important? 

If you’re teacher training took place in the British curriculum, it’s part of our Teaching Standards: Personal and Professional Conduct. “Showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others.” **** 

When students are taught about one another’s cultures and experiences, it creates a world of understanding and positive relationships.

Students become more open minded and respectful of their peers’ values and identities, creating the ability to connect and build rapport later on, not only in the academic careers but within their chosen professions.

Confidence is created within the school environment and therefore enhancing the learning experience for all, allowing for less likeliness of prejudice to occur later on in life, as teaching with ethnography in mind, provides a safe space to express oneself and celebrates one’s identity.

Children of all nationalities, backgrounds feel a sense of belonging, and are less likely to be influenced by organisations that entice vulnerable ethnic groups. 

What does Ethnography look like within the school environment?

As educators we can use simple approaches to ensure pupils feel included, supported and valued. 

The basis of all human connection is where we feel, seen, heard, valued and respected. This can be done across the board regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

Examples can be:

  • Creating rapport: Greeting and addressing pupils and colleagues by their names. “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” (D. Carnegie) Asking them how their weekend was, or what they enjoy? By speaking about non-school related topics and leaning into the student’s world, creates a sense of trust and positive relationships.
  • Representing races and genders on lesson plans: Look at the demographic and ethnography of children in your classroom. For example, if you have a large Caribbean demographic, include pictures and examples of successful people from that area of the world within lesson plans, during your weekly planning.
  • Leadership and hiring: When hiring candidates, do you tend to hire male leaders and female teachers? Think about how this reflects and seems from a child’s perspective. If young girls only see men as leading and women as teaching, does this represent their opportunities of growth and career progression later on? Do you have a variety of genders and nationalities within your workforce, that reflect the children in your school?
  • Share local and global leaders from all areas of their world and their stories. Using the demographics of students in your class or school, use these example as assembly topics or include them within your slides. 
  • Celebrate cultural days: E.g Diwali, Eid, Christmas. Choose children to talk about their culture. For KS2 and secondary students, can they create an assembly for the year group/school? For primary children, allow them to tell their class about their culture and how they celebrate their festivals. Allow children to ask questions, and invite parents in (via Zoom) for a Q & A with the children. 

The best thing we can do as educators, is make our students feel welcome, seen, heard and valued. This is the basis of all human relationships. 

References:

  1. (Oxford Languages,2021)
  2. (https://diversity.ucsf.edu/resources/unconscious-bias,2021)
  3. https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/
  4. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/665522/Teachers_standard_information.pdf

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How do we deal with racism in the classroom?

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

So, what do you do, as a teacher, when a student uses a racial slur against you in the online classroom?

This week I had a disclosure in a NQT training session I was hosting from a trainee teacher. The trainee was a woman of colour. She was distressed as she shared an incident from her week at school and asked for advice. She shared that in a lesson with her Year 10s last week, whilst using the platform Kahoot, one of her students referred to her using the N word. She broke down as she finished her story and turned her camera off to gather herself. The zoom room went quiet. Everyone looked deeply uncomfortable. I watched everyone take a breath and pause to see who would speak first.

One of the facilitators, a woman of colour,  unmuted herself and said: “I am sorry. I am really sorry that happened to you”. She went on to share her advice on what the NQT could do. Her co-facilitator, a man of colour, added his advice on how he would handle it if it happened to him. Both gave sound advice, but it struck me that it was centred around what the individual, the victim, should do. It is also struck me that both were talking from a position of lived experience.

As a former teacher trainer, I was aggrieved on her behalf that she had experienced this. As a human being, I was outraged that anyone would think that using a word was acceptable. As a teacher, and a former Headteacher, I was disappointed to hear how the school had handled it. As a white person I was embarrassed and felt sick. Having reported it to her mentor, who had rung her that night to check in, she had been told that they (the school) could not identify the student responsible and she had been advised to send an email (herself!) to the class about the incident.

I was horrified at this response from the school. Why are schools asking the victims of racism to deal with it themselves? Moreover, an early career teacher at that? Why were the SLT not dealing with this racial abuse to show the severity of the situation?

I chipped in and advised that she should escalate it to the SLT responsible for behaviour. That if she did not get a satisfactory response, that she should be escalating it to the Headteacher directly and to consider contacting her union. I DMed her my email address and offered to support in her challenging this failure of the school to protect her. The next day I received an email from her professional tutor assuring me that it had been dealt with internally and that the NQT was being supported the next lesson and that the DHT would be calling each student in the class to identify the culprit.

But the incident has been bothering me ever since… How many other people of colour who have entered  our profession are navigating how to deal with prejudice themselves? Who else is being failed by their school and by the system? Who else is feeling isolated, vulnerable and unsupported?

I tweeted out the scenario to see what others thought and how common place this is. You can see the thread with a myriad of responses here.

Below is a summary of the different perspectives on the situation of a teacher being racially abused by a student:

  1. The teacher should be offered support.
  2. The student should be offered support.
  3. The incident needs a full investigation.
  4. The class should all be asked to write a witness statement.
  5. The student should receive a Fixed Term Exclusion.
  6. The student should have a Permanent Exclusion.
  7. The whole class should be sanctioned.
  8. The incident should be recorded as a racist incident in the school’s racist log.
  9. The governing body should be informed.
  10. The incident should be reported to the LA.
  11. The next lesson should be replaced with an Anti-Racism workshop for the class.
  12. The class should be issued with an Anti-Racism contract.
  13. The parent/ carer should be brought in for a meeting.
  14. The student should write the teacher a letter of apology.
  15. The student/ teacher should have a restorative conversation before the next lesson.
  16. The student should be removed from the class.
  17. The community police officer should be involved.
  18. The student should receive an intervention prior to returning to the next lesson.
  19. The student should sign a behaviour contract on re-entry.
  20. The online teaching/ behaviour expectations should be reinforced to the class.
  21. The behaviour policy should be reviewed for how it tackles racism.
  22. The trainee teacher’s mentor should intervene.
  23. The SLT should attend the next lesson to speak to the class and re-establish boundaries.
  24. The year group should have an assembly on prejudice and discrimination.
  25. The next citizenship / PSHE lesson for the year group should deal with racism.

25 possible and probable actions that should take place to ensure that this member of staff feels safe and is supported, moreover, that another member of staff is not subjected to racial abuse in this school.

But other questions were also raised around the context of the incident:

  • Where do we draw the line at explicit and deliberate racism in our school?
  • How are ITTE providers preparing trainee teachers to deal with prejudice?
  • How are schools supporting NQTs with dealing with discrimination?
  • Should schools be using platforms where you cannot identify students?
  • Should all lessons be recorded so that incidents can be reviewed?
  • Should early career teachers be delivering solo lessons?
  • If the N word is in an extract should the teacher say it out loud? Is it ever okay to use the N word if it is in a teaching resource? Does it make a difference if the teacher saying it is a person of colour?
  • How is the curriculum being reviewed to tackle prejudice?
  • How is the culture of the school being reviewed to educate the students about expectations?
  • How has the mentor been trained to support a NQT from a diverse background?
  • How have the SLT been trained to deal with racism?
  • What is the school’s behaviour policy for prejudice?

There were a lot of comments about attacks based on characteristics being on the increase in our schools, and also in our society. In fact, I have seen several posts on LinkedIn and Twitter this weekend from educators sharing that they have been racially abused at work, but also about people of colour being racially abused in the street.

There were several concerns about the anonymity of online platforms meaning that teaching staff are not protected. Moreover, that there is more room for students to push boundaries. We need to remember that diversity, equity and inclusion work is part of our safeguarding responsibility. Every member of our school community needs to feel physically and psychologically safe.

There is clearly a lot of work for us to do across the system, across the curriculum with both children and staff, around addressing discomfort and intolerance. This incident is indicative of a wider, deeper piece of work that needs to be done. We can sanction the incident in the short term, but how do we prevent it from happening again in the long term?

We all need to be angry at this behaviour no matter what our skin colour. We all need to be part of the solution and take collective responsibility for creating change. We all need to challenge the institutions, the policies and the practices that do not protect people. We all need to speak out, stand up and not only state that this is not okay, but also do something about it by holding others to account.

So, the question should have been: what do you do, as a school, when a student uses a racial slur against a teacher in the online classroom?

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