#HonestyAboutEditing - The Campaign

Suzanne Samaka portrait

Written by Suzanne Samaka

Suzanne Samaka is a 33-year-old mum from Watford. She grew up in a single parent, working class family, which has given her a strong sense of working hard to achieve. She has spent 15 years working for a high street bank in a number of roles, mainly around relationships and people.

How can I make a difference to the mental health of our young people? That was my question and it hit me like a lightning bolt one evening. To give some context to my life, I am a stepmother to four children, have a two year old daughter and have recently given birth to my second baby. I also work full time in banking.

Sadly, for the past four years a member of our family has suffered with anorexia. It is fair to say we will never know the root cause of this and maybe neither will they, but it is apparent that they are not alone in the anxiety, depression, physical and mental health challenges that they have faced in their adolescent years. I’ve been to eating disorder in-patient clinics and I have always been shocked and saddened by how full these units are with adolescent girls and boys alike.

The pandemic has meant young people have spent more time at home and online but I must stress this isn’t only a post-pandemic problem. They are seeing more content than ever that is edited or filtered and it is having a disastrous effect on their self-esteem. The statistics don’t lie and in the UK, 9 out of every 10 girls with low body esteem, put their health at risk by not seeing a doctor or by skipping meals. A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health asked 14-24 year olds in the UK how social media platforms impacted their health and well-being. The survey results found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were all linked to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. More than two thirds (68%) of young people surveyed support social media platforms highlighting when a photo has been manipulated. 

I have been contacted by many teachers who have told me about conversations with their students who feel under pressure from social media perfection or crippling loneliness when they feel that their face doesn’t fit. I have also been contacted by countless parents who are terrified of how body conscious their children are, with ages starting from as young as 8. I have also spoken with many adults who have suffered their own mental health challenges in their adolescent years, signing the petition because they just can’t fathom how they would have survived against the odds that the youth of today are growing up with. The more people I speak to about the petition, the more it makes me want to ensure there is change, protection and honesty to give our young people a fair chance in today’s world.

Now there is one thing I need to make crystal clear. I have nothing against social media. In fact I think it can be hugely positive to all of our lives. I also have nothing against editing or filtering, it is completely each to their own. What I have a problem with is the lack of honesty, which is causing young people to believe they need to be flawless yet striving for this is damaging their mental health. Do I believe social media is the problem for the challenges in youth mental health? No. Does it exacerbate the problem? Absolutely. Mental health challenges can quickly become deeply rooted and leave scars for life. Our children and young people deserve better than that.

In trying to evoke change I have recently begun a petition on Change.org to amend the social media laws to state when an image has been filtered or digitally edited. This is now the law in a number of countries, Norway being the most recent. If it can happen there why not in the UK? What I am hoping this solution could do is to help our young people and next generation to understand that these posts aren’t real and their true self is more important, as well as their mental and physical health.

What I have realised is that each individual can help create positive change. It really does only take 30 seconds to put your name against the petition and then share with your own network. The momentum of this campaign has been amazing with several MPs on board, charity organisations and individuals who are experts in their fields. Collaboration is key here. If we all pull together we really can protect our next generation. I’m a parent. An auntie. A person who cares. That is all it takes. Somebody to do something.

Whilst my family has been my first hand experiences of mental health challenges in young people, I have just seen one too many examples to not do something about it. In the words of Emma Watson, If not me, who? If not now, when?

The link to the campaign is https://www.change.org/ChangeSocialMediaLaws 

The link to the details of the survey completed by the Royal Society for Public Health is available here https://www.rsph.org.uk/static/uploaded/d125b27c-0b62-41c5-a2c0155a8887cd01.pdf 

You can connect with the author – Suzanne Samaka via the following social media accounts:

  • Instagram – @protectyouthmentalhealth
  • Twitter – @SuzanneSamaka
  • #HonestyAboutEditing

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Sustainable Wellbeing and Lifelong Learning: Education as if People and Planet Matter

Dr Harriet Marshall portrait

Written by Dr Harriet Marshall

Head of Educational Research at Lyfta and has been a global education advocate for over 20 years, as a teacher, researcher, consultant and education project leader.

Education is stuck between 6th extinction predictions and talk of a 2nd renaissance in human capabilities resulting from the 4th industrial, technological revolution. Though there are obvious contradictions between these two trajectories, there are also areas of overlap – both can seem immensely overwhelming and both are frequently accompanied by calls for a change in mindset. The problem I have observed here links to how often the ‘mindset change’ strategies work with a very narrow definition of education. Whenever there is talk of ‘educational solutions’ it is usually in reference to formal schooling and the education of young people, as if this is the only educational space that is of any importance.

Formal schooling (e.g. primary, secondary or SEN providers for 4 to 18 year olds) can no longer be considered in isolation from, or as any more significant than, other educational spaces in life. Especially not if we are to have any chance at all of meeting key climate and energy targets or the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

It is easy to understand why formal school has been historically targeted for humanity’s medicinal or instrumentalist agendas. It is a neatly bounded space with relatively clear systems and structures, and crucially it is a space which the majority of us actually understand (mostly because we experienced it – let’s be honest, everyone has an opinion of how the education system should or should not be that is mostly derived from their own experiences of schools). And so, we’ve had the following kind of thinking… Quick, we don’t have enough people with the right skills, let’s change the school curriculum. Quick, there’s a growing gap between rich and poor, let’s change the school curriculum. Quick, we need to act differently or we’ll all boil or drown because of climate change, let’s change the school curriculum.

Our learning does not stop when we leave formal schooling, in fact this sort of thinking is incredibly damaging.

Let us therefore start by emphasising the need for an all-inclusive, lifelong learning definition of educational and learning spaces. UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning has been doing exactly this and have demonstrated how vital it is for all educational sectors and spaces to work more effectively together if we are to have any hope of creating a more sustainable and socially just world. To this end, we need to better understand and incorporate intergenerational learning and participation, especially in country contexts like the UK where age-divides have never been so wide. Related to this is the need to better demonstrate the equal importance of non-formal schooling learning spaces for all ages, from the after-school club for children to the day centre for older people.

Following on from a broader and more inclusive understanding of education – we then need to re-examine the idea of a curriculum for life both in terms of content and pedagogy. Sociologists of education have illustrated for decades the importance of examining educational policy and practice through a lens of power and control. The need to be aware of how core knowledge is constructed, selected, prioritised and recontextualised (and by who) in educational spaces has never been so urgent. Recognising the historical power of ‘traditional’ knowledge disciplines and their corresponding linear models of knowledge acquisition is crucial because sometimes they are in opposition to the sort of interdisciplinary knowledge and systems-thinking also required for innovation and action for a more sustainable world. An illustration of the legacy of this power dynamic can be seen in formal schooling today. Take two minutes to reflect upon (a) which subjects are deemed the most important and why, and (b) when new curricula like ‘citizenship’, ‘environmental studies’ or ‘social and emotional learning’ are added, what status do they really have in relation to those subjects that have a clear line of ‘progress’ towards an exam (to be used as a form of credit to exchange for future employment)? 

Of course, we no longer know what ‘employment’ is going to look like in the next few years as jobs and industries shift at breakneck speed. This fact alone requires any ‘curriculum for life’ to be something that can adapt to external shifts and needs, where the ability to ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’ will be all part and parcel of general learning how to learn and where progress will be measured in a whole range of ways.

One of the most powerful curricular and pedagogical concepts I believe around today is the idea of ‘sustainable wellbeing’. When we are reconsidering the purpose of education or learning in the current #NoGoingBack context, this is one of the best answers anyone can give. Policy makers and educators in Finland have certainly thought so, where sustainable wellbeing has been made one of the six guiding principles of the education system (others include equity and equality; inclusiveness and life-long learning). A growing body of thinking around this concept makes for exciting reading in the way, for example, it brings together the fields of positive psychology, ecology and environmental science (to name just a few). 

The beauty of sustainable wellbeing as a guiding principle for a curriculum for life is that it speaks to our needs as individuals simultaneously separate from and in relation to wider societal and planetary needs. Sustainable wellbeing recognises the interconnections between our own health, wellbeing and that of others. If we properly recognise the interdependent nature of all of the goals, it is also at the heart of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (see previous piece on education for/about the SDGs here). Our futures will not be ‘sustainable’ unless others feel the same way. Sustainable wellbeing helps us understand purpose and the wider systems at work, in so doing, it can support resilience building. The guiding principle of sustainable wellbeing suggests a curriculum that supports the development of: empathy skills and interbeing understanding; an associated set of values related to equity and global social justice; and knowledge that is sensitive to indigenous as well as more dominant knowledge forms required for addressing the world’s increasingly complex ‘wicked’ problems.

For education to be powerful, relevant and guided by the principle of sustainable wellbeing we have to stop thinking in age, space, time and knowledge silos – however this may not necessarily require the radical systemic changes some are calling for. Could we instead begin reimagining and empowering all learning spaces through a better demonstration of their impact and value? Could we emphasise the importance of intergenerational methodologies and spaces through the sharing of the growing numbers of amazing examples of practice (for example, local cross-generational sustainable living projects)? Could we raise the profile of social and emotional learning, social justice education or ecological literacy by better showing how it is also a crucial variable for achieving academic success and/or health and wellbeing? Those of us in the bubble of sustainable development or environmental education also need to remember that not everyone shares our assumptions or values – in so doing we are less likely to judge those who, for example, want to adapt systems in an ‘evolution not revolution’ way.

We must also remember that there are forces at play that will continue to shift educational systems and spaces whether we like it or not. These forces are frequently outside of the control of educationalists and policy makers and have the potential to render any radical plans for system reform redundant. For example, if we decide that the current emphasis on performance in examinations is the root cause of our problems and set about enacting reform, it could be that progress measurement is forced to change soon anyway (think about the impact of Covid-19 when formal exams went out the window and imagine how we are going to police examination performance when mobile technology is no longer ‘external’ to a learner’s body and therefore invisible to an examiner’s eye). If we are serious about creating education systems where ‘people and planet matter’ then we need to start with what is in our control and is ambitiously achievable – my favourite contender is our collective power to change our perceptions. We can change our perceptions of what we consider important learning spaces (ie not just formal educational institutions) and we can talk more about learning opportunities throughout life. We can work towards a loosely agreed set of values, skills and knowledge forms required for individual and planetary resilience and sustainable wellbeing. We can strengthen or create the interdisciplinary and intergenerational learning spaces needed if humanity is to adapt, innovate, survive and thrive. 

People and planet will matter more to all of us when we better recognise that all education and learning spaces matter, regardless of how old we are or what stage of life we are at. Unless we do this, we run the major risk of implying that saving the future of the planet, humanity and biodiversity is solely the responsibility of the young. Just because we are 65 does not mean that we are too old to change our behaviours or unlearn old knowledge, but an over-emphasis on 4-18 schooling gives us the excuse to say that it is so. 

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Therapeutic...

Ayo Awotona portrait

Written by Ayo Awotona

Ayo Awotona specializes in confidence building for girls in education. She does this through programs, workshops, and keynote speeches.

This blog post serves as both a loving reminder and some encouragement! Just like our physical health, it is vital to check on our mental health and discover ways to improve or sustain it.

One approach is understanding what you find therapeutic.

Fun fact: the Greek origin of “therapeutic” means to attend (a.k.a to deal with) or to treat. 

It is usually associated with medicinal treatment. However, there are many other methods and activities that help treat and restore our mental health. 

Being open to exploring different activities is worthwhile to know what is therapeutic for each of us. 

Two of my personal methods are not having any social media notifications on my phone and having daily “switch off” and “wind down” times (actually scheduled on my calendar to avoid my workaholic tendencies from taking over!)

The significant benefits we get to enjoy include: 

  • Outlet/Release
  • Neutralises stress and worry 
  • Creates ease 

Essentially, we are intentionally taking care of our well-being and creating a healthy environment in our minds. 

So the question remains – what do you find therapeutic?

I challenge you to make a quick list of therapeutic activities and methods you would like to try out this week.

If this is proving to be a struggle for whatever reason, perhaps these two questions would help:

  • What is your focus on? 
  • Does it help or hinder you? 

2020-2021 has been particularly difficult to navigate through – for many many reasons! Many of the plans we once had in place have been changed or swept away and intentionally embracing change has become our new way of life. 

Now is a pretty good time to ask ourselves “what am I focusing on?” Whether good or bad, what we focus on, is what our minds will consume.

Many of us probably appreciate a good camera, one may be its ability to focus. The better focus the camera has, the sharper and clearer the picture. 

It’s a similar approach to life; when we are intentionally focused on our priorities, we capture a clearer vision and direction for our future. 

Let’s be mindful and careful of what we’re giving our attention to. Because what we give our attention to, our time and energy go with it. 

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The Psychology of Our Quarrels

Russell Ridgeway portrait

Written by Russell Ridgeway

Russell Ridgeway is an American writer based in Budapest, Hungary. He writes in business, tech, and fashion as well as creative fiction. You can reach him by email (russell@lensawork.com), or on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Quarrels do happen in our everyday relationships, with our family members, significant others, co-workers, and friends. Is it normal to have them regularly? What can we do about them? Do they have to be ongoing, or are there specific ways to reduce their frequency and intensity? Let’s take a closer look at this actual and significant topic, and find solutions that could work. 

 

There are those types of people who avoid conflicts in contact, sometimes both parties. In other relationships, one person tends to fight more than the other, or the people keep changing roles. And it is becoming a pattern, which they cannot handle well, as the people involved are not sure what to do. No wonder why; we lack this kind of education!

 

How Quarrels Work

 

By observing, analyzing, and coming up with solutions to your quarrels, you can make your life better. Doesn’t matter who you usually fight with. This is what you, or more ideally, both of you should be doing. Realize that each of these scenarios has a starting point, a major phase with intense emotions, and a closing point. Why is this crucial to observe

 

By doing so you can see some interesting patterns. Be it a relationship between married couples, parents and children, siblings, or co-workers, it always happens similarly! If you observe them, you can realize that there are only a few typical scenarios that keep repeating themselves. When the two (or more) of you start with the same words, actions, or things!!

 

Think of the analogy of a cup. Your cup is your relationship. When you fill into it a bit of a quarrel at times, it becomes fuller and fuller until it reaches its full capacity. That’s also the point when your relationship can’t take more at any one time, so it blows up! 

 

How Do We Fight

 

You should take a piece of paper, and write down the following: 

 

  1. How do you usually start fighting? 
  2. What do you say to each other? 
  3. How do you both feel? 

 

List two of the most common types of your quarrels. Try looking at yourselves like someone neutral, an outsider. Remember, you don’t have to be one with your fight! Key points to consider: In what kinds of situations do they come up? How do we usually behave? What is the other saying that triggers us? How do we both react to each other? 

 

Look for those situations in which these fights appear. Observe both of your moods consciously. Were you already under pressure because of other things? Were you tired? Did you sleep enough? Were you adding fuel to the fire just because the other person also hurt you? Did you try to consciously stop fighting, hurting the other’s feelings, or come to a solution? 

You Are in Control

 

Did you allow the fight to take the best of you, feeling you are powerless? We often give away our power to the fight, when we should aim to do the opposite: disallow it to become ugly in the very beginning. Before expressing your pain, and thus hurting the other person, ask yourself to take it easy. Say to yourself, I am in control, not my pain. You should aim not to hurt the other. 

 

Start to take control the earliest possible, before the quarrel gets big! This is the best way to alter its outcome to what you want it to be. Many times, what we say to the other person isn’t as hurtful as how we say it. When this happens, remember, that this won’t make your contact better and surely doesn’t lead to your desired outcome! When you start observing it, you are in control!

 

Fighting is like being in trance, we tend to lose our conscious behavior. Our survival mechanisms are turning on, switching off our intellect. So, what you need to do is, get yourself out of this state! Start moving if you were sitting earlier, go out into the fresh air, take some deep breaths, wash your face… Do the same with your feelings, switch them to positive ones! Remember who is the boss!!

 

Quarrels and fights are inevitable. Like it or not, they are a natural part of each human connection. Therefore, your aim should be to avoid them as much as possible. How? By reducing their frequency, strength, and length. If you strive to make them more and more temporary, and less significant each time, you create a win-win situation for everyone. 

 

Think of things that the other person likes and be willing to give them that instead of what you like. Have a conversation to clarify each other’s needs before it is too late. If you want to make any of your relationships work.

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Building Leadership Presence through Awareness of Self

Yamina Bibi portrait

Written by Yamina Bibi

English Teacher and Assistant Headteacher

During the #WomenEd Global Unconference 2021, I spoke about how we can go about tackling our inner critic so that we can limit the influence of it on us as women. 

I shared some specific strategies that have really helped me like labelling how I am feeling and seeking support from other women through coaching. 

Despite presenting on this, I have really struggled this week to mute my unkind inner critic. 

Having started as an AHT role in a new school this year, I have felt like a novice despite being a senior leader for a few years now. I guess in some ways I am because I am new to the system, rules and routines of the school. I know that it’s normal to feel this way but unfortunately this week I have been unable to soothe my inner critic, which tells me that I should be able to do this since I’ve done this job before. This negative self talk then creates a heaviness in my heart and mind and has even stopped me from sleeping well. 

These are the unkind things that have played over and over again in my head:

‘You’ve been doing this for a while and you’re still not good.’

‘You can’t even teach properly so what makes you think you can lead?’

‘You were better as a classroom teacher instead of being SLT.’

Through coaching, I have been able to listen to this negative self talk and interrupt my tendency of letting it control me and all I do. I have learned to notice when I go from pressure to stress and acknowledge these thoughts and feelings. I have learned to notice when I am comparing myself to others and telling myself that I’m not good enough because they are better. 

However, what I’ve really noticed is that when we’re on social media, it’s so easy to assume that everything and everyone else is doing better than us. It’s easy to believe that other teachers and leaders are superhuman experts who know all there is to know and can do everything and that, in comparison, we can’t do anything. 

Let’s be honest. In schools, we are all working hard especially during these challenging times. We are all doing our best for our staff and students but no, we don’t know everything and it’s absolutely fine to say that. 

As part of Resilient Leaders Elements™, we learn to share our strengths as well as our areas of development. I’ve been so afraid to do this in the past because I have feared that everyone would know what I knew about myself: I’m a fraud and failure. I now know that being open about my developmental needs  with the people I trust and who support me does not make me a failure, it makes me an authentic leader. 

Before RLE, I always thought I was an authentic leader but I realised that only allowing people to see my strengths and never sharing my struggles meant that others thought I was a superwoman. Maybe that’s what I wanted then but I definitely don’t want that anymore. 

As leaders, we have a duty to model vulnerability and authenticity. True authentic leaders increase their leadership presence by modelling that we all have strengths and areas of development. In sharing this, hopefully others in our sphere of influence will do the same and then we can truly support them and their needs. 

Alongside this, we must also pause, reflect and acknowledge our successes. Write it down, read it on paper and read it aloud to ourselves and others. What we are doing is so important and we cannot diminish that because our inner critic is telling us otherwise. 

Let’s share all of who we are so that we can continue doing what we love without fear and that unkind inner critic holding us back. 

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“I’m in hospital Liz.”

Liz Wright

Written by Liz Wright

Elizabeth Wright FRSA is an editor, consultant, speaker, and activist. She brings forth all of her life experience to challenge people around disability, diversity, and inclusion.

I gulped at the message. It was from Jade, my graphic designer for Conscious Being and we were a week out from releasing issue 2. As a magazine editor, as a writer, as a speaker and consultant, I am so used to working to deadlines that my first thought was how are we going to get this issue out on time.

 

For years now I have been jumping to so many other people’s tunes, to doing everything possible to reach the needs of the client, without actually looking at and addressing my own needs. I am a disabled woman and live everyday with the effects of this identity. Tiredness from PMS, experiences of ableism, and using more energy than a non-disabled person to move my limb different body, is my reality every day, every month. Like a yoyo, my energy levels are unpredictable; my muscle pain is unpredictable. Everything I do, by default, is slower than someone with two hands and two legs. And yet, for years, I would push on, trying to keep up with my non-disabled peers. 

 

In the past year I have decided that enough is enough when it comes to stretching my lovely body beyond its limits – all to please others who don’t know the actual lived experience of my impairment. Boundaries have been key to finding that sweet spot. Placing boundaries around my time and energy levels means that I am finding it a lot easier to say no to people and to stand up for myself in demanding that my needs be met too. The difference in myself has been astounding – I am more productive when working because I have had the rest that I need, I am more joyful, and dare I say it, interesting, because I actually make time to go places and see people. Life has blossomed as it hasn’t done in a very long time.

 

My activism has gone to the next level too – I am proud of my limb different body and what it has done for me and what I know it will do for me in the future. It has taught me many lessons and given me deep knowledge about the flaws in society and how we have to have structural and cultural change around work and success. My physical and mental fatigue wasn’t because of my impairment, it was because of the undue pressure that society puts on us to be productive and to ignore our very basic human needs to rest and relax. 

 

When I started the magazine Conscious Being, a magazine by and for disabled women and non-binary people, I knew that I only wanted to hire other disabled creatives who deserved a platform and a space of their own. With as fair and equitable pay for these creatives as I could afford. I also knew that I wanted the core editorial and creative teams to feel that their health and wellbeing took precedence over anything else. I never wanted anyone to feel that they couldn’t tell me when they weren’t well and when they needed rest and a day off. I wanted Conscious Being to reflect the core of what I had learnt about taking care of myself – that when we look after and prioritise ourselves and our needs, that is when we can meet the needs of others in a beautiful and empathetic way. 

 

Jade was in hospital and she wasn’t sure how long she would be in there for. As much as a slight panic hit my core first, that residual fear of not meeting deadlines, I knew that Jade’s health and wellbeing was more important than any release date of a magazine. And as Jade’s boss I told her so. I took hold of the reins, I assured her that we would work with her timings and that she had to just focus on recovery now. At the end of the day, disabled or not, we are only human, not machines. And as much as the world we live in would like you to believe that we don’t have a choice, unless your job deals in life and death situations, we can choose to push back deadlines, say no to things, and demand that our needs be met.

 

Issue 2 of Conscious Being came out on the 7th of September. A week late, but a much better magazine for it. The way the team pulled together and rallied around Jade was inspired. And the end result has been a happier and healthier graphic designer and a magazine and team that we can all be proud of.

 

 

We would like to thank Diverse Ed for being a sponsor of Conscious Being Magazine – the magazine by and for disabled women and non-binary people. If you would like to be a sponsor in the next issue please reach out to Editor-in-Chief Liz Wright at – liz@consciousbeingmagazine.com

 

You can grab your copy of issue 2 here – Conscious Being Magazine

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Alopecia Awareness

Zoe Reynolds portrait

Written by Zoe Reynolds

Head of MIS & Compliance, The National College of Education.

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter. The amount of hair loss is different in everyone. When you have alopecia, cells in your immune system surround and attack your hair follicles (the part of your body that makes hair). This attack on a hair follicle causes the attached hair to fall out. The more hair follicles that your immune system attacks, the more hair loss you will have. Some people lose it only in a few spots. Others lose a lot. Sometimes, hair grows back but falls out again later. In others, hair grows back for good. 

 

Alopecia Symptoms

The main and often the only symptom of alopecia is hair loss. You may notice:

  • Small bald patches on your scalp or other parts of your body
  • Patches may get larger and grow together into a bald spot
  • Hair grows back in one spot and falls out in another
  • You lose a lot of hair over a short time
  • More hair loss in cold weather
  • Fingernails and toenails become red, brittle, and pitted

The bald patches of skin are smooth, with no rash or redness. But you may feel a tingling, itching, or burning sensation on your skin right before the hair falls out.

 

Myth #1: There is only one type of alopecia  

People tend to be under the assumption alopecia is just, well, hair loss. Interestingly enough, alopecia IS the medical term to describe any type of hair loss. However, there are actually several types of alopecia, each affecting different parts of the body and occuring for various reasons. 

 

  • Alopecia Areata Patchy – Causes small, round patches of hair to fall out. Hair loss is usually temporary but can occur continuously over time.
  • Alopecia Areata Totalis – Causes total hair loss on the scalp. This type of hair loss is also temporary.
  • Alopecia Areata Universalis – Loss of hair on the entire body. Depending on the person’s history, this condition may be temporary or permanent.
  • Traction Alopecia – Caused by tight hairstyles and hair pulling. This form of alopecia can be temporary if caught early. If not, continued stress on the scalp can lead to scarring or damage to the hair follicle.
  • Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia/CCCA – CCCA can cause permanent hair loss due to follicle scarring if not caught early. While this form of alopecia is considered more common in middle-aged African American women, anyone can be susceptible.
  • Androgenetic Alopecia – Also known as male or female pattern baldness, this form of alopecia refers to a degeneration of the hairline and is usually permanent. Those who experience Androgenetic Alopecia are most commonly genetically predisposed.
  • Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia – This type of alopecia most frequently affects post menopausal women. With this type, a band of hair loss normally appears on the front and sides of the forehead and typically worsens over time. 

 

Myth #2: It’s Contagious

Alopecia areata is not contagious. A bacteria or virus does not cause it, so there is no method to “transport” it to other people, or even new areas of the body.

 

Myth #3 There is No Treatment

This one is a bit tricky. While many FDA approved medications are being used to treat alopecia, they were approved for other conditions. So, there is no specific treatment for alopecia, but there are still many possibilities that can help.

 

Myth #4: Hair Will Never Grow Back 

Hair growth and fall out are different for everyone. It can regrow spontaneously with or without treatment, then fall out again. There is no way to tell. Some prefer a wig or other product versus medications due to this reason.

 

Myth #5: Alopecia is Genetic

Alopecia is a polygenic disease. It means that both parents must be a contributor to a specific number of genes for a child to develop it. Most parents will not pass it onto their children because of several factors, both environmental and genetic need to trigger it.

 

Frequently asked questions: 

When out in public, naturally curiosity gets the cat and people tend to stare and ask questions, such as… What made you shave your head? Do you have cancer? Doesn’t your head get burnt? 

 

Depending on the individual and how comfortable they are with their alopecia they will often engage back to help spread awareness and educate others. For me personally, if you want to ask me anything please do not feel like you would be offending me.

 

Zoe on Twitter

Zoe on LinkedIn

 

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The Importance of Empathy

Rebecca Ferdinand portrait

Written by Rebecca Ferdinand

Marketing manager at Lyfta. She has a BSc in Psychology from Durham and has worked for a range of organisations including the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

Empathy is one of the fundamental values underpinning our work at Lyfta. In this blog we discuss the scientific evidence for empathy, and talk about how we can nurture it in ourselves and in the children we teach.

This blog first appeared on Lyfta.com. Lyfta is a partner organisation and supporter of DiverseEd.

At a time of continued global disruption and isolation, the importance of being able to have empathetic connections with others – to feel with them and care about their wellbeing – will be critical to ensuring that we build workplaces and societies that can thrive into the future. The children of today all have the potential to build a more peaceful and sustainable world, and empowering them with a strong sense of empathy will enable them to navigate this challenge with sensitivity and compassion.

“Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” Barack Obama

But what is empathy? Some confuse empathy (feeling with someone) with sympathy (feeling sorry for someone), but Dr Brené Brown does a good job of explaining this and highlighting Dr Theresa Wiseman’s four attributes of empathy: the ability to perceive others’ feelings, to not stand in judgement of those feelings, recognising or imagining the other person’s emotions, and communicating this effectively. When we connect empathetically, we have better relationships, we become better co-workers and managers, but more importantly, we become more compassionate people – and compassion is vital to a sustainable and humane future.

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone’.” Dr Brené Brown

Over the past two decades, the evidence that human beings are wired for empathy and social cooperation has grown considerably. Neuroscientists have identified areas of the brain that, if damaged or compromised, can affect our ability to identify and understand others’ feelings. Psychologists have shown that children as young as 18 months are capable of attributing mental states to other people. But empathy is not a fixed ability. Evidence suggests that we can continue to develop our capacity for understanding others throughout our lives, but busy lifestyles and our tendency to surround ourselves with people who look and think like us, mean that we are not often encouraged to take a moment to connect with others. So how can we actively become more understanding, and nurture this ability in the children we teach? Here are four ways we can develop empathy in ourselves and in others:

  1. Be curious.  We increase our capacity for empathy when we interact with people outside of our usual social circle, and encounter lives and world-views very different from our own. You could actively seek out new perspectives by seeking out people on social media who you wouldn’t usually follow, or, if you’re brave enough, making the effort to start up meaningful conversations with any new people you encounter day-to-day. 

Research has shown that reading fiction helps people to improve their ability to understand others. Try to seek out stories from as wide a range of perspectives as possible for both yourself and the children you teach. Of course, Lyfta can help you bring real human stories from around the world into your classroom. 

  1. Challenge your prejudices. We all make assumptions about people, and often these are completely unconscious. These might be based around gender, age or racial stereotypes that prevent us from appreciating each person’s individuality. Our biases can seriously hinder our ability to become more empathetic, but acknowledging and challenging them is the first step toward becoming a more understanding person. You can learn more about your biases by taking an unconscious bias test, and tackle them by attending diversity, equity and inclusion workshops or discussions such as those run by the #DiverseEd community.

In the classroom, you could open up discussions on the nature of stereotyping and prejudice, and ensure that you expose your students to people, places and stories that defy widely held expectations. Lyfta gives you access to real immersive human stories from around the world, helping you to start conversations that might otherwise be difficult to initiate during lessons.

  1. Listen (and be vulnerable). Being an empathetic conversationalist means listening actively. Try to be completely present to the feelings that a person is communicating in their conversation with you. Whether it’s a quick chat with a colleague, or a catch-up with an old friend, do all you can to understand their emotional state and needs. You can model active listening with the children you teach by making sure you give them your full attention during one-on-one conversations, and by reflecting and repeating back what you think they may be feeling to make sure you fully understand.

It isn’t enough to just listen, however. Being vulnerable and revealing our honest thoughts and feelings to others is vital to the creation of strong empathic relationships with both adults and children.

  1. Take action. Volunteering can be a great way to experience other lives first hand, create real change, and model empathy to students you teach. You can also encourage your students to join (or set up) clubs at school, such as environmental or equalities clubs, or to take action in response to local issues such as going on a litter pick, or organising donations to a food bank in your area.

“Empathy has always been important. Through empathy we understand and support others; it helps us build trusted relationships and our own peace of mind. Building on the strong foundations developed by its founders, Lyfta, and the approach that it nurtures, helps teachers and students raise their awareness of what is going on around us, of other people’s lives and of the wider world. Such awareness is probably more important now than ever before – at school, at work, and in life. I am glad to have experienced and grateful for Lyfta’s contribution to raising awareness, thinking of others, and developing skills appropriate to learning development; to strengthening of empathy; and to building the capability of all students.” Gavin Dykes, Director of the Education World Forum

Nurturing empathy is one of Lyfta’s fundamental aims. We believe that empathy is the first, and possibly most important, step to building a more compassionate, sustainable and equitable world. Our real immersive human stories provide a powerful way to foster empathetic understanding by giving students access to a wide and diverse range of global perspectives, challenging their misconceptions, and motivating action. 

Join a free webinar to find out more about using Lyfta’s impactful stories in the classroom, and access a free trial of the platform.

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Improving Support for LGBT+ Young People in Schools and Colleges

STEP logo

Written by STEP Study

The Schools Training to Enhance support for LGBT+ young People (STEP) study, funded by the TRIUMPH network, is being co-led by a research team at the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, young people, and the Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons Trust.

For many LGBT+ young people, school can be a place of growth—a “home away from home”—or an environment just as bad as the alternatives.

Bullying and peer victimisation experiences such as violence, anti-LGBT+ language, exclusion, and pressures to conform are all more common for LGBT+ students. These experiences adversely affect mental health and well-being, such as a sense of belonging, feelings of physical and psychological safety, and access to support. These things contribute to higher levels of problems such as depression, poor body image, self-harm, substance misuse as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviours among young people who identify as LGBT+.

Teachers and other staff who create more accepting environments can break this cycle. To support LGBT+ students, it is important that they understand LGBT+ issues and how being LGBT+ might affect students; and stand up for them and actively challenge bullying and discrimination, to create more accepting environments and help prevent mental health issues.

The Schools Training to Enhance support for LGBT+ young People (STEP) study, funded by the TRIUMPH network, is being co-led by a research team at the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, young people, and the Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons Trust. We are working together to:

  • Identify what training is already available to school/college staff
  • Understand what makes it easier or more difficult for schools to access training, and to find ways to support uptake for different schools/colleges.
  • Improve training for secondary schools/colleges to better support LGBT+ pupils, focusing on what young people and staff think is important for school/college staff to know.

We want to ensure that our work is intersectional. We are learning more about how schools and colleges can better support the well-being of all young LGBT+ people. This includes minoritised racial and ethnic groups and faith communities, young people from low-income families, as well as young people living in rural and coastal areas. 

So far, we have conducted interviews and focus groups with training providers in the UK to learn more about what their training covers, how it’s developed and links to student mental health. Through these conversations, we have started to identify barriers that schools face in taking up and implementing training to support LGBTQ+ students.

Next, young researchers will lead group discussions with pupils (aged 13-19 years) and school staff to identify what they think is important for school staff to know.

We will then hold two creative workshops, both co-led by young researchers and including:

  1. Students aged 13-19 years: to identify and design potential improvements to existing training.
  2. School/college staff and people who run teacher training courses: to design ways to increase training uptake by schools.

We will use our findings to recommend changes to schools training, and to plan a larger research project to test out these improvements in terms of their impact on young people’s mental health.

Get involved in the STEP study

We are currently recruiting i) young people (aged 13-19), ii) school staff and iii) providers of training to schools on LGBT+ issues to take part in an interview or focus group, and/or a creative workshop co-led by young researchers. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved and feel free to share with anyone who may be interested.

We would particularly like to hear from you if any of the following apply:

  • You identify as LGBT+
  • You identify as Black African, Black Caribbean, Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, from a mixed or any other racial or ethnic background 
  • You are a person of faith
  • You live in a rural or coastal area

 

Why is the STEP study important to young people?

Juliet, student and young adult researcher in the STEP study coproduction team

“I think this project is really important to young LGBTQ+ people, because when we get together as a community, we see that there are huge school to school and regional differences, in how topics like relationships and sex education are addressed. And that this also influences young people’s obviously mental health and coming out journeys, or many of them struggling with their sexuality. A good school versus a bad school, can mean the difference between getting into a good university versus, and having a good job, versus not being very successful in life.”

Further information

To get involved in the project or for more information visit: http://www.stepstudy.co.uk/

You can also e-mail: steps@kcl.ac.uk

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheStepStudy or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestepstudy/

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#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Blogs of 2020-21

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Written by DiverseEd

Diverse Educators started as a grassroots network in 2018 to create a space for a coherent and cohesive conversation about DEI. We have evolved into a training provider and event organiser for all things DEI.

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our blogs vary from sharing lived experience, to reflecting on classroom practice and curriculum design, to evaluating the impact of policy changes. We published 150 blogs from our network last academic year. You can meet our bloggers here and you can review our collection here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we are reading, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Reading the blogs by our community provokes reflection and stimulates conversations to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 blog collection include: allyship, belonging, careers, coaching, commitment, community, curriculum, culture, governance, HR, identity, ITTE, language, leadership, policy, recruitment, reflection, representation, research, safeguarding, strategy, teaching, wellbeing. 

 

Here are our Top 10 Most-Read #DiverseEd Blogs in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. How do we deal with racism in the classroom – Hannah Wilson 
  2. How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work – Wayne Reid 
  3. Interactive diversity calendar 2021 – Carly Hind/ Dual Frequency 
  4. How does material deprivation intersect with ethnicity to understand the variations in the achievement among BAME students – Nicole Edwards 
  5. Don’t tuck in your labels – Bennie Kara 
  6. Dear Secretary of State – Hannah Wilson 
  7. Gender is wibbly wobbly and timey wimey and gloriously so – Matthew Savage 
  8. Engaging with diversity – giving pupils a voice – Gaurav Dubay 
  9. Black lives matter, then now always – Wayne Reid 
  10. Breaking the cycle anti-racist plan term 1 – Dwain Brandy 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our #DiverseEd date and please do get in touch if you would like us to publish you. You can find out more about how to submit here.

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