7. Apr, 2021

Social Classes and Access to Windows


as a traveller;

as one who lived a life of 18 years where the state were officially my parents, as one of mixed heritage;

as one who has lived in both working and middle social classes;

as a woman;

as one born in the 1960s

as one of mixed heritage;

as one as an educator;

as one who had 3 brothers and 2 sons and no sisters or daughters;

as one who is a grandmother of an infant aged boy who is high on the austistic spectrum;

as one of heterosexual;

as one who has lived and worked in 3 different countries and 9 different counties or boroughs;

as one who lives in a multigenrational household;

as one who cooks;

as one who is overwieght;

as one who thrives on being active;

as one who has been in the same relationship for over 37 years;

as one who enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, audiobooks and writing;

as one who has a life limiting disease;

as one who reflects often;

as one who is a Christian;

as one who has a great family (whatever my interpretation of great is today);

as one who loves people;

as one who challenges injustice often;

means I have sat at a lot of tables and so find it necessary to often change, listen, reflect and challenge my thoughts, values and beliefs and those of others. As a leader in schools where you never know who you will have the pleasure of welcoming over your threshold, being able to connect with them is important. Reading body language in the the remote world, is becoming increasingly harder, yet remains a desire. Welcoming the diverse thoughts and values of those that you work with and serve during and post a pandemic is ever more important. Offset this desire to continue in the remote world, which seems increasingly likely, we must then seek a way to better negotiate, challenge and actively listen without the participants feeling that you are being platitudinal, so that our human connections remain progressive, challenging and supportive, whichever is needed at the time.

Having all the experiences I have,  gives me access to windows that many rarely have. Most of my friends of Black African heritage are working class, this is largely due to most of my friends being a similar age to me, mid 40s to mid 50s, who are first generation Black British. All therefore exposed to the challenges and at the mercy of their primary (70s), secondary (80s), tertiary (80s) and higher education opportunities, which in my case were weak at best. My best experiences of education were at university, but knowing that I would be exposed to biases I chose to study mathematics where there was a semblance of a guarantee that human biases, regarding the quality of my work, were largely eliminated, allowing me to become socially mobile. So having to navigate this minefield of education, which is the most influential vehicle to extricating oneself from the working class, and be a part of the social mobility success, if that is what one desires, is difficult. You have to encounter a lot of good people and stay deterimined. Some of the upward socal mobility for those of Black African heritage therefore is luck, because I have no friend that is not committed and determined to asuccessful and fulfilled life.

As those of Black African heritage born in the 1960s we are less likley to have friends, family, neighbours and teachers who could propel us into the echelons of the world of the middle classes. We were more likely to encounter a rhetoric that emanated from a place of safety, not from a place of investment and ambition! On top of this 100% of the mixed heritage people who have a Black African heritage, where I know of their background, Lemn Sissay and Michael Fuller being two, born in the 1950s and 1960s, like myself, were all placed in the care of the state, as spates of racism  the 50s and 60s were par for the course and accepting and embracing that your White British daughter or son had lay with a black daughter or son was rare. Therefore, with knowledge that those in care are more likely to leave school with no or few formal qualifications, like myself, making the rise to school leadership less likley again.  So it is of no surprise that there are just 20 mixed Black African heritage headteachers in England's 26k schools. There were just so few of us that did find our way into the professional world and into education, it isn't just as simple as suggesting that those of mixed Black African heritage epxerienced a convergence of challenges, but there is a multitude of reasons why there are so few of us around to talk about our experiences and drive the necessary changes. Yet having sat at the table of school leadership, working class and being a ethnic minority does give me a different lens in which to view the challenges that many of the families I have served as their headteacher and possibly why I engineered trust and confidence in all the communities I have worked in. 😀However, the Halo Effect is alive and kicking in my world, and in the world of many black educators, it has to!! We spend insurmountable time reflecting on our capacity, our tone, our philosophies and our experiences, often believing we are wrong, that if the Halo Effect didn't exist, we wouldn't either. 

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