It has been my privilege to be a teacher for a good chunk of my working life. There has been no better job.
But I have been a white privileged teacher so my experience has been and continues to be a very different experience compared to my BAME colleagues and the other inappropriate acronyms they are plonked under.
Over 25 years I have attended various equal opportunities courses, diversity courses, inclusion courses, race champion courses or whatever banner the local authority chose to use at the time. The courses, many token-gestured, have raised my awareness and given me insights but they don’t stop me from me being a white privileged teacher no matter how hard I reflect on my teaching and position within school.
Sandwiched between these courses it is vital to keep your CPD simmering away especially in relation to creating a more equitable school environment. One very thought-provoking article that I’d urge every teacher to invest time in is White Educator Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Teacher Bag by Ali Hodge.
In her article, Hodge refers to the turning-point of reading a list of 50 ‘Daily Effects of White Privilege’ by Peggy McIntosh in White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Hodge has reframed this list and applied it to her job as a white teacher working with non-white children.
She reflects on her position as a white teacher and reflects my thought processes too when she says,
Once I began to examine the contents of the invisible tool bag I carried with me each day, I realized that every white teacher in America has a responsibility to do the hard work of examining their internal biases and seeing the world through the lens of racially-based social hierarchy if they ever hope to be an effective teacher to non-white students.
So, when it comes to answering the 50 White Privilege questions, Hodge asks us to ask ourselves if we can or cannot relate to the experiences described and for every one you can relate to, you are acknowledging an invisible tool you have access to that others don’t have based on their race.
Here’s an example,
14. I am sure that I will not be asked to be a spokesperson for the experiences or history or my race or culture.
Once answered then Hodge recommends that “for every social privilege you were able to identify through reflection, you can more easily identify the inverse barrier that your students (or colleagues) of colour face every day. As the educational leader of non-white students, you must take steps to put yourself into action to mitigate the effects of bias and racism in your school environment.”
The full list of questions is here.
Unpacking who we are as individuals and uncovering our biases is essential and I urge every teacher to do the same.
The “What Is White Privilege, Really?” toolkit offers advice, activities and further reading suggestions for educators who want to unpack the concept of whiteness and white privilege with themselves and with students