What Unconscious Privilege Really Means (And The Dangers Of Making Assumptions) With Adele Bates (Part 1)

What Unconscious Privilege Really Means (And The Dangers Of Making Assumptions) With Adele Bates (Part 1)

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Can coming from a position of privilege actually cause you to make unconscious assumptions about the pupils that you teach?

In this School Behaviour Secrets episode, we interview SEMH and behaviour specialist, Adele Bates (our first ever returning guest). Together, we discuss what unconscious privilege really means and how it can change how we interact with pupils.

Important links:

Get Adele's book, "Miss I don't give a s**t!"

Adele Bates's website

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Show notes / transcription

Adele Bates  0:00  

What happens is when you realise that society doesn't accept you, it takes a lot more emotional labour to be able to do the things that everybody else takes for granted.

Simon Currigan  0:12  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to this week's episode of school behaviour secrets. And this week, I've mostly been wondering about where the H went that used to be in the word yoghurt. I'm joined today as ever by my super knowledgeable co host Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:06  

Hi, Simon. Big things on your mind then this week. Yeah,

Simon Currigan  1:10  

Big worries. Big worries. Yes. Anyway, before we get too much further into this week's episode, and the yoghurt question, I'd like to start by asking you a different question.

Emma Shackleton  1:20  

Okay, go ahead.

Simon Currigan  1:21  

What thing or activity do you have in your life that makes you feel special or privileged?

Emma Shackleton  1:27  

Oh, wow. I feel like I might be walking into a trap here. 

Simon Currigan  1:30  

Tread softly.

Emma Shackleton  1:31  

Yeah, to be honest, I feel really grateful to have so many good things in my life. And it is a bit of a cliche. Although I might not be financially rich. I do feel like I have a rich life full of great family and friends and lots of support. Is that the road we're going down here with this question? 

Simon Currigan  1:48  

Yeah, I think so. Yeah, yeah. 

Emma Shackleton  1:49  

OK. But why do you want to know, how is it related to this week's episode?

Simon Currigan  1:54  

So this week, we're sharing my interview with Adele Bates. And it's all about unconscious privilege, how there are things that we take for granted in our past that enable us to succeed in life emotionally, socially, academically, and that the students we work with might have missed out on and the dangers of making assumptions about their experiences based on our lived history.

Emma Shackleton  2:18  

Ah, okay, that sounds like a really interesting interview.

Simon Currigan  2:22  

It is. Yeah. And in fact, this was quite a deep conversation with so many insights and practical takeaways from Adele that we've actually broken this episode into two parts. So you'll hear the first half this week and the second half next week.

Emma Shackleton  2:35  

Okay, because you didn't have to want to edit away all the good stuff, right? 

Simon Currigan  2:38  

Yeah, absolutely. 

Emma Shackleton  2:39  

Okay. But before we press play on that interview, I've got a quick request from our listeners to make. We work hard to produce these podcasts and keep it absolutely free to listen to. And one of Simon's obsessions. I mean, goals, is for us one day to get to number one in the education podcast charts. And the good news is that slowly and steadily, we are climbing those charts every week. So if you've been listening to this podcast and you find it helpful or valuable, then please would you spend 60 seconds rating and reviewing us, it really does make a difference. And your review will tell the podcasting algorithm to recommend our show to other teachers, school leaders and parents and that means we can help as many people as possible and now here's the first half of Simon's interview with Adele Bates.

Simon Currigan  3:32  

Today I'm excited to welcome Adele Bates to the show. Adele is a behaviour SEMH and educational specialist and her goal is to empower school leaders and teachers to help pupils with behavioural and SEMH needs to thrive. She's the author of the book 'Miss, I don't give a shit!' engaging with challenging behaviour in schools, where she shares practical approaches, strategies and tips from the classroom to help pupils with behavioural needs thrive with her education. She has been featured on BBC Radio four as an expert on teenagers and behaviour and is a sought after keynote speaker on the subject of SEMH. Adele, welcome to the show.

Adele Bates  4:06  

Good morning. Thank you for that introduction. You made me sound very fabulous.

Simon Currigan  4:10  

Youre more than welcome and Special Achievement alert. You are our first guest ever to be interviewed twice for the show. 

Adele Bates  4:18  

Simon that's exciting. 

Simon Currigan  4:20  

I feel like you need to get your certificate or something. The previous interview was all the way back in episode 54 Strategies for Engaging pupils with behaviour in SEMH needs, so congratulations! So Adele, the subject of our interview today is going to be privilege and the unconscious assumptions we make about students so I never really thought much about privilege until I read a story your book  Miss I don't give a shit. And it really caught my attention and stayed with me. Now I am a white balding man in his late 40s. Very late 40s. And when I hear people talk about privilege, it's easy for me to think that it's not a real thing because it's never affected me. So can we start by talking about what privilege actually is and then we'll get into your story.

Adele Bates  5:00  

So I guess the answer to that looks different to lots of different people. So the way I understand it is when there is something that we have or that we can do, or that we can access, and not through any kind of hard work from our side, not because we've done anything to achieve that. So an example might be that I can read, I can read and I can read really well, I was an English teacher by trade. And at the age of four, I was already reading quite well. Now, that's because I happened to be born. Firstly, in a time and place where girls were encouraged to read, that doesn't happen all over the world, and certainly not in history, I happen to be born in a family in which they valued that I happened to have a mom who is an avid reader herself. So something that she wanted to pass on, I happened to be in a family where there were books at home, I happen to be in a town where there was a really good library that we went to every Saturday, I happened to them Be encouraged with that skill. As I went to school, it sounds tiny, but all of those things I can read because of my privilege. And in the UK, there are lots of people who also have that privilege, our literacy rates are fairly high compared to other places in Europe, etc. But it is still a privilege. Like I didn't do anything for that it was all just kind of happenstance, I think we'll start there, because that's something that actually a lot of people have, who will be listening to this the privilege of being able to read. But of course, as you know, as well as I do, Simon, there are a huge amount of people who don't have that privilege, through no fault of their own, and just how many barriers they have, because they don't have that privilege. So if you can't read and this is something that I often talk about when I'm training teachers and schools is to say, just look around this room now. And imagine you can't read or imagine you have the reading age of a four year old, but you're actually 16, which is a lot of the kids that I work with. And then you start to see the privilege and I think this is what's challenging about privilege. And I think it's useful how self where you want it, Simon it's because you often don't know you've got privilege until it's taken away. And that's really challenging. So for example, we have a privilege to move around in our country and go out when we want etc, etc. And then during the lockdowns when that privilege was taken away, suddenly, we all felt it. But before we had those lockdowns, it would have been very unlikely that the average person, really rubbish phrase, I don't know what I mean by that. But you know what I mean? That the average person would have said, Oh, it's such a privilege to be able to go out twice a day. And then you could talk to somebody who has a severe illness or disability or a mental illness, that means they can't go outside. And again, they don't have that privilege. So it's so kind of unruly as a concept, I think, from my work that I've done it so far. And I think that that's why it's difficult to get our head around. And that's why it's so easy to ignore, if we are in the place of privilege, because we might not even feel it. 

So one exercise we could do for the listener listening now is take a second. I mean, you could even press pause, if your gadget lets you do that. And just write down a list of 10 things that you either have or can do or are able to access that is not through you doing anything, you just have those things, clean water springs to mind, I have clean water, arguably, you know, I do pay Southern Water, unfortunately, much to my chagrin, but it is accessible. Where I happen to live. I think another privilege that I recognise in myself is my education. Absolutely hugely, because if I didn't get my education, I wouldn't be sitting here talking now. And yes, I worked for that education. To some extent, I did well, in my exams, blardy blardy blar, for one of the things that I go through in my book in chapter seven, which is where all these topics are, is I do a comparison of my education compared to my peer who's in care. And we look at why? why did I get to do well in my exams? Well, again, it's because I had that parent structure that was supportive at home. It was because I had a home life that was calm that didn't have any abuse going on in it, or trauma going on in it. And so therefore, when I got to the classroom, more or less, I was ready to learn. And that is not a privilege that everybody has. And then I think the final piece I'm going to add to this is that okay, this is the bit that drives me mad. Is that the way our societies are formed, the people who make the decisions, the people on your TV it says a lot, the people in power making decisions have the privilege because if you think about it, I'm more likely to get exams than my friend in my class who's in care, just statistically, you can look all that up. I mean, one of the stats I can give you is that a child with SEND is 10 times more likely to be excluded from mainstream schools from the Timpson report 2019 So there you go. You've got an example there. So then let's say I do really well in my GCSE's and my A levels then I have the opportunity to then go on to further education. I should now at that point, I'm still supported from my parents a little bit financially, they supported me but also more than that emotionally and everything else and actually went to drama school first, and in term time I was there. And then in the holidays, I would go back to my parents house. Now, again, I looked after child that 18 suddenly becomes an adult, yes, they are often top of the list for getting accommodation like a flat or something, but nothing else. No furniture, not how to run a household, not anything like that they're 18, you know, at the same time, I'm still kind of one foot in the nest and one foot out, they have to survive, and then I go on to do a degree, they can't access that because they don't have that level of support. I then go on to do a master's, I then go on to do a PGCE, you can see the thing. And so who is more likely to be in a position to make decisions about schools or the education system, it's me. And yet I don't have the experience of being a looked after child. And yeah, I'm going to make a school that's going to affect the next generation of looked after children. So you can see how what privilege does is it feeds itself. And another example of that would be intergenerational wealth. So for example, we look over in America where we know there is land that belongs to white people that will be passed on through their families. And yet, that is land that black people will have been slaves on. And those black people, it will be harder for them to cut that cycle, because they're not getting that inherited wealth or land in the same way that the white people are. So I'm not gonna go on and on. But I think for now, I think the highlights are privileges essentially something that you have gained or have or have access to, through just by chance. Or if you look at it in a more spiritual sense, I suppose by karma, and also privilege kind of breeds privilege. If we don't correct.

Simon Currigan  11:50  

So can you tell us your story now of how you stepped from a privileged position in society, which you were probably unconscious of, to seeing things virtually overnight from a completely different point of view.

Adele Bates  12:01  

So I have to start by just kind of caveat in that this is only in one area. So we can't talk about this without talking about intersectionality, which is the concept that there are lots of different areas where certain people certain groups will have a lack of privilege will have discrimination will have prejudice will have barriers that other people don't. And there are various graphs, you can look at that show that the more of those essentially, that you take in your identity, the less likely you are to achieve and access society in an easy way, I suppose. I think for ease for British people listening, we could talk about the 10 protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, that at time of recording is still being used in this country. I am aware that the current government is also trying to tackle that. 

But anyway, so I think it's important to say yes, overnight, more or less, one of those privileges changed. For me, the other stayed the same. So I'm still white, I'm still an English speaker in an English country. I'm still educated. I'm still cisgender, which means I identify with the biological sex that I was born with. I was born female, I identify as female. But yeah, I'm 27 years old, I fell in love with a woman first time. And it turned out I wasn't straight anymore. That was kind of a shock. I didn't necessarily know that that was possible about myself. And what was really interesting, I think this is what it kind of screws my head a little bit because I'd always... I worked in the theatre darling. So I'd always had LGBT plus friends and people around me. And I was I thought, a good ally, right? And then suddenly, this experience of falling in love with a woman, everything changed, my perspective of society completely changed. And it's interesting, lots of people ask me questions about this. And I think particularly because I've come from being straight as it were come from being in the majority, and the falling in love with her that was kind of neither here nor there. I mean, to be honest, a person's a person. And to me, whatever shape you are, is kind of not the relevant bit. But what was challenging. The hardest thing was suddenly realising how differently society treats me now I am the same person, as I was before, and yet now, just for a start, there were 11 countries in this world, that would give me the death penalty. So that's the first thing. And then I think it's around 54 ish, I'm looking at my books if I wrote it down, but it's something like that, countries in the world where I would be imprisoned, we still don't have equal working rights in any country in this world. And what I mean by that is there may be laws that suggest there are equality and that society should be working for it. And I've talked about the protected characteristics in the UK. But in practice, there is not one country in this world where that is happening. Really,

Simon Currigan  14:53  

I guess here we're talking about legal things being in place laws being in place. 

Adele Bates  14:57  


Simon Currigan  14:57  

We've had laws about racial equality for 40 years ish now and society's attitudes regardless of those laws can be very different in practice the way people treat you their attitudes towards you.

Adele Bates  15:09  

Absolutely. And I think that's huge because actually laws, I don't want to say laws are irrelevant. But when you step out of your front door, it's not laws that you're experiencing. It's, as you say, people's attitudes, society, etc. So one of the first things that happened, I'm a girl of the 90s. I was a child in the 90s, and I was a Disney girl. And I had this realisation and it sounds tiny, but the experience was really upsetting. I suddenly realised I was no longer represented in Disney anymore. There is no one protagonist in a Disney film who falls in love with someone at the same sex. Beast. Yes. Mermaid, yes. But someone of the same sex is a little bit too far for Disney. To be fair to them. The last Buzz Lightyear film I went, it was only about six months ago, I think, for the first time, they had a same sex couple, and I bought through the whole thing, it was hilarious. It's like a cinema full of kids going. Plus, like if it was really cool, it was done very well. But they actually had a same sex couple who had a family in there, and I just bawled my eyes out the whole thing. And the reason I bawled my eyes out was because what happens is, when you realise that society doesn't accept you, it takes a lot more emotional labour to be able to do the things that everybody else takes for granted. So everyone assumes I'm straight, right? And that's fine. I assumed I was straight, I'm not offended by that. But what it means is every single time that I'm talking to like, just something really boring, like, I don't know, a salesperson on the phone, or got to pay the bill, and we need to do this. And then I say, oh, I need to just check something my partner and they go, are you going to ask him? And everyone assumes I'm straight? And in that moment, you are having to decide, okay, am I going to come out again? Have I got the energy? Is it my job to educate? And if I don't, what am I saying? What if I just leave that person just kind of assume that I'm straight? In the short term? does it really mean anything? Does it matter? But because I'm an educator, and you can't turn it off. My feeling is that if I am able to, not all LGBTQ plus people can but if I am able to, if I feel safe enough, then I will challenge that, because then we are teaching them, you know, everyone is different. And, and that's okay. So on top of that, since I got my point of interest now, 10, nearly 11 years ago, I've experienced homophobic slash by phobic abuse in the street. We were shouted at spat at the man even started pushing my girlfriend, this was in London, in the daytime, in the middle of a very busy street near Hyde Park, nobody stepped in,

Simon Currigan  17:45  

That's going to really change the way you behave. Or you think about behaving like I wouldn't think twice about holding my wife's hand as I'm walking down the road. But when something like that happens to you, that's going to make you sort of start second guessing everything that you're doing

Adele Bates  18:00  

completely. And I think it's interesting, when the doors are closed, my relationship with her is like, we still argue over the washing up, we still argue of whose house we are going to we're not going to go to for Christmas, like so much stuff of it is exactly the same.

Simon Currigan  18:14  

Is it still boring?

Adele Bates  18:16  

Yeah, we have no broken bones. I didn't know we've got to menstrual cycles, which keeps things fruity. But the minute we step out that door, we have to make decisions, we have to make decisions about are we safe. It's kind of similar to what I talked about with the kids who've experienced trauma, abuse and neglect in the classroom. It's like, the difficulty is safety. To a teacher who hasn't experienced those things looks very different to a kid who has experienced those things. 

And so, and so, for example, during one of the lockdowns, we ended up in Dorchester. And I didn't know Dorchester at all, the first thing I have to do when I go to a place is I have to, for me, for my safety, for my anxiety, to be honest, is I check out other any LGBTQ groups or venues or anything like that. And it's not necessarily because I need to go to them particularly what it is, is I start looking for the signs, am I safe? Am I welcomed? Because there are places in this country that literally say, Everybody welcome on the door. And they don't mean me. And so I have to be constantly reading the signs. And of course, ironically, some of those pieces will mean me as long as I'm not with my partner. So I remember this was years ago, and I'm really trying hard not to give anywhere a bad name. But there was a small island, one of the British Isles that my partner and I went to, I mean, this was about eight years ago. And we were stared at the whole time we'd gone on holiday and we were stared at and kind of whispered behind the back about etc. And we were on holiday, you know, I couldn't be bothered to start educating or start feeling brave or trying to look as if I'm brave, etc, etc. And I think it was the the thing about the Hyde Park incident is that you have those experiences out on the street with people giving you abuse just for being with someone you love. And then when you go back to your relationship when it is just you too, it affects things. And so LGBT plus, people will will have different things to deal with within a relationship. There's so many layers that I just again, I had the privilege of being in heterosexual relationships before hadn't even thought of it. Of course I didn't. And those things infiltrate. So that trip we went to Hyde Park, we were actually staying in a hotel. It was supposed to be like a nice little trip for us. I can tell you it took the romance down to zero after being spat out. And then you have to make a decision in that moment as well. When you're getting abused. You know, do you just walk away? Do you hold it? You'll be unsurprised to hear that I turn into Ultra teacher. I start reeling off the Equality Act 2000. Okay, well, actually, because I did I said, and my partner's gonna come on, you're gonna get thumped! 

Simon Currigan  20:57  

This isn't an education problem. He knows the law. 

Adele Bates  20:59  

Yeah, exactly. That seems to be my trigger response. My emotional responses. Okay, let's just educate everybody and put my Mary Poppins voice in this fight kind of shrill, but I'm scared, you know, I am scared. I'm standing there trying to say no, I do have rights. And I think also just a layer on top of this, my partner is from Eastern Europe. So we have this intersectionality. And I think that I mean, in her country, we have no laws to protect us at all, we could be fired for being gay, we could be kicked out of a house for being gay, or by someone could attack us on the street, and there's no laws to protect us whatsoever. And that's scary. To me. I mean, it's a country that's kind of don't ask, don't tell. So if say if we were to get married over here, and we went over there, it wouldn't be recognised. And what that means is that say, if one of us got ill suddenly went hospital, the other one has no right to go in. And I think these are the kind of intricacies that unless you are part of that community, which is a weird phrase, but I think these are the kinds of detailed bits that unless you are in that, that's your lived experience, or your experience of someone very, very close to you, like your child that you won't think about it.  I've had people say before, you know, particularly in my partners country, which has a lot of issues, and lots of people say to me, but why are we bothering about the you know, the gay rights when there are these bigger issues? And, you know, I get that, I get that, and then you start talking to them. And then I kind of say things like the hospital thing. And they go Oh, yeah, I didn't think of that. And yeah, of course, you didn't think of it because it's your privilege, you don't have to think of that. When you step into this country, you don't have to think of that we do. We absolutely do to keep ourselves safe.

Simon Currigan  22:38  

So on that note, what I'd like to do is now transfer that experience to a child in school, actually, because what you've kind of described, the way I'm hearing it is, the Wilk seemed like kind of a safe, predictable, reliable place where there weren't that many dangers that you had to be aware of. And suddenly, you're experiencing a world that has all sorts of challenges, difficulties that you simply weren't aware of. And when we think about kids that we're teaching in school, we assume to some extent that they find school a safe place that adults can be trusted. But actually, that view is a result of perhaps our privilege, and that child is seeing the world as a dangerous place where they don't have the same opportunities where they've got to watch their back because they may be abused, or threatened in some way, physically or verbally. And I think that's particularly true, not just in terms of intersectionality, there are all sorts of different aspects to that. I'm thinking as well about kids with trauma, because you can't see their lived experience. But when you look at a child with trauma, the lack of privilege isn't necessarily jumping out in the face, but they're viewing school in a very different way to the way you are or the way you did when you were a child.

Adele Bates  23:52  

Yes, just to kind of start. It's quite challenging sometimes, like the way you just moved that back is like, Yeah, I mean, I think you described it really well that your perspective changes as in what you thought the safe is no longer safe, etc. And I think that I'm able to sit here and talk about this because I've processed it enough in myself. And here's the other piece. This didn't happen to me till I was 27. I had a secure network. You know, I knew who I was inverted commas. I knew that I would be accepted by most of my close people. There was some people close to me who had difficulties and and so in a way I had at least one foot on the solid ground even if the other bit was going in like quicksand. What you're talking about with the kids is exactly what happened. My entire pedagogy approach changed. And it's because I sat there and I thought hang on a minute. If I'm experiencing this and all I've done I mean really all I've done is gone from going out for man to going out with a woman I can't get over how like if we really just put it down to that it's really not much it's just different shape in the pants. That's it literally but because of the kind of connotations of what that means in society, it becomes bigger. And what I did is I thought, well hang on, if I'm experiencing all this, I'm still who I am. I've still got my privilege in lots of places, then what are my kids experiencing in the classroom? What is it like to be the Muslim kid in a class that's majority white? What is it like to be a disabled kid? What is it like to be a gypsy Romany traveller child in my classroom, they are also the top of the kids who are most likely to be excluded as are black Caribbean boys. And suddenly it opened my eyes to going hang on, I have assumed up to this point that most of the kids I work with experienced the world like me, I haven't really gone past that. And I think particularly with the children who have experienced trauma or abuse or neglect, there was this whole kind of realisation of Oh, hang on. So if I'm feeling a bit awkward about certain things, because of my different characteristic, let's say, then how about them? And they are, firstly, their kids, I think that's another important thing to say I was an adult, these are kids, right? And then secondly, in a way, even though being with a woman has brought lots of challenges, I also have something really good out of that, which is a good relationship. So it's like, you know, swings and roundabouts. Whereas our kids who have and who are experiencing adverse conditions at home, or have done it, how do you even begin to unpick that, and no wonder sometimes when I say, Okay, we're going to study this text, but I mean, I remember one child who do Macbeth and the blood just freaked them out. As soon as it gives me this whole new understanding of why that might be. 

The behaviour I'm seeing is defiance, Fxxx off Miss and storming out my classroom. That's the behaviour I'm seeing. But by this point, in my practice, I understand that there are things going on that I cannot see. And I think that's what you're saying, I'm in my second chapter of my book, and I train on this all the time, is safety first learning second, we know biologically unless our system is regulated, and I'm talking about basic things here, our heartbeat, our breathing, that our amygdala is calm enough so that our prefrontal cortex can engage and we can analyse and rationalise and empathise, etc. Unless we're in that space, we cannot learn. And what we know is that that, you know, the safety is a big part of that. So if we're not feeling safe, we can't learn. And I think sometimes it's hard, the word safe feels quite extreme. And especially if you're a teacher listening to this, and you're in a mainstream classroom with a top set year eight? You might be like, well, of course, they're safe. They're also there, they're fine. Let's get on. So okay with you, I would invite you to use the word comfortable, how comfortable are we all, and I think one of the exercise I do, and I totally Magpie, this from Mike Armiger, I did this with him years ago. And I often share it as well, I just asked participants to just go and stand or sit in the place in the room that where they feel the most comfy. And we'll have people by the window, because they like to be able to see out. And they want to have people by the door because they need to get out, we'll have people at the back, because they want to be able to see what's going on, we'll have somebody standing centre stage because they like to be in control, we'll have people under the tables because they like to feel kind of nested. And I think that just proves it. And that's a room full of teachers and adults and teaching staff. This is not your kids who are unregulated. Also, you know, let's check in a few more hormones and all the rest of it.

 So I think this is what it did this change, my personal kind of change really enabled me to look out and go hang on, I have no idea what it's like to be a black boy in my classroom actually. And then because I'd have this experience of seeing how societies views me very differently. I was also looking at that. So it's things like hang on, if I'm a black boy in Britain, what messages Am I getting? What is society telling me about myself doesn't take much look at black teenager, on the internet, see how many positive stories you get. And so it was those kinds of inquiries that started happening. And it wasn't a coincidence that about a term later, I became the lead on equality and diversity in the mainstream school that I was teaching because it was there and it was so vibrant. And I think that I mean, my partner wishes I could turn it off sometimes, but it's really annoying. Like when I watch a film, when I walk in a classroom anywhere now it's like I've got this lens that just goes, well, why no women being mentioned in the science lesson. Or another one was Dracula. In Dracula, there's a lot of gypsy Romany traveller characters, every single one of them is a baddie. And if I'm sitting there as that kid in my classroom doing this, and I'm a gypsy Romany traveller, kid, it's like, what's the message I'm getting? Not only that society thinks that my culture, my people are baddies, but also that this text has been given as the official text from the government. And I am not saying to be clear, I'm not saying we don't study Dracula. What I'm saying is that it's the teachers responsibility to go okay, let's look at the time this was written, the context it was written and if we were to rewrite it now how would it be different and I I think these are the conversations that are messy and clumsy, and we'll get it wrong. But those are the conversations we need to start having if we want to be responsible for the privilege that goes on in our education. And let's not forget, we have that systemically racist education system in Britain that doesn't come from nowhere. It starts in our classrooms, it starts with how safe and belonging, we are enabling our students to feel included. And another thing that I often give us an idea, actually, I've got blog posts on this, you can overlook belonging and bias. Look at your behaviour points. It's really, really simple. Who gets the most behaviour points, what's their demographic, and who gets the most reward points, a really funny example, when my brother was in year six, he won the award for Best handwriting, and randomly, and he went up in the assembly to go and collect his prize. And it was a pink Barbie Girl pencil case. Now, of course, we can argue that maybe my brother would enjoy that. It just so happens that you wouldn't. But it was very, very clear what had happened with that it was very clear that they assumed the person who would win, the best handwriting would be a girl. 

Simon Currigan  31:08  


Adele Bates  31:09  

And it was my brother,

Simon Currigan  31:09  

I think what's difficult about this, as an adult in the classroom, you might appreciate that you had these privileges that perhaps you weren't conscious of. And then we try and naturally use empathy to try and put ourselves in the shoes of people who have different backgrounds and experiences. But what most people do with empathy is they think, how would I feel in that person's shoes? And when you do that, you're bringing all of the privilege that you had. So you're actually imagining what their life is, like, from their perspective, you're imagining what your life would be, like, from their perspective, which is a slightly different thing. 

Adele Bates  31:44  


Simon Currigan  31:45  

So how do we sort of tackle that kind of issue? If the privilege is to some extent unconscious? How do we move forward?

Adele Bates  31:52  

That's a really good question. Actually, I want to just give an example of this. A colleague once said to me, Well, I don't really care if any of the staff are trans, you know, it doesn't need to be mentioned, because I don't mind and I was like, exactly, that's your privilege. It's your privilege that it doesn't need to be mentioned. Because for you, it doesn't affect your every waking day. And like, don't even start about what the media is doing towards our trans community at the moment, but I was trying to explain to him I was saying, but exactly what you're saying he was coming at it from his point of privilege, which was like, I don't care. I mean, another phrase you might hear is, but I don't see colour. So I'm going to treat everybody the same. Now that sentence comes generally from white people. Of course, it's easy for us to not inverted commas see colour, because we're not affected barriers are not put in front of us for the colour of our skin, we are not treated negatively because of that. And so it's our privilege that we we don't necessarily see colour so here's some really practical things to do. The way we experience the world comes from what we put into our sphere of experience so right now this is another pause moment listener go to your whichever social media feed that you're on and check out who you're following what percentage of people look different to you, sound different to you, are from a different country to you, are a different sexuality to you, are a different class to you. I know that we sometimes believe that class doesn't exist in this country. That is a load of rubbish. And what I'm saying by this is look at what's influencing you, what is in your circle of influence.

Emma Shackleton  33:21  

Oh, wow, lots of good food for thought there. 

Simon Currigan  33:24  

Yeah, I thought that story was really interesting. And it's why I asked Adele back on the show, you know, if you come from a position of privilege, like I do, that kind of conversation that opens your eyes to how you can benefit from advantages that potentially you never know you had. 

Emma Shackleton  33:38  

I'm going to be really interested to see where that conversation goes next week.

Simon Currigan  33:42  

Without spoiling it. Adele keep sharing loads of strategies and ideas for tackling this issue in school. Whether you're a teacher in a classroom or a school leader looking at whole school strategy, and I'll put a direct link to Adele's website and book in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  33:57  

And by the way, if you're working with kids who behave in a way that you find challenging, or you just don't really get the why of their behaviour, we've got a download that can help. It's called the SEND handbook, and it will help you to link the behaviours that you see in your classroom with possible underlying causes such as autism, trauma and ADHD.

Simon Currigan  34:21  

The idea here isn't for teachers to try and make a diagnosis because we're simply not qualified to do that. But if we can link behaviours to possible causes quickly, it means we can get the right help and get early intervention strategies in place.

Emma Shackleton  34:35  

The handbook also includes fact sheets about ACEs and a range of underlying conditions that could be driving your pupils behaviour in school conditions such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, developmental language delay, PDA, ODD and others. The handbook is completely free to download, so head over to our website, www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk click on Free Resources near the top and we'll also put a link in the episode description.

Simon Currigan  35:07  

And finally, before we finish remember to subscribe to the podcast to make sure you never miss another episode, including the second part of my conversation with Adele Bates. All you've got to do is open up your podcast app and hit the subscribe button subscribing will make you feel as happy as a giraffe who's just discovered neck massages are an option and I want to say as well, my cat mittens right. I know this is off topic, absolutely loves a good neck massage. It's like she can't get there herself. And, she's been running around outside, sits on my lap, give her a lovely neck massage. Beautiful. 

Somebody once pointed that out to me that cats and dogs can't reach their own necks. Anyway, we digress... 

Covering important stuff here people

Emma Shackleton  35:48  

We just want to say thank you for listening today. I hope you have a great week and we're really looking forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets. Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  35:57  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)