This book is a comprehensive guide for schools to undertake the work required to make inclusive spaces for all sexualities and genders. The author Shaun Dellenty invests significant pages in the book to showing mindfulness, compassion and respect to all aspects of the approach making it read more as a philosophy that is accessible for all. I’ll be keeping this book nearby because of how practical and useful the contents are. In this blogpsot I’m going to reflect on a couple of the key aspects of the book that make it stand out.
The chapters in the book are divided into a six tier approach that are built upon a foundation layer of positive relationships, inclusive behaviour policies mindfulness and pupil voice (10-11).
- Tier 1: Focusing as an individual – promoting self-reflection and building an authentic sense of our own attitudes bringing non-judgmental curiosity to our thoughts and feelings.
- Tier 2: Focusing as a team – continuing this focus at a collective level.
- Tier 3: Strategic development for organisational change – forming of the ethos and vision into a strategic plan.
- Tier 4: Implementation – application of the strategic plan, including work on culture, curriculum, and the classroom.
- Tier 5: Evaluation and realignment – Measuring impact and making appropriate adjustments and changes.
- Tier 6: Celebration – inspiring growth and change outwardly beyond the school.
The approach of tiers I think is really meaningful here. Schools can find themselves at different levels of this strategic vision and can use the book as a means of investigating next steps.
Threaded throughout the book is a range of activities that could be used in professional development sessions. The nature of these activities are mainly reflective, promoting critical thinking related to developing compassion (as discussed below).
There are a range of powerful activities throughout the book. One example is stopping to pause after identifying bullying behaviour targeted at LGBT+ people and instead of making an assumption about the impact of bullying, unpacking what damage prejudice-relating bullying can cause (40). This brainstorm should lead to discussion of mental health, self-esteem, dropping out of education, self-harm, shame and much much more. Raising these ideas engages compassion and empathy, and gives an opportunity for the importance of this professional learning focus to resonate with the participants.
I was regularly struck when reading by the promotion of a “honest and non-judgmental approach” (53). Time to reflect and mindfulness are regularly visited throughout the book to promote noticing our prejudices, biases and assumptions. The core of this idea is a compassionate approach to prejudice and acceptance and that prejudice is an inherent part of the human condition.
Compassion and empathy often make token appearances in educational discussions, but it is the integration of these values into all layers of this philosophy that felt powerful. The book argues that “effecting organisational change within education systems begin with changing hearts and minds at an individual level” (65). But this approach “must never assume that other individuals experience empathy in the same way as we do” (151). It’s a compassionate approach that takes time, but respects every individual’s understanding and experiences to make sustained and lasting positive change.
Dellenty, S. (2019) Celebrating Difference: A Whole-School Approach to LGBT+ Inclusion. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Education.