Twenty years ago, I decided to leave my job as an Art Gallery Manager and join the teaching profession. I am so glad I did as I absolutely love working with children and in this field.
I worked in four different schools and rose to the position of Principal of an 11-19 Academy in the UK. It was in a very poor area and there were many challenges. I LOVED the school, and wanted the best education possible for my 1,200 students from 64 different countries.
I had a great first two years, getting great results, kids were coming to school more, behaviour was better, things were on the up.
Then, out of nowhere, a worker from our comunity team (staff who worked in the community with parents and children) filed a racial discrimination grievance against the school.
We looked in to it, and investigated it. it was very complicated and it spanned 15 years (before my time). The investigation could see no real evidence of this taking place. He did not accept this and went to an employment tribunal. I along with two other staff had to be interviewed in a three day trial. Not one governor from the school checked if we were ok.
We had to wait over christmas for the outcome, and in February we found out that the school had lost the case. What followed then were spectacular acts of hypocrisy from BME governors who had previously supported me to saying publicly that they were against me personally (even though I was not found guilty in any way by the court- it was the school as a whole), to attacking the school at public meetings.
I was trying to continue running the school whilst at the same time attending meetings that were hostile and reading negative press against me and the school, a facebook page set up to slander my name and others, tweets sent to my twitter account which were not nice and so on.
As someone who has throughout her career championed equality as a basic right, this cut deep.
I continued my work, wanting to be there for the children, but it became increasingly obvious that some of the governors would not support me or the school, and despite me working hard to mend bridges my position as Principal was too vulnerable to attack.
I decided to leave my post to start a new path as a consultant working for two days a week for the local authority. The man who filed the orginal grievance found out and campaigned on TV, radio and in a small demonstration to get the local authority to stop sing me as a consultant as in doing so they were being 'institutionally racist'. The authority ended my contract.
So, despite having no personal responsibility for any racist act, I had been branded a racist in the local and national press. It affected my family deeply.
I was left broken hearted from having to leave the school I loved, and burdened by the worry that anyone who would google me would see the stories. It knocked my confidence and made me think that I could never lead a school again.
However, thanks to my friends and family, I have emerged from the fog of unknowing and feel good about myself again. It has taken a while, and I have not needed to be medicated to achieve it. I meditate, I am grateful for what I have; husband, beautiful children, a home, good friends, great family etc and I do not compare myself with others.
The episode has left its mark ( as all life events do) but I am even grateful for that as the scars remind me of how strong I have been.