As the year draws to a close, it seems that it’s an apt time for reflection on the year’s successes and things to look forward to in 2017 (that and I have a sneaky feeling I said to Martyn Reah I’d blog… and that was sometime last term – sorry!). Here’s some reflections and a pledge for next year.
New school and new roles
2016 saw me start a new role as an intervention coordinator at a new school, followed by a lead teacher for Y6-8 English. So far, I’m loving the new challenges of teaching a primary group and am looking forward to working even more closely with primary colleagues next year. It’s also making me even more determined to create engaging KS3 material that builds on the excellent work that children do in primary so they can fly and succeed. KS3 has been something I’ve posted about a lot (challenge, engagement, driving questions for progress, early intervention and why knowledge is empowering) and I’m looking forward to developing my own knowledge of the primary curriculum to support progress at KS3.
As somebody with nowhere near as much experience as others in WomenEd, deciding to be a regional leader was a daunting decision and a year ago I blogged about what WomenEd meant to me. Through an Unconference, residential and amazing network of talented women, I’ve been challenged (personally and professionally) to be 10% braver and supported in a way that has been instrumental in helping me achieve my new posts and refine my long term goals. So many times this year I’ve felt grateful for the wonderful ladies who have been there to chat, give advice and bounce ideas off. Working with WomenEd has given me more clarity of personal ambition and goal than anything else since qualifying as a teacher. Sometimes it can seem that Twitter and maybe education in general becomes a ‘who can shout loudest/work the longest hours’ competition and WomenEd isn’t about that. The message of collaboration and community is something I think education needs more of. WomenEd has reinforced my idea that it is possible to get places by building others up, not through competitive one-up-man(or woman!)-ship. Moving into 2017, I can’t wait to build on some of the connections we’ve made in the North East and work towards developing our amazing network further.
Looking ahead to 2017. A pledge… kind of.
I’m not one for making resolutions just because it’s January. There’s something about making grand pronouncements that’ll be broken by February that seems sort of pointless to me. My aim for 2017 is to keep plugging away slowly on my goals, complete my thesis (justkeepwriting!) and make time for myself, my hobbies and to recharge.
On 26th April I was lucky enough to share a platform and discussion space with teachers, researchers and academics discussing some critical issues and conversations in educational leadership at a BELMAS/BERA event at Newcastle University.
Within half and hour it was clear that the concept of ‘critical conversations’ can be interpreted in a range of ways but largely came back to the idea of narratives. There are leadership stories to be told and issues to be raised and discussed. As researchers our challenge is to explore how to best capture these stories.
I’m a big fan of the #teacher5aday hashtags and discussion of work-life balance on Twitter that I’m always talking about things I’ve seen online or great little ‘tweaks’ that make life just that little bit easier. I’m going to attempt to recap some the great advice I’ve been given for work-life balance (both in person and online). Whilst I’d love to take credit for some of these ideas, they’re just a mix of things I’ve thought about and things I’ve picked up along the way.
Succession planning should be at the heart of any medium/long-term planning within a school. With a national shortage of school leaders (Read more here), the idea of planning for future leaders is becoming increasingly important. According to figures released by Future Leaders, whilst 74% of teachers are women, only 65% of heads are women (original DfE report here). At a secondary level, the difference is more stark, with women making 36% of headteachers in a a sector dominated by women (62% women: 38% men) (read more).
Following our inaugural YamJam, our WomenEd ideas session started me thinking about what WomenEd means to me. The advantage of such a self-supporting movement, led by a fabulous steering group, is that it’s an open house, a place for sharing ideas, collaboration and personal reflection.
For me, I see WomenEd as a sustainable grass-roots movement that nurtures female leadership and promotes opportunities for women to shape the educational climate of the country. Whilst self-deprecatingly suggesting that this may be ‘a tad ambitious’, it hit me that perhaps that such qualification is the very reason WomenEd is needed.
When somebody else verbalises the thoughts you’ve been pondering for a while, it’s an enlightening experience. I had the privilege of watching Andy Cope (@BeingBrilliant) deliver a keynote presentation this morning and the key, very refreshing, message is that happiness is a myth. It sounds depressing but actually, what he suggests is that we’ve bought into a myth that happiness is just something we’ll achieve if… if what…?
If we lose a few pounds?
If we upgrade the car?
If we land the promotion?
If we get good results?
If we have a successful Ofsted?
By buying into this myth, we’re actually depriving ourselves of valuing the here and now by continually waiting for the time when we’ll have ticked off all the happiness criteria. It’s a myth because no sooner have you achieved the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ target, something else takes its place.
Having just had my first leadership development meeting and been inspired to get involved with #WomenEd North East, I thought I’d jump on the digital bandwagon musing about the nature of leadership (and hopefully achieve it without it becoming a bit of a buzz-word soup).
Good leadership is about looking after people. It means being aware of pressures and workload. It means not piling another ‘little thing’ on without removing something else, because all those little things add up and the price may not be paid in school. Most teachers can think of stories where those little extra things make a difference between a teacher doing the little extra, marking their books or seeing their family/participating in their hobby/ seeing their partner. If they feel their family has to come last, then something has gone drastically wrong. Leadership is about priorities and understanding you can’t have a list of two-dozen priorities; that would be like Nicki Morgan and Michael Gove wanting all schools to be above average. It just doesn’t work. Good leaders help people to prioritise and to work smarter; they know when to remove a burden and they know the value of a chat over a cup of tea (or beverage of choice). Essentially good leaders know how to build people up with positivity and support.