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By Keziah Featherstone  @keziah70

All in the #WomenEd community mourn the passing of Staffrm. It can be argued that #WomenEd started because of Staffrm and because the power of blogging has been enjoyed by so many – we have created our own new space. If you wish to contribute, please look at our contact page.

We have just held our third Unconference and our first in the north (ish). It was our best ever – positive, dynamic and life changing. Thank you to all those that attended, all those that joined in via Twitter and especially our Sheffield Hallam hosts.

A Sense of Different Perspectives

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by Nerys Blower                     @NeBlower

If I hadn’t quit my job last year this would have been my 20th year as a teacher. Four years prior to resigning I had stepped down from my AHT post and went back into middle management where I have remained until July this year. 

If you had spoken to me during this time I had pretty much decided not to return to senior leadership and was also considering leaving the teaching profession altogether. However, being able to reflect on events from different perspectives has helped me enormously – I am much more positive, proactive and #10%braver than I was 5 years ago.

After 7 years as an AHT in two schools I had become demoralised and highly stressed working in a dysfunctional SLT. Looking back on it now I can recognise that I was on the verge of depression but luckily realised I had to do something about it after panic attacks at work were becoming more frequent and severe. So I resigned. After discussions with my head at the time I took up a head of subject role at the same school and went back to doing the things I enjoyed – working with new staff and teaching. 

And I thought that was it. But then I was introduced to the world that is #WomenEd by @keziah70, joined a number of supportive networks through Twitter and attended TeachMeets and Unconferences. By talking to all the people I met or listened to I realised I wasn’t the only one to have gone through it this situation and that there was another way. People such as @JulesDaulby, @jillberry102, @nataliehscott and @MsHMFL helped me to step outside from my slightly, self-pitying bubble and think more proactively about how to change things. So I started to think about what my future role was in teaching and leadership.

At about the same time my husband found out that his job was about to end. We were discussing about having to relocate and job uncertainty but were actually each thinking about a different path. After several glasses of wine one night we decided to take a break as full time working parents with 2 children (with very busy social lives) and go travelling.  I had just met @Sue_Cowley at an INSET who had just returned from travelling with her family and a brief conversation with her convinced me to go for it!

So here I am, over a year later, sat writing this blog at Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, watching my two sons swimming in the water with the ducks. This morning we did a bit of maths and English home schooling, and tomorrow we are going rock climbing.

It has been amazing so far and another perspective that has helped me reassess my different roles in life – as a mother, partner, teacher, leader- and where I go next.  So what have I discovered by getting a  sense of different perspectives?

1. I am a much better teacher of other peoples teenagers than I am of my own two primary aged children!

2. I miss teaching – it’s part of me as a person and there is no other career for me.

3. It’s important to take breaks – not necessarily 8 month ones – but just small amounts of time to reflect and reset so that I can make more positive impact and stay well in myself.

4. I can’t be a perfect mum or a teacher all of the time, but I am a good mum and teacher most of the time. Spending this time with my children has made me realise that being in full time nursery/school from 6 months old has not damaged them – they are kind, friendly, confident and independent people. We’ve done OK. 

5. I want to go back into leadership but on my terms – the right school, the right role and the hours that work for me.

6. For those of you struggling – go out and make connections; meet people, join twitter, read books. I am pretty certain if it wasn’t for #WomenEd I may have been one more of the statistics leaving education .

We are travelling in 8 months in total – Australia and NZ before Christmas, then 3 months in France for a ski season. If you want to follow our adventures you can do so using this blog https://learningoutsidethelinesblog.wordpress.com/

I haven’t blogged in while – having too much fun but am using this blog as a kick up the backside! I will be using my twitter account @NeBlower to share some of the ‘learning’ activities during our travels.

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Are you listening? Do you want to hear my voice?

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by Kerry Jordan-Daus      @KerryJordanDaus

I have been reflecting as you do (or at least should try) on the learning from any professional development, I share some thoughts following the Medway Governor Development Conference on Monday 13th November where I was invited to speak. In this short piece I am particularly focusing on the discussion we had around diversity and Governance voice. At a time when many women are speaking out and speaking up, I think this is a very timely point to think about what we do to really be inclusive, respect and enable “everyone” to be heard.

Dr Peter Crow (the first key note speaker) raised the point about diversity of voices in his presentation, this was picked up by one of our Governor colleagues in the Q & A session. The conversation continued over the tea and cakes.

Peter made a powerful case for diversity of voice but not as an end, but to gain a more complete perspective.

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But how do our Boards and our Governance support and promote “real” inclusivity? I began my own presentation listing some of the key documentation that Governance requires us to “know”, the compliance with policy and the data we should be integrating. As volunteers, from a diversity of backgrounds, with many different roles and responsibilities in our lives, is there a danger we might be denying more diverse voices because it is a language and practice for the few? Does the language of SIPs, SEDs, SPAG, Progress8, EBac (I could go on, and on, and on) imply that governance is for the few experts?

Peter referenced a conversation with his father, a successful New Zealand dairy farmer. He said his father didn’t know what “Governance” meant, hadn’t encountered it in his 70 plus years. Yet his Dad  had been a highly successful farmer.

For many in our community, Governance is an enigma, it is not part of their being. But, a question for us in “governance”, is it constructed in a way to make it inviting, accessible and inclusive for all?

So let’s go back to the beginning- how do we recruit our Governors? How does our board membership implicitly promote a certain type or expectation of the sort of people and voices that get heard and listened to?

Data published this week reported that over 90% of volunteers Trustees are white, educated, middle class males. Now, I raise this because three women came to speak to me at the end of the evening. Two of these women had gone through a transition during the evening, initially questioning their suitability to be Governors. Although it was only a brief conversation, “not being a professional” they felt or feared they might not be up  for the role.

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The danger is if we make Governance the domain of a sub-group, it is that sub-groups voice we hear. But one step further, how to do break out from our sub-groups to widen the range of voices we hear. Great we’ve hit the target, recruited more widely, but how does our structure and practice of governance really value and support diversity. Do we explicitly acknowledge the unconscious bias that result in one type of person fulfilling these essential roles. Governors are volunteers, they can and do bring many qualities to our Board tables, but the quality everyone can bring is curiousness. We must ensure our Governance spaces value curiousness, seeking clarity and challenge. But most importantly we must enable diverse voices to feel confident that their voice will be sought and will be heard.

Kerry Jordan-Daus is Head of Partnerships in the Faculty of Education, Canterbury Christ Church University. She is an experienced Governor and currently sits on three Trust Boards as part of her University role She is the Kent Regional Lead for #WomenEd and the University Champion for Athena Swan. Both these roles are seeking to promote gender equality in  Kerry is also a Leadership Coach.

What to do if you are targeted

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by Keziah Featherstone       @Keziah70

I’m not an expert on this – so if you have better or additional advice please add to the comments below or even consider writing your own blog (email HERE).

I hate the word victim – for me it conjures associations with helplessness, of passivity, or a destiny; I don’t think people targeted by abusers, bullies or trolls are any of these things. Even for the previously most naïve person, it should be clear now just how many have been the targets of unwanted attention on and off line. As Amy Forrester explained in her blog on Monday, one simple tweet opened the floodgates. Our previous statement on the matter has been viewed, to date, over 3000 views – quite a lot for our fledgling blog within a week.

It must be said though, we are mostly working in education in one way or the other. No one can work with children these days without a decent understanding of safeguarding, of the dangers children face every day. We need to apply the same safeguarding principles to ourselves and each other. We may be adults but we are just as likely to be targeted and we have to take this seriously. We need to enact our own advice.

A huge amount of this behaviour, regardless how it started, is criminal. I highly recommend you report it; never assume you are alone. If you work in the same institution as the person targeting you, again I recommend you also report to your employer. If you need support – that’s why you pay union subs. Never think you’re making a fuss – it doesn’t work that way.

On-line

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This image kindly shared with us is a very good summary of action to take if someone targets you with messages or images. Once I received some really nasty messages on Twitter and I deleted and blocked as all I wanted was for it to go away. A few weeks later when I was feeling more collected I really wished I’d screen-shot them so I could have done something with it.

In person

Words, looks and intimidating behaviour can be more frightening and harder to prove. Of course, that’s often why they do it. Always let someone know that it is happening, even if you think you’re over-reacting and keep a record of everything that happens or is said. If it escalates you must consider reporting to the police and other supportive groups can help you manage this.

This blog is particularly powerful

Professionals’ Online Safety Support

Stopping Online Abuse

Lots of advice & support numbers

Victim Support – Stalking & Harassment

Citizens Advice

A Cautionary Tale

One of my good friends had a short relationship with someone she met at a TeachMeet and had followed on Twitter for quite some time. She ended it when his behaviour became controlling. He wasn’t happy with this and literally bombarded her with emails, texts and DMs. As she blocked him on each platform he found a new way – Pintrest anyone? He veered between anger, accusatory venom, poor-lost-little-boy and threatening suicide. He would get an intermediator to phone her and tell her he’d taken an overdose and then on Twitter he’d report he was at a parents’ evening. He sat outside her house and I once made a three hour journey after work to find her sitting on the floor in the dark.

Finally she agreed to phone the police. She didn’t want to – she kept thinking about his family and his job and blaming herself, had she treated him unfairly. In the end the police visited him quite a number of times and it got to the point where yes, he did back away.

However, it did not stop him from seeking his revenge on her behind her back on Twitter and in person with their mutual colleagues. He engaged in a campaign to isolate her from certain circles -casting himself as a victim and her as some sort of femme fatale. A few people knew the truth – we supported her, others just seemed to want to turn a blind eye to someone who was seen as a Twitter nice guy. She was told: I think what XXX has done is awful, but I really want him at my TeachMeet.

She had a few opportunities to get her version of events out but no one can blame her for simply wanting to get on with her life.

Of course – he’s done it again to other women.

“If not me, then who? If not now, when?”

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by Amy Forrester      @amforrester1

The impact of the recent sex ‘scandals’ (and I use that phrase very lightly – these are stories of abuse of power, sexual harassment and rape. That is far more than a scandal) is continuing to reverberate across the media. But what really happens when an everyday woman shares her story? Little over a week ago, I found out the answer for myself.

On a cold Friday morning, yet another man was providing his clear wealth of experience of being a harassed woman on breakfast T.V. I can’t quite remember what specifically it was that irked me; it doesn’t take much! An uninformed comment about how sexual harassment wasn’t quite as widespread as everyone thought (#MeToo, anyone?) made me consider Emma Watson’s now epochal #HeForShe speech. Emma, an inspiring and strong young woman, urging us to speak out about experiences hit me – I couldn’t sit back and let men tell a false narrative of events. And so, in a brief moment of madness, I sent a tweet about my own experiences of this on edu-twitter (yes, it is a thing!), and those of other women, detailing that this does happen – yes, we have received images of real life aubergines. Yes, we have received harassment to provide images of ourselves. Yes, we have. We have.

And from there, the notifications kept coming. I received over 12,000 notifications in the space of 24 hours. At least 100 of those were DMs, women sharing their stories and men providing their support.

I was struck initially by the shock and surprise coming from men. Expressing their outrage, many men sent supportive tweets about how they couldn’t believe this happens. And, well, I thought to myself, who can blame them? Have we ever told them that this happens? I hadn’t. But, I realised, I had spoken to many other women, in private, hushed conversations, about our experiences. If we don’t share these, how are men ever supposed to know what our experiences are like? And so, for a moment, in between the 300 notifications a minute, I was pleased, pleased that I had made this issue common knowledge. It made me realise that, as women, we need to own our experiences. We need to talk about them. We need to tell them. Because if we don’t, men will continue to be surprised, embarrassed by their gender, and women will continue to think twice before opening a DM on twitter!

Although this experience was marked by the overwhelming volumes of support, there was also something else that turned my stomach. The stories. Women’s stories. Women’s experience of sexual harassment online. It went far deeper than an unrequested aubergine in the inbox. These were stories that hurt to read. Women who have had their lives changed, irrevocably, by men who harass them online. There were stories of shame, of guilt, of lies, of deceit. To those women who did share these stories; thank you. Your searing honesty helped me get through the onslaught of the reaction to ‘The’ tweet. Your stories strengthened me. And to those guarding their stories, wrapped in guilt and pain, I urge to speak to someone about this experience. The impact of naming something, of speaking about it, allows you to move beyond it. I know. We are always stronger together than we are apart.

In the very same speech that inspired me to speak out, Emma Watson implores men to take up the mantle. I couldn’t agree more. The overwhelming majority of the reaction from ‘The’ tweet came from men; men appalled by the actions of others. Men horrified by their female colleagues’ experiences. Men horrified that other professionals would act in such a way. We need those men to be angry about our experiences, to begin to change the world one dodgy DM at a time. Educate your gender. Challenge your friends. Remember our stories. Changing our world for our next generation is more important than ever.

And to everyone else who provided support, sent supportive DMs, and didn’t harass me to ‘name names’, thank you. Know that this experience, whilst liberating, was also marked by real darkness. Thank you too to the #TeamEnglish ladies, without whom I wouldn’t have coped with the reaction. But, this experience taught me that there is nothing to fear in speaking out. The world is far greater place than I had previously given it credit for.

 

 

For Max… wherever you are, and whatever you are doing…

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by Dame Alison Peacock, CCoT    @AlisonMPeacock

When I was about eight years old, I had a friend called Max, who lived over the road from our house.  His family held an air of mystique and intellectualism, compounded by the fact that they chose not to own a television and read all of the time.

One day, Max and I decided to dig for treasure in my back garden.  Max already owned a few fossils and a special rock with crystals in it, and we resolved to set up a museum in my dad’s garage. My father was a carpenter and my over-optimistic eight-year-old self was pretty confident that he would build us an array of glass cases and happily settle for leaving his car in the driveway forever.

On the day in question, we suddenly came upon something metal.  We investigated further and unearthed a tin helmet, such as those used by air raid patrol wardens in the Second World War. This tremendous find felt most auspicious and further fuelled our desire for the museum. Carried away by this archaeological success, Max announced that in the future he was going to become a famous professor of science and that he would be knighted by the Queen. 

I remember listening to his proud assertions and wondered, ‘Could I be knighted too?’  After all, it seemed only fair. When Max returned to play after lunch, however, he informed me that he had spoken with his father and I could not be knighted as I was a girl and the most I could hope for would be to become a dame.

Years later, the day a letter arrived from the Cabinet Office announcing that the Prime Minister would be recommending to the Queen that I should become a dame, one of my first thoughts was of Max. I hadn’t seen him for decades – he had moved away from our village when I was about 10 – but the amazing prospect of being awarded the honour made me suddenly recall our conversation on the day of the pretend museum.

There had been such confidence and male assertiveness about Max’s ambition that at the time – and maybe unconsciously for many, many years – I believed that he, and others like him, were the ones who would get noticed.  It was almost as if they were born to it. 

I am constantly surprised and a little embarrassed by the recognition I have received. Throughout my headship I worried that one day I would be found out, that somehow I was managing to ‘get away with it’ rather than earning success through sheer hard work. This has continued even in my new role. When I look back over my career and reflect on the promising start that the Chartered College of Teaching has made, I know that I have put my heart and soul into my work (and have loved almost every minute of it).

But somehow the accolade of damehood almost feels as though it belongs to someone other than me. I recall when the announcement was official on New Year’s Eve being terrified that a mistake had been made and my name would not appear. 

And, in many ways, it is a success that I share. I am deeply grateful to have two wonderful daughters and a supportive husband. They have all encouraged me throughout my career, putting up with the long hours, stress and absenteeism that that can sometimes entail.

 Latterly, I have begun to participate in #WomenEd events and to read about the work of strong, inspirational women across the world. I am learning to feel proud of my career as a teacher and to allow myself to recognise my achievements, as well as the power of sharing my story.  I have chosen to share this most personal of reflections here as a way of encouraging all of us to have the courage to celebrate what we do well in the hope that we may find the strength to support others and continue to flourish.

P.S  I recently carried out a Google search for any professors or knights named Max.  Computer says no.

Ability by Background?

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By Anni Silverdale Poole          @AnniPoole

Life chances by gender? Communication by default? It still exists in schools. I still hear this and as Russell Hobby says: “You won’t achieve more than you think you can.”

What we think about ourselves AND OUR children and youth really does have an impact.
Life experiences and chances begin at birth and I was born in a castle!

Seriously! Lowther Castle in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

However, if you add a few more ingredients, I was female, premature, lived in a council house, failed my 11 plus and was a Brownie. I had a great line in sewing, cooking, housekeeping badges – oh and one for ironing (although I strongly dislike the task of ironing). Lining up at school was boys first then girls last – I did not notice the great divide much at this stage. I did notice it at high school, because the headmaster banned girls from doing physics! DISASTER! I wanted to be the first woman on the moon and now I couldn’t. Somehow, I never lost that highest possible expectation of myself, because of four brilliant teachers, Sister Rose and Mr Harris at Primary School and two more, Mr Gillet and Miss McMillan in high school. They believed in me and fuelled my rocket power to success.

Sadly, I still hear conversations from leaders who think that their kids are beyond hope because of their chaotic lives. Or who think boys can do maths and girls read better and that EAL children have special needs. Why is it taking so long for us to be neutral in the way we see kids? And even the way staff are perceived by other staff.

Being a female, I was steered towards the high school subjects such as sewing and Home Economics (they must have seen my brownie badges) and you know what, I was good at both (I am also good at my self- taught physics and maths). By hook or by crook I became a teacher, specialising in science and some social history. I still wanted to be an astronaut.

Moving forward in years I quickly became a teacher, a leader and then a successful headteacher – my passion has always been for those kids who struggle to be visible as just kids – beyond their metrics or labels.

How do I know if I was successful? Why, the kids let me know! I taught them how to have a voice.

The staff and I shared our visions and vulnerabilities – showing how to overcome fears and obstacles turning I can’t into terrific tries. It took great courage to be a female leader back then, all the governors were male and had previously suspended heads before me. At times it was quite scary facing meetings. I had a great male and a female colleague who I shared my fears with and they championed my cause, pointing out my resilience.

I threw myself into headship and the reputation of the schools I led, ensuring every child’s needs were met and I thought I was invincible. Sadly, I wasn’t and after major surgery and depression I left headship under a cloud. It was still a huge stigma to have any form of mental illness. I missed my job dreadfully.

My daughter became my champion, reversing the tables on me, believing in me and my gifts to education. And guess what, I became a professional coach for leadership and school well- being. I have been head hunted by LA’s for headship and consultancy, and I trained in Los Angeles, New York and London for my coaching skills. I have helped to build a school in Africa and I now coach globally.

I joined WomenEd North West to share a 10% braver life story and to champion the well -being and resilience of men and women in education. I work for those children with unfair, unjust, and downright untrue labels, ensuring they can see their greatest potential.

We are not invincible all the time – we sometimes need our rocket fuel supplied by someone who believes in us and sees how we can be 10% braver, regardless of who we are or where we began our life!

Imagine being able to reach the stars and land on the moon, it all begins inside out – with us.

Can There be too Many Eds?

by Ruthie Golding     @LearnerLedLdr

It was two summers ago when I first engaged with WomenEd, I followed them via Twitter, it soon became October and the first Unconference which I also followed online. I read of empowerment, and new found confidence and support for women who wanted to develop themselves and lead. To be honest, at first I was very cynical about it all, a feminist grown in the 80’s on a diet of ‘Spare Rib’ and Greenham Common, I thought that having an organisation with ‘Women’ in the title was too old school, too divisive, not focusing enough on all the groups who may be disadvantaged in some way… but I was wrong. I followed, I got involved with my region, attended the second Unconference and lost a bit of my cynicism along the way.
Yes, we are all people first, and yes there is more about us that is the same than different but WomenEd has enabled women to find their voices, their confidence and leadership. It has enabled us to make more demand that the system changes to provide equal opportunities. It is helping us to create an education system more representative of us, it is consolidating the concept that there is more than one way to lead (I feel another post coming on discussing leadership attributes)!
When people find their voices they want to join with other like-minded people to make those voices louder in order to get noticed and say “hold on there, this is 2017, this is not good enough, we want presence and influence too.”
WomenEd lit the ‘blue touch paper’, sparkled, shone and shouted we want things to change and we want it now. Before long WomenEd was being quoted in a White Paper, Coaching Pledges were made and funds were realised for Women Leading in Education Projects. Women were finding their voices, their strength and talents and making things happen for each other.
When consciousness is raised you can’t put it back in a box and it can only ever lead to others finding their passion, their truth and their voices too. This explains the momentum of #WomenEd, leading to #BAMEed, leading to #LGBTed and only a week ago #DisabilityEd.
So what impact as WomenEd have over the past two years? It has enabled people to question the ‘status quo’, given all kinds of people the strength and courage to start shouting “We are teachers, we are leaders, WE ARE HERE!!!

#WomenEd #BAMEed #LGBTed #DisabilityEd #EqualsEqualityEd