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.