Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

10 things I learned from my first #WomenEd event

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This week marked International Women’s Day. The theme was #beboldforchange

I took this to heart and pushed myself to be (even more) bold all week:

  1. Writing my first feminist blog – Why we still need feminism
  2. Delivering the opening speech at development day on the theme of being bold – Read it here
  3. Organising a development day that was a bold departure from previous days – View the Storify here
  4. Signing up to attend my first ever #WomenEd event

Having followed the movement and been actively involved in it via Twitter, I was keen to connect with WomenEd in person and what better place to start than the event in Coventry, which would be crammed full of inspirational women? This was the bold moment of the week I was most looking forward to but at 10pm the night before, I had still not booked my tickets. Why not?

Well, first of all, it would involve that interaction thingy. That bit where, as a natural introvert, I have to converse with other humans and I feel the pressure to somehow find the way to live up to my, far less vulnerable, online persona. Now this is something I’m used to getting over and moving past. I have to be bold if I’m to enjoy life as an introvert and there are certain things for which I just need to take a deep breath and plunge headlong into. This would be one of them and I felt sure I would be rewarded with valuable connections.

So what else was holding me back?

My boldness this week had left me feeling exhausted and a little bruised. My inner voice was being her biggest b*%$!y self and I had received some less than welcome feedback. You know the kind. Not the stuff you can work with; not the specific comments and helpful suggestions but the kind that attacks you as a person when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Friday night saw me going to and fro about attending. Would it be one bold step too far or would it restore some of my resilience? I finally decided to book my train tickets and fell asleep.

In the morning, things felt clearer. My mum wondered whether I had in fact walked into a public lynching rather than a gathering of educators. And yes mum, the staff providing the feedback were all male, white, and of a certain age. How did you know? After reading the more positive and useful feedback again and watching Maya Angelou on the train (mum’s recommendation), I was feeling a little stronger.

There are many notes and details about the day I could share. I have chosen to summarise it into a list of 10 lessons learned.

1 – Claire Cuthbert is 100% braver

I learned from @Clairecuthbert9 that other people too commit to acts of 10% braver but feel more as though they’re acts of 100% braver. I learned that through sharing vulnerability and nerves with an audience is of value. Did it make us doubt her? Not want to listen? Believe it would be terrible? No. Well certainly not for me in any case. I learned that Claire is a local CEO who’s young, female and defying male expectations of her; no she’s not a deputy, an assistant or even a head – she’s the youngest female CEO of an MAT. I learned that sharing your journey openly and honestly with others can lead to connections and inspiration.

2- Viv Grant is, quite simply, inspirational

I learned from @Vivgrant that vulnerability is important and permitted BUT we need to address our inner landscape so that your outer landscape means your vulnerability becomes a strength. When the inner landscape is in disarray that vulnerability can emerge in unhelpful and uncontrolled ways. I learned the importance of bringing ‘who we are’ to school leadership. But who are we and what are the key experiences that have shaped who we are and how we show up? How we show up is so closely related to our childhoods and how we were brought up. I’ve learned that during my soon-to-be-planned, regular reflection time, I need to spend some time considering the following three questions:

  1. How do I wish to be seen? Authenticity- you have to understand what you want to be. To prevent us adopting a mask that’s not us. There’s too much around us shaping us into something else.
  2. What do I need to let go of? What might be blocking you? Sometimes it’s habits. That’s their stuff and baggage. We can’t carry that around anymore. It prevents the dissonance between our inner and outer landscape.
  3. What will be my first step? My 10% braver.

3- Claire Stoneman is a leader who acts on her values

I learned from @stoneman_claire that it’s important for us to be upstanders, not bystanders. If there’s something that doesn’t sit right with our gut then it’s unlikely to be right. We have a responsibility to do something about it. I’ve learned that it’s ok to question things; even if they are ‘policy’. ‘Tolerance’ for instance – it should be ‘acceptance’; it’s not ok to just to tolerate others; we need to accept them and who they are. I’ve learned that a movement to reduce instance of homophobic bullying in schools and colleges is still necessary and that the truth of Dominic and Roger Crouch can help to begin this journey with students. I’ve learned that once I discover something that doesn’t sit right with my values, I need to make use of the recommended questions to work through it, challenge it and act upon it:

  1. How does it far with your personal values or the values of your school? Why does it need changing?
  2. Who can listen to you, help you, question you, challenge you, support you in making a difference?
  3. What data is there to support you in your quest for change?
  4. What underpinning frameworks (within your faculty, school, organisation, nationally) support you in your quest for change?

4- Kat Schofield is defined by her soul and not her role

I learned from @PearlOchreRose that feminism is absolutely still necessary and not just in the face of sexism from men but in the face of women who do not lift one another up. I learned that there can be life after burnout but that it’s a difficult journey; the need for me to focus on my own wellbeing grows stronger by the day. I learned that sharing honest journeys was certainly an emerging theme for the day. I learned that there’s a great deal of debate to be had about leadership styles but that authenticity and your soul are really the important things.

5- Amanda Pearce-Burton is precisely what was needed

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

3 Responses

  1. Awesome blog – this is exactly why WomenEd is such an important group to connect with. There is no other platform to share genuine professional (and therefore personal) challenges. These go deeper than any ‘person spec’ because our motivations to see each other be the best versions of ourselves are aspects of our very essence. Being part of WomenEd gives me the support network needed to push forward for change.

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