Education, professional learning, Women and Leadership

Leading the Way

Beautiful young teacher

Part of my research focuses on what has been the professional learning for female leaders in education and what have they tended to focus on? This is a short series on women and leadership in education based on my reading. It explores  some of the practical and personal implications of being a woman in education and building leadership capacity and skills.

Part 1: Imagine.

“I am a woman. A teacher. A math teacher. I have 7 years experience. I currently work in a Government p-12 school.

I live and work in a town of 10,000 people. It is small. Isolated. It takes me 2 hours to get to the nearest regional city and 4 hours to get to the capital. I am single.

I would like the opportunity to work as the Head of Department, but the current Math teacher has been in that role for 20 years.

I would like someone to notice what I can do, to affirm my teaching and my ideas to build a career in education. But I teach alone. My leadership capacity unknown.

The leadership team is mostly men. The woman who is the current Assistant Principal is in her late 50s and is single. She works long hours.

I am not sure whether I am ready to even put my hand up for a leadership position.”

Women educators who work in remote rural and regional centers are often a part of a small team of educators. Colleagues hold onto key positions for a long time and often there is a culture that resists change. Competition replaces collaboration.

How should a young aspiring teacher act in this situation?

The literature on women and leadership suggests that this woman should act as if she is the person she wants become. Be intentional about developing knowledge, learning and gaining experience.

Watterston (2010) says:

“While it is important for prospective school leaders to be well-prepared in all respects, climbing the ladder also involves an element of risk taking and a leap of faith.” (p. 4)

But where does this woman begin? There is no right time to build your leadership capacity.  So she must just do it.

The question for me as a researcher and as a female educator living in a rural space is how do I do it?

In Part 2 I will explore how understanding personal strengths and challenges assists with developing leadership.

Watterston, J. Redman , K & Watterston, B. (eds.) 2010. Women in School Leadership: Journeys to Success: Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL), NSW.

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