identity, Teacher Indentity, Women and Leadership

Re-reading the Data

I spent the morning with four of my interviewees. Not in real time, face to face but by reviewing and reading the transcripts of our interview and listening to their voices.

I read these transcripts as new. I heard new words and the nuances that had been buried in the rush of data collection and transcription.

As I read my journal reflections I was surprised that I had recorded detail, as writers do.

The space where we met, the size and outlook. The smell, the feel of the meeting.

I also recorded what each interview wore, how she sat and interacted with me, as I asked questions and she spoke. Sometimes words came freely and at other times, there were pauses, silences.

Collete Werden is a personal brand image expert. She believes that your success and purpose can be directed with the right outfit. Werden is about authentic self packaging. I know many women who are uncomfortable with their package. The physical self, the corporeal reality of who they are and who they long to be.

I reflected on several participants. On occasion I was aware that their outfit said practical, functional. For others it said feminine, thoughtful.

Whilst I don’t think Werden has academic research as the basis of her personal branding business, she does have living proof that the right input and encouragement can shape and transform a woman’s image, identity and self confidence.

Do women leaders in education need encouragement? Yes.

If a new dress, style of jacket or lipstick colour made a difference to a woman’s confidence, should she embrace it? Yes.

I like the idea that as women in leadership we can dress for a future moment and not be defined by our past.

identity, research, Women and Leadership

Reflective Practice

img_8170Many women educators who aspire to be leaders struggle with self doubt and an imposter syndrome. A recent study by Zoe Kinias and Jessica Sim suggests that there is a simple exercise that may support women and actually help them tackle the doubt that plagues their entry beyond the ‘glass ceiling’.

Kinias and Sim argue that a simple reflection exercise on core values can transform performance in a competitive setting.

My response to this data is to connect this idea to my own research and question whether reflection would support a women building her leadership capacity in education.

According to Kinias:

The transition into a new organization or role can be critical for people’s identities, which can substantively shift the trajectory of their experience…… Thus reflecting on values bolstered participants’ resiliency against the potential threat to their self-worth that resulted from being a woman.

As educators we know that reflective practice is powerful and a vital part of our professional learning. We can enjoy that practice via a coaching conversation, team collaboration or individual reflection in a journal or the like. So why are we surprised?

In the busyness of this teaching life we often fail to make time to reflect on our core values and return to the essential tenants of our beliefs. We need people to encourage us to have reflective conversations, to drive our thinking back to what matters most. In the absence of a coach or critical friend I would argue that a blog can be a therapeutic means to reflect and make sense of my own professional and personal identity.

identity, Women and Leadership



Let’s face it. It is H.A.R.D. to focus.

As a researcher you would think the task is clear – read, write, research, read again. But there are  multiple distraction every single time I sit down at my desk. And that is if and when I get to my desk. It is not uncommon for a research Ed student to be older, juggling work and family commitments.  The question how we focus is relevant, but I suspect it is one we avoid.

If I where honest I allow a range of other distractions to compete with my research time. Email, social media, requests from my children, the beep of the washing machine, a to do list for work. The experts suggest that each time I look away, it takes me 23 minutes to refocus , to return to where I was before I responded to the “ting” of love via my email box. This new reality has forced me to reassess not only how I work but why I work in the way I do.

Can I multitask? Can I successfully write that methodology chapter whilst crossing of my to do list, planning a school concert costume and answering work emails? The answer is no. Here are some productivity and focus tips that I have found meaningful:

  1. Busyness is not productivity. Busyness is like junk food, it does nothing good, but offer a quick fix.
  2. Freedom to be really productive means that I should allow spontaneity in my schedule.
  3. Delegate more of the tasks on my to do list. If someone else can do it or offers help, let them.
  4. Schedule in me time, the “Alone Zone”, the space to do Deep Work, just like you would schedule a doctor’s appointment.
  5. Take care of yourself. You cannot focus when you are sleep deprived, stressed, eating poorly and have not stepped into the outdoors for weeks.

Focus requires commitment and practice. Regular reflection on my ability to focus and see the next day, week and term clearly is vital for my work. So here’s to more FOCUS for you and for me.





identity, Phd Candidature, Professional Learning Networks, research, Women and Leadership



This teacher life is a crazy one. Each day we turn up to school, put on our teacher face and work hard to inspire our students. We juggle multiple balls each lesson, as we attempt to convey a clear learning focus, communicate the big learning idea, manage complex class dynamics, motivate reluctant learners, differentiate our program and all the while smiling. Because we love it.

My recent re-entry into the classroom has reminded me of the hope that each teacher nurtures, quietly inside. Hope that we can  make a difference. Hope to support young people on their learning journey. Hope that they will understand. Hope that they will grow in independence and knowledge. Hope that will unlock something and that it will usher in a lifetime of learning.

But this hope that each teacher holds onto is fragile. We are vulnerable to sickness, loss and grief. Our personal life continually  drags this hope through the muddy trenches. We dust off hope and wipe it down, as we front up to a new class, a new day.

I am experiencing that delicate balance between personal and professional identity on a daily basis. I am observing colleagues around me who are clearly fighting their own disappointments and battles while simultaneously working hard to help the battles of numerous young people.

More than once I have recalled my PhD research and the nature of my data collection. Earlier this year I interviewed 12 women who hold leaderships positions in education. These conversations sparked deeper, ongoing reflection. This was then followed up by a series of email exchanges over the course of a term. Each email invited the women to reflect again about their leadership style, experiences and how professional learning has shaped their journey. I now ask the question – how did they do it? How did they find the energy, the time and the focus in the midst of a very busy school term to stop, reflect and ‘talk’ to me.

How did the interview questions impact that hope that each of us holds close?

I am now considering the impact of relationships, structures of support and connection and the way they influence our sense of self, shape our identity and grow our hope in our profession. The question is do you have those relationships, that professional learning network, the personal support of partner, family or friend to walk you through the trenches of this teaching life?

Creativity, identity, Women and Leadership

The Nude Lip



They say that a great nude lip is like a comfortable pair of jeans or your favourite white t shirt. You feel totally relaxed in your self, in your skin.

The great nude lip is is me, but more. Enhanced.

I have been immersed in data collection and a journey of interviews and email exchanges with the most amazing women leaders, each one beautiful as they struggle to lead, be their best self, innovate create, challenge and support the students and teachers in their educational space.

But very few are totally relaxed in their own skin.

If these lipsticks could become for me tools to describe each one of the women, there would be a chaotic mix of colour. Some have found a close match to their natural, own self, while others are still trying on ‘Mummy’s lipstick’ and there are those whose quest to find ‘who I am’ has led them to apply Geisha style, theatrical lips. And at times it is smudged and undefined.

There is a performative edge to self discovery, we see kids doing this don’t we? Experimenting. And we encourage them. But as adults we are expected to have it all sorted. Perhaps this makes the challenge for women to find themselves in role more complex.

Bobbi Brown‘s advice is that a great nude lip is 1-2 shades lighter than your natural lip colour. And I like this beauty advice. If lipstick is a tool here for women leaders in education, then finding their true identity is only 1-2 shades away.

These shades are achieved via a little coaching, some great online professional learning, reflective practice, support and challenge of colleagues. It is also achieved with time to build experience and best practice, to fail and make mistakes. To have a coffee and to get back up again and keep trying. Being a woman in educational leadership today is challenging. The professional demands are too many to describe here and the personal ones are equally as complex. But there is reward in serving others in the role of leader. You can do it. Be your best self. Find your great nude lip colour.

So what shade of nude will you choose today?



#survivephd15, identity, Phd Journey

Keeping it Real


Walking the Dog.

This is a journal of PhD ideas. But grappling with research about women (yes, I am a woman) I am confronted by the reality that it cannot all be about theory. It is not enough to understand the theoretical framework underpinning this research idea or that methodology. I need to acknowledge the blood and guts, the core of who I am as researcher.The professional and personal intersect and continually compete for attention. There is tension.  And this is it, the practical reality of my day.

I am a woman.

I am a researcher. I am an educator.

I am a wife and mother of five.

This day I am preparing for a 7th birthday party, making cakes,treat bags and planning party games.

I am tidying the house. I am doing the grocery shopping.

I am answering emails. Checking Twitter.

I am blogging.Keeping up with my research journal. Adding another 500 words to my methodology chapter.

I am listening to ABBA.

Somewhere  in the day I will get my hair cut.

I have parent teacher meetings. School pick ups.

I am completing tasks for my online Coaching course.

I am sending messages to friends – too time poor to call.

I squeezed in a 5 minute reading, reflection and prayer.

I will walk the dog. Feed the animals.

I will listen to radio national while making fruit kebabs.

I will revisit how I want to present this PhD by project and let my wild, creative imagination escape for a moment.

I will update the family diary. Add in new sporting commitments, formal dinner dances.

I may even pay some bills, RSVP to an invitation.

After the SPY party is over I will prepare dinner and enjoy a glass of red.

I will tuck small people into bed.

I will work some more, writing and reading for the PhD.

I may catch up on Bloodlines on Netflix.

I may crochet – aka therapy.

I will say goodnight to the older kids.

And collapse into bed with my man.


Tomorrow I will do it all again.





Context, identity

Context is Key



Context influences and shapes teacher identity and continues to be reflected in the literature (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Goodson & Cole, 1994).

Professional teacher identity is formed and mediated by a range of social, cultural, historical, political and environmental factors. In education, the local school context is key to identity formation. It is an amalgam of physical space, institutional culture, the language of discourse and the personal experience of the place that work together as a catalyst for identity construction (Geijsel, & Meijers, 2005).

So I invite you to reflect on  your local school context and see it with fresh eyes. Revisit the physical space, the grounds, the building, individual classrooms, offices, the furniture, the ‘feel’ of each space and decide how the space connects with you. Does it engage you? Uplift you or oppress you? Maybe it leaves you feeling lost, too exposed. Or perhaps it energizes you.

Now consider if you dare, the culture of your workplace. The ideas and values, the vision and the practices that shape and define the organizations. The combination of the people, the words that are spoken, the tone of the everyday and examine how this impacts you, now. Culture can be a tricky thing to deconstruct as we rarely allow ourselves time to reflect on the minutiae of the everyday, of our work environment.

And finally, imagine your work space and join the dots if you will to the bigger picture, the bigger contexts – do your work in the inner city or outer suburbs? Are you based in a regional or rural space? Where are you located in terms of state and country? And are you connected to schools and colleagues further away, overseas?

For some of us this experience of context is now blurred. You may sit in a dreary office and pace the floor of a classroom that has seen better days, but you have energy and ideas that come from a context that is beyond four walls. A Cyber world of online exchanges of tweets and updates and snaps. This digital world intersects the real world and shapes our context.

Context influences each one of us. Take the time to revisit what your context really looks like and how it is shaping who you are and who you could be.

Your. Identity.