research, Rural Women Educators, Teacher Indentity

Music as Metaphor



One of the questions I asked participants in the data gathering phase of my research project was to share a piece of music that best described the ‘soundtrack’ for their working week. The responses were enthuasistic. A piece of music to capture the mood and pace of the working life.

Amongst the responses, there was this one –  Helen Reddy’s I am woman. Whether it was a challenge to the world around her, a testimony to her true feelings about her working life and colleagues or a shared shout out to the sisterhood I am unsure. Whatever was intended it is a great song that roars with potential and possibility.

I am woman, hear me roar.

research, Rural Women Educators, Writing, Storytelling

Data: a gathering with friends


How to you read your data? How do you analyse and dissect the information you have gathered doing your research?

I have spent the morning ‘hanging’ out with the data today and it has been a joy.

It is as though I have been to a gathering of friends, meeting to have a meal at the end of semester. Each one is keen to share what has been happening in their world. There are voices interjecting as someone new comes along; another person shifts seats. There is laughter and clapping, as dishes are passed down the table. There are some quieter voices at one end of a table and hushed tones of reassurance. Someone wipes a tear from her cheek.

The data is after all stories of real people in real situations. Each woman interviewed has presented her story as an educator and leader in a rural context.  The story of the personal and the professional. The’ story as an identity’. And my role is to create a story out of the disparate and interconnected stories that are before me.

Just as I would in a gathering of friends, I acknowledge that I cannot talk to everyone at once. I may have several meaningful exchanges but the reality is I may only touch base with one or two of the people. I may need to do more listening and reflecting on the body language and facial expressions than ‘take in’ a whole conversation. I must listen to the silences, the gaps. I can sit and observe, watching carefully.

I apply this to how I approach my data, the words on the page, the transcripts that bring to life the interviews, the conversations.

I have listened to each interview in real time and as a recording. I have transcribed each interview, pulled out extracts, coded each according to themes, tracked common ideas and words, identified metaphors and highlighted questions. The whole ‘gathering’ then becomes smaller groups as I break down the data into bite size, digestible chunks.

Each new approach offers new insight, as I play with the data.

As I cast my eye along the table and the gathering of participants, I know that getting to know each one and the group as a whole will take time. But this is how I am reading and making sense of my data today. As a gathering with friends.


Rural Women Educators, Women and Leadership

The 9 Letter Word

Screenshot 2016-07-19 14.56.17

What words can you see in this word target? I am too lazy to find as many words as  I can. I prefer to find the 9 letter word. But it has been years since I looked at these crazy language games. Why? My story has been a mixture of the unfinished business of raising a family, plus a bit of education consulting, some research, coaching and now serious PhD study. It has been some time since I have been exclusively in the classroom.

This term I have returned to the English classroom. That is right, I have entered into that fabulous space where I play teacher and a group of students come along to learn. Together we enter into this journey to learn about our subject, about the world and about ourselves. I had forgotten how amazing this job is, how complex, multifaceted and demanding. My head is spinning with stories, ideas and experiences. And somehow I have come alive, again.

And daily I am realizing how the teaching and learning is informing my research as I imagine what the professional and personal life is like for the women in leadership in education, who I have interviewed.

I am thankful for work that challenges and energizes me. Grateful for challenging educational experiences in this rural space I call home. Privileged to be working with young people and delighted that my own little people have risen to the challenge of the new school routine with their Mumma around. Life is busy. Life is good.

If you have been reading this but secretly also calculating what the 9 letter word is, it is wallpaper. Enjoy. x

Rural Women Educators, Women and Leadership

Lean In and Learn to Lead


Lean In. I am inspired to think more about the complexity of leadership and gender after visiting Lean In.

The McKinsey Quarerly published this article in 2008.

Centered leadership: How talented women thrive by Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Rebecca A. Craske

The aim of the  McKinsey Leadership Project—an initiative to help professional women at McKinsey and elsewhere, was to ‘learn what drives and sustains successful female leaders.’

We know women can lead and we know they can achieve amazing results in their company, organization or school. But the reality has been that the gap between men and women in terms of leadership opportunity and building leadership capacity continues to widen.

What the McKinsey report articulates is a model for leadership, that is relevant to men and women.

The aim is to encourage and empower women in leadership. My dream is to encourage and empower women to embrace leadership roles in education. In a profession that is primarily female dominated there are few female leaders.

If you happen to be a rural woman in education there are other, additional complex obstacles.

What do we do? Lean in and learn to lead.

leadership, Rural Women Educators

Inspiring Leaders


“The increasing complexity of the school principal role, the imminent retirement of many principals across Australia due to an ageing school workforce and the widespread shortage of suitable candidates to replace those about to retire have created an urgent need to increase the pool of high quality candidates who aspire to become school principals.” Watterston (2015)

How do we inspire educators to take the next step and develop leadership capacity? How do we engage and encourage women to lead? How do we support Rural Women in Education to build their leadership skills and be the leaders of the  next generation of learners?

Looking for Inspiration.

Watterston, B 2015, Environmental Scan: Principal Preparation Programs, prepared for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, AITSL, Melbourne