identity, Storytelling, Teacher Indentity, Women and Leadership, Writing, Storytelling

I don’t know how she does it

IMG_3311I am sure you have known that amazing, inspirational colleague. The teacher that seems to be on top of her game, shares her knowledge, builds confidence in the team and manages to push you that ‘little’ bit to achieve your best. Often we realize that impact that she had on individual teachers and students and the department as a whole after she has gone. And frankly, we really had no idea how she did it. She led, inspired and quietly challenged us all.

I have been reflecting on leadership and how we inhabit the role as leader, how we become that woman who inspires, challenges and encourages our colleagues. And I have been reminded to ask her before she moves on – ask her how she does it. Ask her how she entered the teaching profession, what drives her each day to make a difference, what she does to counter the challenges that inevitably come her way. Ask her who she looks up to, how she unwinds at the end of the week. Ask her to share her story.

Stories continue to shape and define us. One of the best ways to learn as an educator is to share stories. Invite others to tell their story and find ways to share your own. It is then you may be closer to understanding how she does it and perhaps why you too can do it.

PS. This post was first published on Staffrm a professional learning network and community for educators. I was sad to learn that this initiative is no longer viable and no crowdfunding or support can keep it alive. I hope I am wrong. Thanks for the introduction to Staffrm Hannah Wilson (@TheHopefulHT ) – a woman that inspired. #WomenEd #WomenEdAus

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.

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.

Education, leadership, Teacher Indentity


According to Relational Cultural Theory (RCT), individuals grow through their connections with others. That is, we become more relationally competent as we represent ourselves authentically in our relationships and as we negotiate the relational ruptures we experience.” Duffey, 2008,p. 50
We do not learn in isolation. Some of the  teacher professional learning we undertake requires us to work alone – to read, write, research, reflect and think. But it is how we apply the reading, how discuss our ideas with others, how we share our research and insights  face to face or online with our Professional Learning Network ,that captures the real learning.
As educators we will only grow and develop in our knowledge and skills when we connect with others. It is common sense isn’t it? We were made to relate, interact, involve ourselves with others. Human connection, validation and affirmation is a real need. If we are to build our leadership capacity and develop our teaching and learning we need to be intentional about our networks, the colleagues we share with, the role models and mentors we are drawn to.
So, why then do so many educators work behind closed doors? As I compile a list of potential candidates for my research interviews I do wonder how many of them know each other. Is there a professional or personal connection? What prevents these women leaders in education from connecting, reaching out to one another, ‘representing (them)selves authentically’?
Education, professional learning, Teacher Indentity

The Key to Powerful Learning

LLavesThe most powerful aspect of TeachMeet, Twitter and other teacher-driven professional learning is the element of choice.   

Matthew Esterman

I have been pondering this comment from Mr Esterman who blogs here. The power of professional learning is choice. There is no one size fits all. Learning is organic, dynamic, constantly changing and transforming itself as we encounter new ideas, understandings and a range of face to face and online networks. But we need to own it. Own the process and choose to allow it to be powerful.

The challenge for me it to enact these choices in a context that finds change difficult; in a context that finds new modes of professional learning difficult to ‘see’.

A “Teacherwhat?” I hear people ask. “In my own time?” another colleague mutters. “Twitter. I just do Facebook,” responds yet another fellow teacher.

I am choosing to learn. To be shaped by the amazing world out there that inspires, challenges and extends my thinking, learning, teaching and knowledge. But how do we engage others to choose teacher led professional learning? Teacher…..tell me?

PhD, Teacher Indentity

Teacher Identity & Gender


Patrick M. Jenlink (2014) Teacher Identity and the struggle for recognition

Mary Catherine Breen’s contribution focuses on teacher identity and intersubjective experience. The idea of visibility and invisibility in relation to the struggle for identity and recognition is an interesting one. Teachers often feel an uncertainty toward their craft; they feel maligned and under appreciated.(Cohen and Scher, 1997)

The idea of identity as unstable, non-linear and constantly changing connects to Freire’s (1997)  idea of “unfinishedness” in Pedagogy of Freedom.

Lyotard (1984) challenges the masternarratvies and metanarratives that characterise identity – in relation to teacher id, race, gender.

Derrida’s (1973) notion of difference is helpful in making sense of an identity that is not based on sameness, but difference. Other.

Munro (1998) – “the gendered construction of teaching as ideologically congruent with women’s supposed innate, nurturing capacities has obscured the agency of women’s lives.” p. 3

Michelle Khan, “The Irony of women Teacher’s Beliefs about Gender”  – “Notion that teaching is so nurturing, feminine, so womanly, renders women to simple puppets following their destiny without any say of their own.” p 115

Feminist Post Structural Theory is a useful tool to explain how gender is constructed in language, knowledge and power. Weedon (1987)

Weedon (1987) ” We need to understand why women tolerate social relations which subordinate their interest to those of men and the mechanisms whereby women and men adopt particular discursive positions as representatives of the interests.” p 12

Women teachers as ‘surrogate mothers.’

Stuart Hall ( 1990) – we need a position in order to develop an identity

Breen also explores the notion of power, agency, space and self in the feminized power of the teacher. Here she adopts Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to draw out ideas about women’s need for money, resources and a room to write, to develop the narrative of the self.

Jenlink also uses The English Patient to develop a discussion about changing identity. He relates the notion of Palimpsest to identity – suggesting that the teacher identity is one that undergoes a cultural, relational and biographical process of change and refinement.

Teacher Identity requires new ways of examining discourse, cultural artefacts experiences and memories.

References to follow up: Donald Taylor (2002) – The Quest for Identity, Tambouku, M (2000) The paradox of being a woman teacher, Gender and Education, 12 (4), 463-475

Donald Taylor (2002) – The Quest for Identity