Storytelling, Women and Leadership

Shake it off

So here is the thing. Even when I am not actively researching and writing my PhD is playing itself out in other ways in my life. Last school holidays I had the pleasure of watching Sing with my little (and not so little) people. I have been doing the ‘family movie’ thing for close to two decades and after awhile the G rated, play school, Wigglesque moving image loses appeal.

So ….here I was snuggled up on the couch watching Sing. A musical with animated animals. I did not hold my hopes too high. But I confess, I must eat humble pie. Sing pulled at my heart strings, I sang along, I rooted for the performers, the shy young girl and the mother of 25 little ones. Rosita is a pig, a wife and mother. She works relentlessly but secretly harbours a passion for singing and performing. Her husband Norman is the provider and he comes home each day and fails to see ‘her’. Rosita longs to pursue her teenage dream of being a performer and she decides one day that she will enter a singing competition.

It is at this moment that Rosita stumbles across something of her young self, an earlier version of a woman with hopes and dreams. Her musical number in the film is Shake it Off performed by Reese Switherspoon. It was as I watched her sing  this song that I realised that whilst Taylor Swift had originally been singing about the men in her life, Rosita was performing about her life as a wife, mother and homemaker. Rosita is time poor, overworked, underpaid and has become silent, a shadow of her former self. But she finds the courage to pursue her passion for singing and to be brave.

These bold words struck me anew.

I stay out (up) too late, got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say, that’s what people say
I go on too many dates, but I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say, that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off.
This was the soundtrack for many of the women I had interviewed for my PhD research. Each had a heart for leadership and education but at times they had listened to the notion that they were ‘nothing’. Hearing these women narrate their lives and share tales of determination, to keep moving, striving and stepping out in faith, to take the plunge into leadership when the players and haters were not on their side, was inspirational.
These women were able to shake it off.
The thing is they are gonna shake, shake, shake it off for a long time. The journey into leadership is challenging and for women in education in a rural context there is a whole unique set of challenges. But oh the rewards if you can shake it off.
#womenEd #womenEdAus # ruralED
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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.

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coaching, Women and Leadership

Change

 

 “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Change is hard. It challenges us. It threatens our existence as we know it.

Sometimes it is easier to hold onto what we know then to be open to a new way, a new life, a new way of being. Change requires us to know who we are.

As teachers this requires an honest reflection on the personal and the professional. It requires an understanding of the professional context in which we operate and the personal demands of our situation.

If we want to grow and develop in our role as educator and leader, if we want to progress as husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend we need to change. We need to reflect. Coaching can unlock these changes and it can support that journey of change.

As George Bernard Shaw says progress is dependent upon change. What are you going to change this term? #growth #coaching #changeispossible

 

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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.

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identity, Women and Leadership

Focus

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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.

 

 

 

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

Hope

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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?

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Rural Women Educators, Women and Leadership

The 9 Letter Word

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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

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