English teaching, Place, Professional Learning Networks, research

Reading? Listening ? Following?

b-newboyukWhy blog? Why keep a journal? Why tweet? Why subscribe to podcasts?Why read?

One of the features of my data gathering was asking participants what they were reading, who they were listening to and who they were following. The questions were posed as part of ongoing email exhcanges over the course of a school term. There were no restrictions or rules; no expectations. But the underlying idea was to uncover the extent to which individuals were able to negotiate their own professional learning and connect to a wider learning network, beyond their immediate school and a local community.

I wonder how you would respond. Do the words read, listen and follow resonate?

My research demonstrated that some participants were not in the habit of using social media or alternative forms of connecting with people and reaching out to them. Some participants interpreted the ‘listening’ component as quite literally what they hear in their everyday world – the family, friends, and colleagues that inhabit their space. Similarly, the nuanced meaning of following that reflects the broad world of social media was lost.

August 2017

  • I am reading New Boy by Tracey Chevalier. It is an adaptation of Othello and I am enjoying reading this alongside teaching the play to year 11 students.
  • I am listening to Hamilton, the Musical. Whilst I do subscribe to podcasts I don’t find I have long stretches of time in the car or on walks alone at the moment to take in a whole podcast. Music inspires me just the same.
  • I am following #educoachOC and #womenEd #womenEdAus. These groups on Twitter inspire and challenge my thinking every day. The ideas discussed via tweets, chats, blog posts and articles shared inform my teaching and learning, take my own research in new directions and consolidate an online PLN. I have great respect for some of my new ” colleagues” online. And my working week would not be the same without ‘hearing’ their voice and following their debates and discussions.

So why? Why read and listen and follow the world that is wider than the one I literally, physically occupy? Because it enables me to flourish. And at the end of the day, I am responsible for my own professional and personal development.

Tell me, what are you reading, listening to and who are you following?

PhD, Writing for Research

New Eyes


At each stage of the PhD experience there are new things to learn. A new connection, reading, theory, colleague – all help to reshape and mold my ideas and thinking. I like this Proust quote that suggests a large part of my role as researcher is to find ‘new eyes’ to view my data, my questions and my contention. So here is to new eyes, a new perspective and a new way of looking.DGhvBZ9VoAACMXa

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.


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
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.

leadership, Storytelling

The Stories we tell



“We become the stories we tell ourselves.”
– Michael Cunningham

Often the stories we tell ourselves are born out of fear, anxiety and feelings of failure. We see the data, we know it and can hear it but our brain quickly infers meaning that can be unhelpful. We make fast judgments and decisions without thinking clearly.

Stories are powerful. We need to work to ensure we give ourselves reflection time, so that we can slow down and share our stories in a meaningful, engaging manner. Reflection is the key. Journal regularly. Being accountable to a colleague, mentor or coach. All of these simple practices help to safeguard making assumptions and encourage us to craft real, relevant stories that tell the story of us.





The ‘R’ word: Rural


Simone White (2015) of Monash University has argued in “Extending the knowledge base for (Rural) Teacher Educators” that we need to move away from the ‘unhelpful  rural-urban binaries’ that we so often get caught up in. Instead we need to make the rural not a secondary add in, but an integral ‘activist, generative and transformative response for teacher education.’

This has given me cause to reflect on that key word that I trip over in my research title, every time. It has become a little like the ‘dirty’ word in conversation around research, writing and PhD in an EDU space.

“Oh, rural,” they gasp.

“Mmm. Rural.”

“Yes, rural. Ahem.”

The R word has become for me what I encountered with the F word back int he 90s. It meant different things to different people.  It was easier to react to the negative, common perceptions of the word than to understand how to apply and live it. The F word, feminism was being reformed and refashioned by Gen Xs everywhere. Whilst it is  still central to my thinking and reasoning, the R word is demanding  more of my attention.

So let me be clear.

I grew up in a rural place.

I actively left the rural place.

I found my way back to a rural space, for pragmatic reasons.

The rural space has defined, challenged and changed me. It has isolated parts of who I am and placed restraints on who I might be, but it has enhanced and enabled me to find myself.

The ‘R’ word has made me see more clearly.