research, Storytelling, Writing

Justification

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image:pexels.com

Many of us seek justification, to explain and support our decision making. Some good and some not so good.How do I justify the fact that I make time for this blog when there is so much to do? When teaching and learning demands overwhelm, when research deadlines loom?

Naomi Barnes has articulated my concerns in her blog post on EduResearch Matters for AARE. Her blog post was a breath of fresh air, a reminder of writing for writing’s sake. Barnes argues that writing is an important part of her scholarship and research.

I would suggest that I write to refine my ideas. I am constantly surprised how much I discover about my own thinking as I write. It is a space to reflect, to connect the dots, to question and highlight. My inspiration may be academic, it may be data but more often than not it is a random encounter with an image, a tweet, a piece of music, something I saw on my walk, something a student has said. It is this beautiful connection between the personal and the professional, the very identity that my research is interrogating.

So thank you Naomi Barnes. May many more PhD students come to revel in the pure delight of blogging and unearthing new ideas.

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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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Creativity, identity, Women and Leadership

The Nude Lip

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Image: bobbibrown.com.au

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?

 

 

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Censorship, Education, English teaching, literature, Writing

Plastic Processed White Bread Text List

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Why do we teach texts? Stories? Narratives? Because they are powerful, important snapshots of life. Each story reminds us of something in our own experience that we can affirm or counter, extend or reflect upon.

What would we do without great stories? Stories that exalt and offend, render us speechless and heartbroken.

According to The Age, the Education Minister James Merlino has urged the VCAA to review the selection process for all  VCE Literature, English, Drama and Theatre Studies texts lists  and “extend” the guidelines to “ensure that the views and sensitivities of cultural and religious groups are considered”.

I understand the concerns. But the richness and beauty of reading and teaching literature is that it is about ‘real’ life. And real life can be ugly and reveal acts of evil, jealously and corruption. Good writers explore all of this and more and don’t shy away from telling a story, just because it might be hard or sensitive.
As an English and Literature teacher I want to engage students and develop curiosity, support them to think critically and be articulate. Narratives help to do that.
I don’t want to teach from a  ‘plastic  processed white bread’ text list. Do you?
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