I knew the #WomenEd Breaking the Mould event was just what I needed to top up my energy reserves for the last two weeks of a long first year as the founding Headteacher of a start up school, but the speakers today have been beyond inspirational. What a amazing network of #WomenEd role models we have to draw strength from? I feel privileged to listen to, to know and to be friends with such wonderful women.
Our why for this event?
When Debra Rutley, Alison Rooney, Cecilia Payton, Charlotte Bishop and I met to discuss the needs of WLIE SE (we are mobilising the troops in Berks, Bucks and Oxon) we wanted to do an event about leading differently and finding our fit. The title Breaking the Mould provoked us to consider how we are confined and defined by others.
In my opening I asked everyone to share why they had joined us in 30+ degrees heat at the end of a long and full on year. Why many of them had travelled from London, Suffolk, Wales, Leeds and Scotland! I shared my why of needing time to reflect, to re-calibrate and to re-energise. It was only a shame that Bennie and Julie, our DHTs at Aureus were unable to join us as it clashed with the #WomenEd NPQH dates as they would have got a lot out of it too.
Our 8 Cs were embodied and personified by our 8 speakers. 8 women who have broken a mould, their mould, in different ways, for different reasons. The diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of each women built on the narratives to create a toolkit of self-worth, authenticity, conviction and integrity.
Earlier in the week we had received some flack – ‘breaking the mould’ to some suggested we had created a perfect version and the model was now being broken. To the contrast, we are breaking out of the mould to create unique forms, not cookie cutter leaders. As Germaine Greer says “women should not be wedging themselves into man-shaped holes but creating woman-shaped holes to fill instead!”
Each speaker was humble and many struggled to own the word ‘leader’. Without a job title with leader in it, without the office sign/ parking space/ business card confirming positions in a hierarchical structure, the traditional concept of leadership can be a hard label to own. But our event was exploring the idea of leading differently, how we can extend our reach and influence others, how we are vision and though leaders in a messy educational landscape.
Our Part 1 speakers and my live notes from their thought pieces:
“I broke the mould by embracing vulnerability”.
- Know and articulate your why.
- Change your perspective.
- Reclaim what is there.
- Step into your vulnerability.
- Tell your truth.
- Embrace your authentic self.
- Be comfortable, not confident!
“I broke the mould by using the resources I had”.
- Use your imagination.
- Be creative.
- Use what your have.
- “Know stuff!”
- Do and learn the things they do not teach you on the NPQH!
- Break the mould yourself, noone will do it for you.
- Look for your resources in the community.
- Be the person who taps people on the shoulder, the person who passes the baton on to others.
“I broke the mould by opening my own school”.
- Be innovative and creative.
- Be resourceful and resilient.
- Be courageous.
- Be mutually respectful.
- Be the change you want to see.
“I broke the mould because I didn’t know how to fit in”.
- Connect with one another, we need to create these spaces.
- Embrace our vulnerability, we need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
- Take off our masks.
- Call yourself a leader.
- Be a thought and vision leader.
- Embrace that walking away is also breaking the mould.
- Exist in a rhizomatic structure – see our career paths differently and carve different routes to progress.
By lunch time there was a palpable buzz in the room as people connected, reflected, discussed and started sharing their stories.
Our Part 2 speakers and my live notes from their thought pieces:
“I broke the mould by choosing to be me”.
- Embrace and share who you truly are: Who I am? Who did I choose to be?
- Alison: “I am quiet, I am sensitive, I am introverted. I value freedom, inclusion, equality. I inherited breaking the mould from my family”.
- Re-mould our world and how we see it.
- Re-mould how we accept each other.
- Be the teacher you wanted to have as a child.
- Invite those who are opposite to you in.
- Give licence to be different and to do things differently.
- Be whole.
- Be courageous.
- We need to be us, we need to know ourselves, we need to stay true to our values, we need to make ourselves a promise, we need to be true to ourselves.
“I broke the mould by fighting my fears”.
- “I am a documentary film maker, not an educationalist”.
- Broke the mould by co-founding an edtech organisation.
- Do not take No for answer.
- Pick yourself up when you fail/ when you are rejected/when you are undermined for being a woman in a male dominated industry/ when you are ignored as a woman.
- Take the rough with the smooth.
- Challenge your preconceptions as they are based on fear and social conformity.
- Find your role models.
“I broke the mould by doing what no-one expected me to do”.
- Tune in to and listen to your inner voice.
- Is it loud? Is it positive? Is it helpful?
- Your inner voice will change as you evolve: “I turned 40, I had my 2 children, I had spent 9 years at the same school, my voice began to chip away at me”.
- Reflect and tune in to what it is saying: “I was surviving, I had become narrow, I was inward facing”.
- Be aware that your inner voice will be filtered by the fear that your dream is not going to be realised.
- Take a risk, take a leap of faith.
- Control your inner voice.
- Follow your own path.
- Tell “Doris to do one!”
- Do not let our inner voices de-rail us!
“I broke the mould by concentrating.”
- “I have never had an inner voice, I have a mother who does that for me!”
- “I have not broken any moulds, I am on the edge of the next big adventure”.
- Never look for an easy life, seek an interesting life.
- Nurture your concentration.
- See your work as a gift, as a way of escaping grief and pain.
- Be robust and be kind at the same time.
- Be a human being first, and a professional second.
We need to show up, we need to look up, we need to speak up, we need to team up, we need to never give up, we need to lift others up.
What an amazing day it has been. It has been a privilege. A big thank you to this wonderful group of women for going naked and bearing their souls with us!
We asked everyone to make a pledge, a commitment to themselves about what they were going to do differently as a consequence of attending.
What will your gift to the world be? What is the universe telling you?
If we are going to change the world, we need to be the change we want to see.
Blogs from the #WomenEd who were following from afar: Lisa
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- The opportunity #WomenEd has to break the mould, change the mould and shape the future.
- The remarkable women who came, who connected and who will collaborate.
- We have already pledged to run it again next year and mentor others to share their stories of leading differently.
Currently reading and thinking about:
- The blogs that have started being written of the personal epiphanies yesterday has triggered.
- I am reviewing Wholesome Leadership by Tom Rees for TES.
Currently feeling grateful for:
- The 8 Wonder Women who have joined us to share their stories for breaking the mould to inspire, empower and motivate our #WomenEd community – I love you all dearly and have so much respect for each of you as humans and as professionals.