The Trolls Under the Bridge: Leadership Resilience

As we opened our new secondary school in September 2017, we made some philosophical and some ideological decisions which we do not consider to be bold, innovative and radical, but common sense. To others it seems we are quite extreme.

No homework. No setting. No detentions. No shouting. No bells. No packed lunches.

We made a list of our non-negotiables and have stuck to them.

As a values-led school with a team who are committed to nurturing hearts and minds through an inclusive, holistic approach to education we have focused a lot on creating our culture and ethos right.

Our 12 core values shape our inner curriculum, our global citizenship and our approaches to rewards, sanctions and assemblies. Our values are developing into an ethical vocabulary for our community.

 

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Like at most schools, at the end of each assembly we have a reflection. I wrote our Homily to bring together our values into a tangible commitment to ourselves and our community:

“We strive for excellence by embodying the Aureus community values. We respect one another, ourselves and our environment. We strive to treat everyone equally. We champion diverse voices and different ideas. We are kind and we show empathy for others. We are courageous in the face of adversity. We show resilience when it is needed. We reflect on our wellbeing so that we may all be healthy and happy. We act with integrity; our actions are our values. Our hearts are full of love, for ourselves, for each other and for life. We act responsibly at all times. We encourage each other to be 10% braver and build our confidence. We live our values, every day”.

Our students speak articulately and confidently about what our values mean and how we should live them. Our students and our staff strive to embody our values in our decisions, our actions and our behaviours. We do not always all get it right, but our rewards and our sanctions speak to the value shown or contravened so that real learning takes places.

In the last few days our values of courage, resilience and integrity have been tested. But most of this has been directed at me as the figurehead of the school. I have received a lot of adversity, both professionally and personally. My resilience has really been tested as my eyes have bled reading the personal attacks. Despite this, my integrity remains in tact. I have not cried, I have not sworn, I have not lashed back at the vilification of my character, at the body shaming  nor the hashtag to have me sacked.

My roots are working really hard to hold me upright, I am bending but I am not breaking.

bend or break

It has clearly been a quiet week at the newsdesk of our National Tabloid Press that they have felt compelled to run a piece about us in every outlet. Is this really ‘hot news’ when our policy has been in place for 9 months? One anonymous parent has created quite a stir.

I have been called a “Dictator” for being an assertive lead with a clear vision. I have been called “Draconian” for not budging on our expectations. I have been called a”lefty sandal wearer”, which would be more accurate if it was changed to “liberal pump wearer” but perhaps would not be as catchy. I have been called “fat” and my “bingo wings” have been commented on – for the record I started Couch to 5k 6 weeks ago to get in shape, and have lost a few pounds, but this will spur me on to run harder and faster.

To counter the hashtag and calls to have me sacked, surely a catchy future Headline for the Mail, the Mirror, the Star, the Express, the Metro to run could be:

Headteacher sacked for serving water.

Headteacher Dismissed for banning packed lunches. 

Headteacher removed for insisting on family dining.  

How ridiculous would that be? The masses are calling for a Headteacher to be sacked because a school has principles around their food education.

It is not that I do not have feelings, that I am not taking it personally, that words do not hurt me. It is not that I am not taking this seriously, because I am, but I will not allow the loud shouty voices nor the hateful insults sink in. My values are my shield.

Moreover, I have spent every day of the last 15 years investigating, challenging and sanctioning prejudice. I have spent considerable hours challenging bullying, on and offline.

We wonder why our children in our schools need this input from their teachers, until we see how adults act on line. In the words of one of my supporters who messaged me they are “vicious vultures”.

The 1000s of comments about us, about me, are mainly very misinformed. They are hateful. They have twisted what we are doing and why we are doing it.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Food Education you can read my article in TeachWire. There is also an article in their catalogue about our pledge to truly lean into Diversity. Moreover, our website is informative and transparent about everything we stand for. If you read our Google reviews we are complimented regularly on our inclusive culture and ethos, on our happy students, on our delicious family dining experience. If you are going to point your finger and blame or judge, please do it from an informed place.

We have an expression in the #WomenEd Steering Group to starve the trolls of their oxygen. This is what I have been doing the last few days. I have held my head up high, I have shielded myself with my values. I have drawn strength from the positive and supportive messages I have received from our school’s parents, from my friends and family. I have not been drawn in. I have kept my emotions in check. I have sat on my hands and I have bitten my tongue. We learnt the hard way when #WomenEd started that it is more powerful to say nothing. The silence is more infuriating for the aggressors than responding to their angry, loud, noisy monologues.

The article that went live a few days ago stems from one parent who complained. I am going to emphasise that one discontented parent has created this storm in a tea cup. See the original post in the Oxford Mail.

storm in a tea cup

We have met with a few of our parents this year who were not fully behind our vision. We are a start up school and it is a difficult journey to align the parents and the staff when the school is being built, ideas are forming and plans are evolving in parallel to the admissions and transition process. We have worked hard to work with our parents and carers. We have made who we are very explicit to our prospective parents – all 850 of them who came to our open event for 240 student places.

With our food education policy, we have worked with our community to get them to buy into our vision and commitment. We have  listened to our parents and to our children, we have responded and our catering offer has evolved.  We have invited our parents in to experience it first hand for themselves.

The majority of our parents are very happy with our offer and understand how important our family dining is to our culture and ethos.

This parent did not get the response they wanted, they started a conversation on Facebook, they went to our Governors and they went to our MP. At each step we have communicated and explained our stance. We introduced sandwich bags as an option as they wanted packed lunches, we have subsidised their lunches for most of the year to work with them.

We appreciate they are frustrated, but do they appreciate the potential damage they have done by going to the press? Do they appreciate the distress they have caused to my team? Do they appreciate the stress they have created for me/us during my well-earned half-term? Do they appreciate the ripple effect this could have on our school community and on our students?

I don’t think they realised when they went to the Oxford Mail that it would go viral. I don’t think they intended to make me/us a Headline in every National tabloid. I don’t think they meant to make me the victim of online abuse for the last 72 hours. I don’t think they meant to incite racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, sexist, misogynist and bigotted or to put me at the centre of this storm.

I have blocked at least 50 twitter trolls who have been hateful to me online. I have tried not to read the thousands of abusive comments from facebook trolls and keyboard warriors, what I have done is reflected about the bigger picture:

  • Most of the comments and criticisms are not from our school community.
  • Most of the comments and criticisms are not about education and do not mention children.

I care about our school. I care about our children. If this had happened to one of our community, staff, student or parent alike I would support and protect them. I hope the parent who started this, who was not prepared to put their name it, has also reflected. As if this happened to their child, our student, we would do our utmost to support and protect them, to keep them emotionally safe, because that is what a values-led school does.

So until this storm passes, my anchor is in. These quotes have never been more pertinent than they are right now:

Ships were not built to stay in the harbour.

Rough seas make the best sailor.

anchor

And on a #WomenEd note, I do wonder if the tabloid readership would have been as hateful had I been born a man? In a time when we have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and not enough people willing to step up to be a Headteacher online hate campaigns like this do not help!

This educational leader is converting criticism to praise, is going high instead of low and will continue to rise above the hate. The haters will make me stronger and even more committed to what I believe in.

still i rise

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our young people – they are becoming the Values Ambassadors to shape our future society.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The 100s of DMs, emails, tweets and texts of support and love I have received from my PLN.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Having a brilliant staff team who are unshaken by this storm.
  • The love from my PLN – each message has helped.
  • The kindness of strangers – some people have reached out to me who I do not even know.
  • The following words of wisdom sent to me to keep me resilient and strong!

From Summer Turner:

low high

From Carol Campbell:

aristotle

From Ruthie Golding:

gandhi quote

From Claire Cuthbert:

difficult people 3

#LGBTed: Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

This weekend sees the official launch of the latest grassroots diversity network, #LGBTEd, co-founded by Hannah Jepson and Daniel Gray, in collaboration with Claire Birkenshaw and building on the legacy  of David Weston.

#WomenEd is in its 4th year and #BAMEed is going into its 2nd year. Both have created momentum with the nationwide discussions about diversity, equality and inclusion. #LGBTed joined us at the Diverse Educators event in January along with #DisabilityEd. We believe it was one of the first events in the country to address the intersectionality of our identity.

 

I am proud to have supported #LGBTed in initiating this much needed next step in our shared vision and collective journey to make our schools more inclusive, to ensure that our schools are safe spaces for all of our students and for all of our staff.

Moreover to model the fact that edu events can have diverse line ups and panels. That there are educators and experts who can represent #BAMEed #WomenEd #DisabilityEd and #LGBTed. That there really is no excuse for a manel!

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One of my Deputy Headteachers, Bennie Kara, delivered a cracking closing keynote at Diverse Educators I on ‘wearing all the labels’. She asked us to not to tuck her labels in for her. The metaphor of wearing multiple hats and having multiple labels sticking out extended throughout her anecdotes which were heart warming and uplifting but also a reality check.

As an Asian, bisexual woman Bennie has taught me a lot about the true meaning of diversity.  Before she started at Aureus she asked me if she was allowed to be openly out. I was shocked that she felt like she needed to ask my permission for this, she explained that you cannot ever assume as even the most liberal leaders had recommended to her in her career that it was best to keep these things private. I had to check my straight white privilege.

Discussing some students who were vulnerable to homophobia in our first term, she educated me once more on the fact that gender and race are generally, what you see is what you get, but with sexuality you need to out yourself in each new connection/ conversation. I had to check my straight white privilege once again.

I consider myself to be very open, liberal, empathetic and supportive of people from diverse backgrounds, but how much did/do I truly understand about the experiences of others?

I attended the Educate and Celebrate school leaders training day in the Autumn term to develop my understanding and awareness. It was my 2nd encounter with Dr Elly Barnes who is an inspiring  facilitator. I booked her to join us at our whole staff INSET in January to kick start our 2nd term. She was just what we needed to take our diversity and equality vision forwards.

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All of my teaching staff and the operations team at Aureus have been recruited through a values-led approach. I made it clear from the outset that my non-negotiables were to have Diversity, Equality and Wellbeing as 3 of our core values so all of my team are on board with this, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the reception, reflection and discussion in our LGBT+ training session. There were staff who I thought may struggle, who may get uncomfortable with some of the activities, but instead I saw a real commitment from everyone on the team to tackle prejudice and discrimination.

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In the Spring Term we launched our Prejudice Log. Yes, it is mandatory to report on racism and homophobia, but we also log incidents involving the other protected characteristics. In our opinion there is not a hierarchy of which discrimination is palatable, and which is not.

As February approached, Love was our value of the month. I knew I wanted to tackle the low level homophobic comments in a formal way, so I planned an assembly on ‘Love Without Labels’ using the video that Elly had shared with the staff. I did wonder how our students would react, whether there would be a ripple across the assembly hall or uncomfortable shifting in the seat but there was not.  I checked my white straight privilege yet again.

I reminded myself that I was not outing myself, I was vocalising my advocacy for celebrating difference and accepting one another.

LOVE WITHOUT LABELS 2

Yet, despite our values, our assemblies and our reflections. Despite our Educate and Celebrate posters in every room and despite high profile challenge of inappropriate language the explicit homophobic comments continued. I had lost count of the homophobic incidents  I had investigated and sanctioned.

Bennie came to my office one day in a contemplative mood and said: “I think it is time”. Time for what? I queried, was I late for gate duty again? “I think it is time I did my coming out assembly. They need to know that their words are hurting people in our community, that their words are hurting me”. I nodded in agreement. I checked her slides, I sent her a vote of confidence and I reassured her that it would be okay.

Bennie delivered one of those assemblies that I will never forget. An assembly that the staff will talk about in the future. An assembly that the students went home and told their parents about. I couldn’t look at her as she presented as I knew my emotions would come pouring out. My heart was swelling with pride and respect for her.  I  could hear the hesitation in her voice at points as she carefully chose her words to ensure that they landed correctly. I knew that she felt the responsibility that she bore for the students in the room this would affect in the future.

LOVE HAS NO LABELS

We did not receive a single complaint, instead Bennie received positive feedback from students and their parents about her courage. Encouragement from parents we did not expect to hear from. It seems that we under-estimated not only our staff, our students but our wider community too.

So that is why I will support the #LGBTed community each step on their journey:

Not all staff feel supported to share their personal stories. Not all audiences will be as open and accepting. Not all communities will be as supportive. Not all students will know that they are in a safe space where they can explore their full selves and grow in confidence in who they are. Not all schools have #LGBTed who are prepared to make themselves this vulnerable for the benefit of the wider LGBT+ community.

I wish everyone at #LGBTed this Saturday a brilliant day of connecting, collaborating and cheering one another along. I will be following & supporting from twitter. I am sure the event will be as special as the launch of #womened & the energy in the room will be as palpable.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The change that #LGBTed will bring to our schools for our staff and for our students

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Having a brilliant diverse team at Aureus who are passionate about inclusion for all
  • Having a diverse PLN of inspiring changemakers!

We are #10%braver: We now need to be #10%prouder

Four years ago today….

I was sitting in my flat in Sutton, reflecting on my Easter break, and where I was in my life and my career.

I started catching up on my notifications on Twitter and Staffrm as there had been a weekend long #slowchat about gender equality. I had recently connected with Helena Marsh who had written a blog entitled What Glass Ceiling? I was already connected with Jill Berry who had written a blog in response, and I had just met Natalie Scott via StaffRm, our stories had instantly resonated with each other.  We connected with Vivienne Porritt via the comments on the Staffrm blogs and she brought Sameena Choudry, Jules Daulby and Keziah Featherstone into the conversation.

Fast forward a few weeks’ later and 6 strangers met for tea and cake to discuss gender equality and feminism.

Over a few hours in a Hilton hotel in Bracknell, a hashtag and a twitter handle were born.

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There have been some interesting articles, blogs and tweets today about male MPs only following male politicians, about the ‘glass cliff’ for women leaders, and about women needing to own their accomplishments. Four years on we are still having the same conversations, but they are a lot louder and we do have a lot more testimonials of what is working to share.

This blog is me sharing my pride in being involved in such a fantastic community of committed educators.

April 2015-Mar 2016 #PledgeForParity:

  • We started with 7 Co-Founders: Helena, Jules, Keziah, Natalie, Sameena, Vivienne and I
  • Unconference I was held at Microsoft HQ in Victoria: our first event and 200 women in education attended, with 1 man there by choice
  • We reduced to 5 National Leaders: Natalie and Helena stepped back
  • Our community grew from 7 to a few thousand on twitter
  • Our blogs on #womened became a regular contribution
  • We articulated our vision and our values/ our 8 Cs
  • We made a call out for Regional Leaders

April 2016-Mar2017 #BeboldForChange:

  • 30 Regional Leaders stepped up to help us get the regional networks launched
  • 12 regional networks were launched with their own handle, aligned to the DFE regions
  • We held 1st birthday parties in April to mark our 1st year
  • Unconference II was held at Microsoft  in  Reading: 250 attended and we had a #heforshe panel and contributors
  • We launched the #womened app
  • We held a series of #womened #leadmeets
  • The WiE coaching pledge was launched by DFE and we worked in partnership with them

April 2017-Mar 2018 #PressForProgress:

  • We expanded our Regional Networks and oriented more Regional Leaders – we now have more than 60 volunteers
  • We launched international handles in the US,  Netherlands, Italy, Canada, UAE, Czech Republic
  • Unconference III was held at Sheffield Hallam University: 300 attended
  • The WLIE networks were launched by the DFE and we aligned our activity to collaborate with them
  • We held a series of #womened regional events
  • We launched our #womened newsletter and our #womened blog
  • We were nominated for a National Diversity Award
  • We were named in the TES Top 10 Influencers
  • We launched @WomenedBookclub and we kicked off with Mary Beard discussing her new book with our community

April 2018-Mar 2019:

  • We have 18,000+ followers on Twitter
  • We are curating a strand at Wellington Festival
  • We are writing a book to be published by #IWD19
  • Unconference IV is being planned for the Midlands in October

Four years on….

We have achieved so much and we need to  remember that we are all volunteers, we all work full time as women leading in education.

When you stop and pause, when you reflect and think about everything we have done, we should be more than #10%prouder

So as we live and breath the #10%braver mantra. We now need need to embody the #10%prouder one too, as a community which is easier, and as individuals which is always harder.

We are much more comfortable saying “I am proud of you”.

proud of you

We need to be as comfortable in saying “I am proud of me”.

proud of me

We need to be brave, then we need to be proud, then we need to be loud!

prouder

I am proud of us #WomenEd and everything we have achieved. For everyone who has contributed in the last 4 years. Be proud, own it, celebrate it.

proud of yourself

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • What we will achieve in the next year
  • Where we will be in another 4 years time

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al for our @WomenEdBookclub chat in a few weeks’ time

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The people I have met in the last 4 years through twitter, staffrm, events and #womened
  • The time and energy that our community invest investment in our shared vision

Continue reading “We are #10%braver: We now need to be #10%prouder”

Global Mindset, Global Community: Global Citizenship

To celebrate #IWD18 and to help our Year 7 students understand why we need to #pressforprogress,  we held a Global Citizenship Day this week to develop awareness and deepen understanding of our values of Diversity and Equality.

Being an outward-facing school we have been overwhelmed by the number of invitations we have received to connect and collaborate with so many brilliant organisations who can bring value to our school community and who can help us give our Year 7 students a global perspective to contrast their life experience in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

The UN Global Goals for sustainable development inform our weekly Global Citizenship programme of activity that Julie Hunter our DHT curates superbly. At Aureus we do not do PSHE days, SMSC audits, Citizenship lessons – we have one integrated programme that integrates all of this key learning into one cohesive and coherent delivery.

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why should i care

We used this day as an opportunity to develop some partnerships through a carousel of thought-provoking workshops. It was a fantastic opportunity to expose our students to external voices and experiences whilst exploring the rights of girls. Our values of respect and responsibility  were developed as our students’ understanding grew.

LyftaEd

Serdar the founder of LyftaEd flew in from Finland to work with Amjad our AHT on a series of immersive storytelling workshops using the virtual technology platform his team have built. As an English and Media Studies teacher, as someone who travels a lot this resource is brilliant in exploring identity and representation. In the 15 minutes I was in the room we were in a Finnish family’s kitchen meeting a female weight lifter and we met a male ballerina in the Czech Republic in an opera house. The power of technology to transport our young people to places around the globe to create human connections and understanding of ourselves as global citizens is remarkable.

You can find out more about this brilliant platform here.

Oxfordshire Museums

Kelly Smith who works at Pitts Museum, initiate a project with us and a local artist to explore the history of Didcot and how this frames our identity as a school. Her colleague Sue Wright joined us to work with Lorna, a local artist and Laura our Art Lead Practitioner Designate. Using The Didcot Mirror as inspiration, each student has designed a piece to contribute to our art installation for our official opening ceremony in a few weeks’ time. Linking our Roman history with our future as a values-led school through our identity will create a sense of belonging for our students. The art installation entitled ‘Light up our Lives’ will hang above our heads in our weekly assembly.

Pictures to follow when it is installed next week!

Youth For Change 

Shamil and the team from Youth For Change delivered an interactive session on gender equality. The students were very informed about the cultural stereotypes for boys and girls, the social constructs they are defined and confined by. This was a segway to the rights of girls/ women and the challenges they face through the cultural practices of  FGM, ECM and HBV.

You can find out more about their #traintoprotect outreach here.

Sexplain

Amelia is a force to be reckoned with. Delivering brilliant SRE sessions she used play dough as a resource to start a dialogue about sex education. With the prevalence of the #MeToo campaign the dialogue around consent and behaviours/ attitudes to sex and relationships is of vital importance to our students.

Find out more here.

I was really very proud of our students on our inaugural Global Citizenship Day – the feedback we received from our visitors on their sense of self, their understanding  of how they belong, their desire to be changemakers in their community/ our world and their articulation of their values was very touching. Through our VBE frame we focus on the ethical vocabulary that our children have and how they communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The opportunity to shape global citizens who understand their identity, who have a sense of belonging, and who will contribute positively to the world.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am prepping Aureus for the VBE schools accreditation process whilst Julie Hunter our DHT is prepping us for our Rights Respecting School accreditation process. External validation of the work we are doing through our values-based education will help us to educate our prospective parents and carers about our work.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The teams at LyftaEd, Oxford Museums, Sexplain and Youth for Change who made this day possible for our staff and our students.

Diverse Educators: #BAMEed #DisabilityEd #LGBTEd #WomenEd

Yesterday, was a defining moment in my career.

I am still buzzing from the inspiring and empowering group of diverse educators who came to Aureus for the day for our inaugural Diverse Educators event.

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#BAMEed met #DisabilityEd met #LGBTed met #WomenEd. 4 grassroot movements and communities came together to connect, to collaborate. The power of the collective voice.

The impact we can have working together was how I framed the event.  I opened Diverse Educators asking everyone to share their Why. We then did a popcorn sharing of our motivation for getting out of bed early and travelling on a cold Saturday morning in January.

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My why:diverse 3

We know our identities are more complex than just our gender. We all wear multiple hats, we all have multiple labels as we define and own our complex identities. What do we have in common? We are all humans. Yesterday, we brought together a group of humans who care deeply about diversity, equality and inclusion.

My proposition was that each community, each movement could challenge their systemic, structural and societal barriers for their label, or we could join forces and be a stronger voice, a stronger community to smash through these glass ceilings and these concrete ceilings together. Moreover with the support of all of the organisations who supported the event as exhibitors and contributors.

A collective mission.  A collective voice. A collective impact.

 

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Each of the grassroots movements shared an update on the progress of their community  and the impact they have made to date:

#BAMEed are a year old and held their first event last May in Birmingham, their 2nd event is soon and they are planning their 3rd for June 2nd. Co-founded by Abdul, Allana, Amjad and Penny they are growing their network and profile. Find out by following them here. An offshoot of @BAMEednetwork is @TFBAMEcommunity co-founded by Jess and Mahlon. They also have a series of events on the horizon.

#DisabilityEd is new on the block and unfortunately Lynne Wareham who is pulling volunteers together was too unwell to join us yesterday to share plans. The sessions that took place started the conversation. More to follow on this one as the community of educators with a disability come forward and join forces.

#LGBTed did a soft launch yesterday and will have a hard launch, an event in the spring.  Co-founded by Daniel and Hannah they have combined forces with David Weston and @OutTeacher. They have  Claire Birkenshaw (first know UK Headteacher to transition whilst in post) as an advisor to make schools more trans aware. Find out more here.

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#WomenEd is now nearly 3 years old! Co-founded by 7 educators, we have 5 of us as national leaders (Me, Jules, Keziah, Sameena and Vivienne) and 60+ as regional leaders in the UK and a further 10 driving the agenda internationally. We are planning our 4th national unconference for Autumn 2018, we have just reached 16,000 followers, we were nominated for a national diversity award, we were named in the TES top 10 influencers and we have a book deal with SAGE education. It has been an epic year for the #womened community! We have also just launched @WomenEd_Tech and @WomenEdBookClub Find out more here.

The schedule of the day involved 8 workshops in 4 time slots, 32 facilitated workshops and learning conversations about how we can have impact in our schools for our learners, both staff and students.

At lunchtime there was a buzz in the air as we all made human connections. Collaborations were initiated and I am excited to see how these will develop.

We closed with a panel. A diverse panel. A panel like we should see at more edu-events. It really isn’t that hard to ensure that you represent the voices of the audience and the profession at our events, whether they are grassroots or mainstream. Alison, Claire, Anna, Jonathan and Shirley represented and explored ‘How can we create a cohesive and coherent strategy to ensure a more diverse workforce?’ They reflected and shared how we can move from our why, to our how and to our what.

 

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I asked everyone in the room to then pledge their ‘what’. What is it we can all do differently from Monday? What is we can contribute to drive the diversity agenda?

The reason why Diverse Educators primarily came about was due to yet another poster advertising yet another event with an all white, male line up. We must continue to challenge the ‘manels’ and the ‘wanels’! We must collectively challenge the lack of representation at a lot of events, as well as on SLTs, Governing and Trust boards.  We will not change the ‘pale, male, stale’ face of pockets of our profession unless we challenge and ask for change.

I lost track of how many of these events I saw last year. Equally I was invited to speak at 10 plus events last year about diversity. I challenged each event that when I realised I was the representative. There were not diverse faces on the line up, just my straight, white face and voice championing diversity! They didn’t seem to see the irony? Moreover, on the few events where there was a smidgen of diversity, the diverse voices were marginalised to the small stage and pigeonholed by their topic.

So, it only seemed right for Bennie, one of my fabulous DHTs to close the event for us.  Bennie wears all of the hats.

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She explored each of the labels she wears. Her speech was passionate, personal and reflective as she shared her dismay at realising that she had a disability – as if it wasn’t hard enough to be a woman, an Asian women and an Asian bisexual woman. Did she really now have to deal with being a disabled Asian bisexual woman. How many labels can one person cope with? How many glass ceilings can one educational leader smash through? Her upbeat voice and pragmatic approach gave hope to the audience that it is possible, if you find the right school, if you stay true to your values. Moreover if you lean in and embrace your authentic self and bring your whole self to school.

 

Before everyone left I played them a song. They wondered where I was taking them when Hugh Jackman appeared on the screen. But a song from his new film: This is Me, made all of the hairs stand up on my arms, my foot tap in and my heart beat. I will be using it in an assembly this half-term as the lyrics are so emotive and powerful.  The Power Pose is a source of strength for #womened, this song could be a source of strength, an anthem for our diverse educational community. Most importantly, our grassroots events are amazingly positive and uplifting, but the trolling has already started. I hope that everyone who joined us yesterday, physically and virtually, ignore the haters, take the lonely negative voices with a pinch of salt and tap into the support and positivity of the Diverse Educators community:

“Reach for the sun… Burst through the barriers… Don’t let them break you down to dust… This is me… I make no apologies… Look out here I come!”

this is me

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The impact this event will have on combining the communities and excited to already be thinking about Diverse Educators II in Jan 2019 – we are thinking 12/1/19 and moving it back a week so more can come
  • The impact that Diverse Leaders will have on our 2nd cohort of delegates – you can register here for our free #BAMEed leadership development programme: https://goo.gl/forms/pQN8cn7Iw3zOPf5I2
  • Supporting the launch of #LGBTed
  • Advocating the developments of #BAMEed and @TFBAMEcommunity
  • What #WomenEd will achieve in our 4th year

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who came to Aureus yesterday – all of the speakers who volunteered their time for free, all of the exhibitors who provided resources, refreshments (Veema), gave out books (Leadership Matters) and discounted CPD (TES Institute) to our audience
  • Pen who captured the opening discussions and reflections brilliantly.
  • Claire Birkenshaw for educating me and making me more trans aware over pizza and wine!

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Action Aid Project: Mozambique 2018

If we are honest with ourselves – a lot of us go into teaching for the promise of the 12 weeks holidays. I trained thinking it would be a mobile career I could take anywhere in the world.  I thought I would end up being based abroad, teaching English.

The dream – we plan to fill up our passports with exotic destinations and utilise all of that time, energy and money we have in abundance as a teacher!

The reality – we drag ourselves over the finish line each term and collapse in a heap. We regroup and decompress, fight the flu, clean the house, do our ironing and enjoy just being and having a normal routine or just hanging out with friends and families.

lrtt tanzania

Summer 2016 I found myself at a lose end, so I signed up last minute to volunteer with LRTT.

I literally signed up mid-July and found myself on a plane a few weeks later heading away for the whole of August. My reflections on my experiences volunteering to teach and train teachers in rural Tanzania are captured in my blogs here:

Last year, I agreed with Action Aid that OWLIE (Oxfordshire Women Leading in Education) would collaborate on a women in education charity project in Mozambique. The idea was that a group of women leading in education in Oxfordshire would pledge to fundraise together, then travel over to participate in a community development project.

Context:

  • My initial blog is here
  • Our Eventbrite page is here
  • My school website page is here 

What is my ‘Why’ for volunteering during my summer holidays?

  • Lots of my friends and family may think I am bonkers that I work hard all year and then choose to ‘work’ in my holidays, but I don’t see volunteering as work but as giving back  and paying it forward
  • It is escapism from the daily grind but it is also very grounding and humbling – it is easy to get sucked into the issues and politics affecting our school/ our system but it reminds how lucky we are in so many ways
  • As an English teacher, as a Headteacher, as the co-founder of #WomenEd I have so many reasons for why this project resonates with me
  • Moreover, this year the #IWD18 theme is #PressforProgress and the UN have outlined the following sustainable development goals, it speaks to closing the gap 4 and 5

UN-SDGs

How will we be helping the community?

  • We will live in the community and work alongside the locals
  • We will contribute to the standard of living  – we will be building a library in Paleira village. There is no library in the entire district, which means that 1,500 school children lack vital resources – books and learning materials to aid their studies.
  • We will contribute to the standard of education for women and girls locally – 48% of women are married by their 18th birthday and nearly half of women are illiterate, and many are unaware of their rights to basic services such as healthcare.
  • We will remove barriers to education – children must travel over 100km to the nearest overcrowded library in Maputo to source books, which is expensive for parents to pay for the travel and time-consuming for the students when they should be focussing on their studies.
  • We will support children staying in school for longer and achieving better outcomes –  many families can’t afford the cost of their children travelling to Maputo, so children achieve poor grades in exams and in some cases, are forced to drop out of school.
  • We will impact the  local economy – despite being one of the fastest growing economies, 60% of the population live below the poverty line of $US1.25 a day.
  • We will help to break the poverty cycle by removing barriers – these challenges hamper pupils’ development, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty.

 What will our project legacy be?

  • We will develop relationships with local partners and hopefully help to make the project sustainable
  • We will continue to work with the community  when we return – I am still in touch remotely with many of the teachers I worked with in Njombe, TZ
  • We may  return to the project in the future or support phase 2 participants to do so, to build on our foundations
  • We can fund raise for books from national publishers/ from schools changing their class readers due to the curriculum reform
  • We can set up pen pals and school twinning partnerships – perhaps even an exchange?

So, what are you going to do next summer to make a difference?

We still have a few places left if you want to join us. Come and join Kathryn, Rosanna, Natasha, Carys, Natalie, Sam, Karen, Jenny, Kara, Kate. Tracy and Anoara who are just some of the #OWLIE #womened team to be joining me on this adventure!

Or if this is not possible due to other commitments, please do spread the word with people you know who may wish to join us on this community project.

If you cannot join us but would like to support us then perhaps you will sponsor us and help us to fund raise for the project?

MOZAMBIQUE 1

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • That everyone I know will sponsor us £1 towards the project here.
  • That we might be able to get some book donations too.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Literacy levels, libraries and gender equality in Mozambique.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The fact we have public libraries in this country and I have books on my shelves at home.
  • I love reading and would not have become an English teaching if it was not for my love of reading.

We Are The City: Supporting The Female Pipeline

I was interviewed and profiled this week for We Are the City’s ‘Inspirational Women’.

Their mission: supporting women in their careers/helping firms attract/retain/develop their female talent.

For news/conferences/events/awards/jobs/tech/career resources follow @WATC_updates and check out their website here.

My interview:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am very goal orientated and have always had a 3-5 year professional plan. I was advised when I first qualified that the optimum time for my first few roles was 3 years so I could ascertain what sort of position, culture, line manager, context etc I needed to thrive. Career development advice is lacking in teaching and this is one of the reasons why we founded #womened – to support and nurture the leadership pipeline for women in education.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Lots! Mainly navigating being the youngest and the only female on several teams. I had to develop a thick skin and take undue criticism on the chin. I also had to find and use my voice – there is no point sitting at the table if you are not present. I am really candid, I have found that being direct and straight talking helps you to hold your ground.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Know yourself. I have spent a lot of timing being coached, reflecting and discussing who I  am as an educator and as a leader. Knowing my values, being able to articulate them, has helped me to articulate my vision and this has shaped my leadership behaviours. I make all decisions from my core values which are my compass.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I have just recruited a brand new team. I long and short listed based on values. I then created a series of tasks to test each of the values. I also had to think carefully about the team dynamic and succession planning for the future. It was a balancing act. I would love to see more gender and racially blind application processes across the system.

How do you manage your own boss?

I have always led up. I am super-organised so I would lead the calendar of our line management dates/ times. I am a communicator and initiated how we would capture our agenda/ minutes/ work flow. I hold my team, myself and my line manager to account.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I start with a shower and a cup of coffee, I end with a bath and a glass of wine!

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Work on your personal brand  – how do people see you and how do you want to be seen? Make sure people know what you are doing and the impact you are having. Learn to not only celebrate but to share tour successes, big and small, model this with your team. Say yes to opportunities and work out how to do it later. Find the gaps in the structure and offer to lead on projects/ initiatives that will add value. Network internally and externally, after all it is who you know not what you know that opens doors.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have received a lot of coaching in the last year as I made the transition to Headteacher. I now have a mentor to grow as a professional and a coach to grow as a human. I cannot recommend values based coaching enough. I am also a coach for other women in education who aspire to lead or who are leading but stuck in a rut to help them get that foot up the ladder.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is key. Join twitter and linked in. Go to events and meet your virtual connections in real time. Stay connected and engage in professional dialogue. My #womened tribe inspire and empower me every day.

What does the future hold for you?

I started my Headship in January and will open my first school in September, with a second one opening the year after. I have been asked to become a Trustee and to write a book.  All of this has happened due to coaching and networking so get out there and start connecting.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The dynamic pipeline of leaders I have recruited for Aureus School.
  • The promotions I have heard about in the #womened community.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have not had much chance to read recently but have enjoyed delving through the WATC archive.
  • I have just written a blog for Viv Grant so am thinking how to create a culture of wellbeing for all of my staff but also for all of my leaders with a focus on the female leaders in the pipeline.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My contacts in the #womened #edtech emerging network who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting this week.
  • My TSA contacts who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting after half-term for a Return to Work/ Maternity/ KIT programme.
  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week.

Professional Responsibility: Words Hurt

Dear Katie,

I feel compelled to write to you following your tweet yesterday as it has caused a lot of unrest in my #PLN and has featured in conversations with different I have connected with in the last 24 hours.

I am glad to see it has been removed by Twitter, this morning, a day after you posted it, following multiple complaints, but it alarms me that it took the platform and those who monitor it so long.

The fact your tweet was liked by 5k and retweeted by 10k reminds of me how the London Riots were incited via social media. To you a flippant tweet of 140 characters, to others an endorsement or an affirmation of racial hatred,  cultural ignorance and religious prejudice.

You need to remember that your words hurt as they land. You need to be mindful of your professional responsibility. You need to imagine what would happen if each person in our society felt and spoke like this.  You need to acknowledge that we are global citizens.

Katie Hopkins 3.png

Why was I affronted by your tweet?

As a Tweeter:

You need to appreciate that you have 106k followers and when you share a tweet like that, whether you intend to or not, you are influencing the thinking of those who follow you. You are a role model for many and you need to take this responsibility seriously. Your actions and behaviours influence others; they can have a positive or a negative impact and this tweet encourages others to be intolerant and disrespectful of others.

As a Teacher:

You need to understand that if you were a student in a school you would have been excluded for such language. You have a responsibility as an adult, as a parent and as a carer, to model the behaviours we expect in our young people. As a school leader, I have had to deal with Muslim students being racially abused on the bus and physically assaulted in the street as  a result of conversations like this.

As a Headteacher:

You need to acknowledge that you have abused your position and taken advantage of your sphere of influence. If you were one of my parents we would have had a formal conversation about the values of our community: diversity, equality and inclusion as your tweet compromises each of them. As schools we promote positive role models who will inspire and empower our young people. The advent of social media and reality TV challenge us every day in steering our next generation in the right direction. We educate our children to love and not to hate. Your tweet undermines this.

As a Human:

You need to show some empathy for the families of everyone concerned in the incidents you refer to. You need to show some respect for a religion and the religious practice of fasting.  You need to show some compassion for the wider Muslim community who are being judged by the behaviours of a few. Your tweet isolates and marginalises the masses by the actions of a few. By calling Muslims ‘sods’ you diminish our fellow humans and your reference to turning ‘nasty’ when they are hungry implies they are wild animals.

I really hope this picture will make you reflect on the repercussions  that acts of terrorism have on our society. Moreover, to consider the ripples on different communities when anatagonistic comments like yours are made.

Our world is in disarray: we don’t need any more hate, we need love.

Human Chain

Perhaps  it would be helpful to have a refresher of the hate crime laws as many of us who saw the tweet felt like you were intentionally trying to incite others.

Educators have a responsibility under Prevent to educate our young people about how to safeguard themselves from terrorism:

Prevent

But we equally have a responsibility to educate our young people about their rights and how to stay safe online, if a school child had showed us this tweet we would have investigated it and reported it:

Review of Hate Crime        Report a Hate Crime

hate crime.png

You probably will not read this post but by reporting your tweet, challenging your behaviour and engaging in the conversations on twitter there has been some good that has come out of it:

  • There has been a sense of collective responsibility around challenging your behaviour.
  • There has been pressure on twitter to monitor such tweets and remove them/ block the tweeters.
  • There has been a renewed solidarity as it has encouraged more educators to find out more about Ramadam.
  • There has been a commitment by many to engage in the Ramadam celebrations to show their support:

Amjad’s Post on StaffRm      Ramadam – Dusk and Dawn

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The educators who reported the tweet and who challenged the behaviours as it is a collective responsibility.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have re-read Amjad’s post – with a diverse school community at Aureus School – we need to make sure that we are educating our young people about different religious practices.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My #PLN who lead their lives by similar values to mine.

Gender Equality: The State of the World’s Mothers

On Tuesday 11/4 I represented the UK in a panel debate, in front of a mixed audience of 1200 international school leaders, about women in leadership. I had the pleasure and the privilege of being on this leadership panel at #uLead17, chaired by Carol Campbell (Canada/ Scotland), alongside Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Gillian Hamilton (Scotland), Shelley Magnusson (Canada) and Jane Danvers (Australia).

We had launched @WomenEdCanada at the preconference on Sunday 9/4 with 100 delegates. This was an opportunity to amplify the discussions to a larger, mixed audience and take the discussions to the next level.

In our preparation for the panel I had discovered that our panel was composed of all white women and I had expressed my concerns and challenged the organisers to include more diversity. Pasi Sahlberg was invited to join us as a #HeForShe champion as at #uLead15 he had been disgruntled at finding himself on an all male panel so he had given his seat up for a woman in the audience.

Unfortunately, a diverse voice was not found to join us, but we have raised this as a target for the event organisers for their next event and we did discuss diversity as part of the wider debate around Inclusion & representation on this panel and others – it was a recurring theme in fact.

In our opening position statements, Pasi shared some interesting data with us to ensure that everyone in the audience recognised gender quality as a human issue and not a women’s issue. He explained the Mothers’ Index and asked us all to guess where we would place our own country when considering the political empowerment of women and the quality of motherhood around the world.

Many of us were not familiar with the Save the Children’s  ‘State of the World’s Mothers report’ (SOWM) which is an annual global report compiling statistics on the health of mothers and children. The report produces an annual ranking of more than 170 countries, showing where mothers fare best and where they face the greatest hardships.

The Scandinavian countries have dominated the top 3 spots in the world rankings since the report was launched in 2000, Norway was number 1 in 2012/13/15 but the 2014 report which Pasi referred to had ranked Finland as the number one place to be a mother with Somalia ranking as the worst place in the world to be a mother at 178th.

mothers index 2015

The following maps on governmental seats and income may be of interest:

Many of the audience were not surprised that the USA was relatively low, but the British and Canadian delegates anticipated we would be a little higher than we were!

The data framed our reflections and dialogue around the context, challenges and solutions facing women leading in education, and emphasised that by removing the glass ceiling, by empowering women, by striving for gender equality & social equity, that we all benefit.

At the end of the discussion the panel asked everyone at #uLead17 to make a #pledgeforparity. This was a powerful way to involve everyone and ensure that we all intentionally do our bit to affect change for all, to improve our school system & to ultimately impact our society.

Check them out on Twitter.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • A very receptive mixed audience of 1200 global educational leaders all recognising and committing to #beboldforchange.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am still going through all of the #pledgeforparity #uLead17 #womened tweets!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Jeff Johnson, ATA, inviting me to join #uLead17 and Carol Campbell doing a brilliant job of chairing the keynote leadership panel.

#TEDxNorwichED: Diverse Dreams

So yesterday I took on the personal and professional challenge of presenting at #TEDxNorwichEd.

You can watch my #TEDx talk on Diverse Dreams here:

My original transcript is detailed below (I missed a few bits out and improvised by adding the anecdotes at the end in!)

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Martin Luther King had a dream, a big dream. He had a dream about social integration not social segregation. He spearheaded making that dream a reality and creating a land of equal opportunities.

We all have dreams. Big and small. I have diverse dreams. I have dreams about diversity.

Before I share my dreams with you I would like to share my realities with you.

I have taught and led in South London for 12 years and invite you to come on a journey with me to visit one of these schools. As we go on this journey I want you to focus on your senses and the details, zooming in on the faces and listening to the voices of the different people who we meet.

Imagine:

  • We meet in Tooting near the market – we hear a variety of different languages being spoken in this cultural melting pot.
  • We jump on a bus – we see a range of different people from different places.
  • We are greeted at the school gates by the SLT – 3 white male school leaders.
  • We are guided across the playground by Nikkita our guide  -we hear a cacophany of different languages and accents being spoken.
  • We are shown through reception – we notice the beautiful black and white photos of happy children creating memories of micro-moments.
  • We enter an English classroom – Year 8 are studying war poetry, the walls are covered in images of war poets and war soldiers – all white men.
  • We stop in the corridor to admire a big, bold, bright display – Nikkita explains it is October so it black history month, the month we celebrate diversity.
  • We meet the Senior Leadership Team – 3 white men.
  • We notice the leadership photos and Governing Body photos on the boardroom wall – predominantly white men.
  • We sign out and leave the school, our final impression being the black and white photos.

The realities of our education system.

Despite beautiful black and white photos of beautiful black and white children celebrating diverse communities framed on the walls and plastered on our school websites and prospectus, most of our schools are more like a Dulux colour chart – our schools get paler (and maler) the higher up the hierarchy you progress. Sadly, this leadership model does not reflect the communities we serve

I have taught in schools in South London for 12 years, schools which are predominantly populated with children from diverse backgrounds 55-60% to be precise. In 3 schools, on 3 leadership teams, 3 boardrooms and only had 2 BAME SLT colleagues, both women.

What message are we sending to our young people when black women clean our schools and white men lead our schools? 

In our schools we advocate a growth mindset for learning but do we advocate a growth mindset for leading?

How are we inspiring the next generation to be anything they set their hearts on?

So I have diverse dreams, I have dreams about:

  • Diverse classrooms – where teachers with different cultural experiences share their cultural heritage.
  • Diverse curriculum – where the writers, poets, scientists, historians we are study are from a range of different backgrounds.
  • Diverse corridors – where displays celebrate the global majority instead of the ethnic minority.
  • Diverse role models – where a range of visitors and speakers who represent our diverse society are invited in to inspire our next generation of teachers and leaders.

I have dreams about:

  • Diverse Senior Leadership Teams – who challenge our systemic barriers.
  • Diverse Governance – who champion our diverse leaders.
  • Diverse politicians – who understand our diverse communities.
  • Diverse policy makers – who promote our diverse society.

Different faces in each of these different places.

Diverse thinkers making diverse decisions about our classrooms, our schools, our education system being made by a group diverse leaders who represent the diverse community who will be affected. Not group think  by the privileged elite.

I dream about diverse champions:

  • Who all take collective responsibility for under-representation.
  • Who we all challenge the unconscious biases.
  • Who all champion and celebrate difference.

I dream about diverse changemakers – where we all make the invisible visible, where we all showcase the hidden figures in our schools.

Women need #heforshe advocates and BAME need white allies to champion for change.

So, how do I want us to inspire the next generation?

I want us to all inspire the next generation by dreaming about diversity:

  • By not just dreaming about diversity, but by making these diverse dreams into diverse realities.
  • By talking about diversities, not just diversity, we will inspire the next generation.
  • By appreciating that diversity is more than just a difference in skin tone.
  • By looking beyond the visible differences and seeking out the invisible differences too.

In my diverse dreams:

  • Our school system inspires a diverse workforce where diverse people become professionals
  • Our multi-cultural schools are led by multi-cultural school teachers and school leaders

So I ask you all to

  • Open your minds
  • Open your eyes
  • Open your ears
  • Open your hearts
  • Open your mouths

By connecting with our values, by living our values we are enabled to actively seek to change – if we value diversity then we need to live diversity – our behaviours and our actions need to reflect it too.

We need to see it. We need to say it. We need to challenge it. We need to champion it. We need to believe it.

If as a society we truly believe in and standby diversity then we need to ensure that diversities drive our decision making and our actions.

So I demand you all to #beboldforchange. To be white allies.

  • Together we are stronger
  • Together we are taller
  • Together we are bolder

By being bold for change, we can ensure that we achieve meaningful diversity.

By being bold together we can affect systemic change by inspiring the next generation.

By inspiring the next generation we will open doors and create opportunities for a diverse workforce.

I hope that we will all begin to realise not my, but our, diverse dreams.

Together, let’s inspire a diverse generation.

Anecdote 1:

Leading the Diversity and Equalities Grant for 75 #BAMEed leaders has been eye opening. At our launch in South London, we caused a stir. BAME students walked past and came back to check out what was going on. They had never seen such a density of black and Asian people together before. The delegates found it entertaining and commented -they only used to seeing a group like this when there is trouble, they think we are starting a riot – but we are creating a revolution.

Anecdote 2:

I have been asked to speak at 3 national events in the last 2 months to speak about Diversity and Equality. When I checked who else was on the line up via the draft programme, there was no BAME representation.   I challenged the organisers and refused to speak unless they recitified this.

Anecdote 3:

There are 27,000 Headteachers in the UK, only 270 are BAME. We believe there is only 1 BAME CEO in the UK school system. Approximately 8% of our teachers are BAME, 1 in 4 of our students are BAME but you only have a 1/100 chance of becoming a BAME Headteacher.

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I also blogged via StaffRm #womened about my journey and experience of public speaking: https://staffrm.io/@misswilsey/FPprXtamJI

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Challenging our school communities to champion the multiplicity of ‘diversities’ and not just ‘diversity’
  • Calling more ‘white allies’ to be change agents and champion #BAMEed and Diverse Leaderssr

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr for challenging Natalie Scott and I to submit an application for #TEDxNorwichEd – it is ‘Because of You’ my dear!
  • Amjad Ali, Jen Hart, Jaz and Natalie as the #TEDxNorwichEd team  -you are a fab tribe to be part of.
  • Amy Harvey and Leah Stewart – we couldn’t have asked for better coaches and champions.
  • Annemarie Williams – your advice and constructive feedback on my content and delivery but much appreciated.
  • Faye Kilgour, Action Jackson, Nick Corston and Julie Hunter for traveling to Norwich to be cheerleaders us.
  • Everyone online who has tweeted and commented words of encouragement and support.