Leaning In: On Tables, Meetings & Chairs

I love thinking, and learning, about things; big and small.

I have blogged, and will blog again, about the profound learning experience I had in the Canadian mountains at #uLead17, but this blog is a game changer in its simplicity.

Tables. Have you every considered the shape of the table you are meeting around?

On a panel this week one of my new #sheroes, Jane Danvers, the Principal of the Wilderness School in Adelaide, spoke passionately about the difference between round table and square table meetings.

We strive to separate the leadership from our management in the UK and she has nailed it by sitting her senior team around different shaped tables, physically and metaphorically.

Round table meetings are for leadership, they are strategic and are for questioning, for crowd-sourcing ideas and for blue sky thinking.  Round tables are for exploring the macro questions for the long term.

Square table meetings are for management, they are operational and are for solution finding, for practical discussions around systems. Square tables are for addressing the micro questions for the short to medium term.

This distinction in defining spaces to frame discussions is so simple but sets the tone of the meeting.

To add to this, I visited a school in Calgary on Thursday. Jason Rogers the Principal of Rundle College starts every meeting, every briefing and every staff training by referencing the empty chair at the table.

The empty chair reminds everyone present of who is absent – the child. The symbolism of the empty chair ensures that all dialogue is child-centred.

This metaphor has become a physical symbol around the school as the art department have constructed huge wooden chairs which the children have painted as part of the outdoor furnishings – they are so big a whole class can perch in them. Jason does video addresses when he misses events sat in one of them.

empty chair

Both Headteachers have created values-led cultures, both have created teams who are cohesive and aligned by their principles. I will be ‘magpie-ing’ both ideas. So simple yet so symbolic.

I couldn’t blog about tables, chairs and meetings without mentioning Sheryl Sandberg and leaning in. We know that we need to make sure that women and girls have a seat at the table, and when they do pull in a chair that they need to fully lean in and speak at the table too.

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A picture that went viral recently was of the Republican Party’s round table about reproduction – a discussion about motherhood where the female voice was noticeably absent. It caused a stir on twitter as we asked ‘Who thought that it was okay to have no women present to discuss this issue’?

republican party

To counter this I found a hilarious image on instagram where the Dogs’ Committee are meeting to discuss the future of cats! A timely reminder of diversity, equality and inclusion depicted in a humorous way?!

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I have sat at a lot of leadership tables in the last few years where there has been no equality, nor diversity. As times and teams have changed, more women have leaned in and more diverse faces have been represented, but it is noticeable that behaviours around some of the tables have not changed to reflect this.

How inclusive are the tables that you sit at? How inclusive are the meetings that you participate in or chair? Are diverse voices contributing to the conversations and are these voices being heard?

I often notice in meetings the dominance of certain voices, the position of power in the room, the participants who make make eye contact and those who do not, the participants who address the power in the room and those who diminish some contributions or take the credit for contributions made by others.

Meetings can be very cliquey spaces, entrenched in who sits where and expecting everyone to conform to the conventions of group think.

Meeting both of these Headteachers has challenged me to consider the meetings I attend and chair moving forwards, ensuring that they have purpose and are as inclusive as possible.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Meeting inspiring leaders who have challenged my thinking and shared their best practice.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am thinking lots about bias for #WomenEd and #BAMEed – will try and find if there are articles for bias in meetings.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • 10 days in Canada and Banff mountain air to clear my head for the next term as Headteacher Designate, my final one before I become a Headteacher proper with a building, staff, students and parents!

International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldForChange

#IWD17:

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March each year, it is a global celebration of the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women. The theme for 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. Let’s make #IWD17 a day for our students and schools to reflect on the global progress made to challenge gender inequalities around the world. Use the virtual toolkit to focus discussions, reflections and activities.

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#WomenEd:

As a global community that connects existing and aspiring women in education, our aim is simple to support women on their journeys as educators and to collectively challenge some of the systemic barriers that disable women from having choice in their career progression. Our community values champion having courage, working collaboratively and affecting change. This year’s #IWD17 theme really resonates with the #WomenEd community as it is #BeBoldForChange.   The impact of the #WomenEd community is being seen and heard through the testimonials of the educators who have been coached and supported to be #10%braver. Each small step moves us closer to reducing the confidence gap and the pay gap. We are an inclusive community who champion one another’s achievements.

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Collaboration:

Our community partnerships and collaborations across the system are enabling women leading in education to grow their tribe and grow their confidence. We are working with two of our partner organisations, and many of our community, on a virtual toolkit for #IWD17 for educators round the world to access and use in their classrooms.

Action Aid:

ActionAid UK works with women and girls across 45 countries to understand and claim their rights, whether that’s the right to education, to run their own business or to live a life free from violence:

“We believe in supporting girls to understand the power they have to challenge and change the world. This toolkit, curated by #WomenEd, is a fantastic way for teachers to energise the girls in their school to be “10% braver” so we are delighted to get involved”.

We are recording a conversation between women’s rights campaigners Jessica Njui from The Africa Youth Trust in Nairobi, a partner of ActionAid and Caroline Jones from ActionAid UK. They will be discussing the question: ‘How can girls #beboldforchange?’ We’re hoping they will be joined by a surprise celebrity guest! The final video will be posted here for you to access and share: http://po.st/IWD2017

Action Aid are currently seeking questions for the campaigners from girls across the country; please send your questions to schools@actionaid.org with the name, age and school of the girls who asked the questions.

Dauntless Daughters:

To celebrate International Women’s Day Worcestershire-based illustrator Steph Green has teamed up with #WomenEd to produce the #BeBoldforChange Virtual Toolkit: which is available to all educators for free!

When her oldest daughter got interested in space, rockets and astronauts, Steph looked around for images that would reflect her child in this role. “There was nothing, so I drew her myself.” says Steph. From the astronaut it snowballed, with Steph drawing a whole crew of Dauntless Daughters. “After I started to share the illustrations on social Media, Hannah from #WomenEd got in touch and asked if I would like to get involved in the toolkit. We really wanted to give the toolkit some personality and so the character Abbie Bold came to life.”

Steph continues, “Every day our daughters encounter little messages and big signs telling them what to do, what items to wear, and the books to read, reinforcing the supposed limitations of being a girl and which box they have to go in. It is 2017 and we say ‘enough’.”

Meet Abbie Bold:

When Hannah Wilson from #WomenEd spoke to Daniel Wardle from the Action Aid Schools’ Team and Dauntless Daughters’ founder Steph Green about the collaboration, they decided that an avatar to personify the #IWD17 theme would capture the hearts and the minds of the educational community.

Abbie Bold is bold by name and bold by nature. She represents all of the young girls in classrooms around the world with bold hopes and dreams for the future. Dreams of smashing the gender stereotypes of how to behave, what to think and what to like.

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Our Virtual Toolkit:

We asked our contributors to share their motivation for creating a resource to share with the #IWD17 and #WomenEd community:

“I wanted to create resources or vehicles for reflection that would help a group of young girls move forward with purpose and intent. To validate themselves by the thoughts and actions they choose to believe in. I hope they harness the power of perception and look inwards to help them reflect on the future they have the power to create”.  Kiran Satti, primary school teacher, Midlands

 “The resource is designed to get students and even teachers thinking about the importance of women and women as role models. It’s vital that young people have others to look up to and aspire to. Equally, I place importance on them to be able to identify those same qualities and attributes in the everyday ‘real’ people around them so they have ‘real life’ role models to aspire to become”.  Genevieve Bent, Head of Chemistry, London

 “I am contributing to help inspire, educate and inform the female leaders of tomorrow. My resource will encourage wide ranging discussion, airing and challenging stereotypes. I hope it will help students question inequalities they encounter and make bolder choices”. Frances Ashton, secondary school leader, Oxfordshire

“IWD can be just another date in the busy International calendar for teachers to find something interesting to teach. I wanted to contribute to raise the profile of this global issue in an engaging way for the next generation and to help classroom teachers have a resource they can quickly put in place with maximum impact. As a classroom teacher dipping in and finding a resource starts the conversation going about be bold. Sharing how people have used the resource can continue the message. It would be good to ask people to share what they did. Social media is a good starting point, PSHE association may share the link but the Educational press has a far reach meaning maximised awareness of it being available TES and BBC. Sharing the message be bold for change with students helps them realise that they have the ability to change things. This resource enables teachers and students to notice inequality in the world, to consider their opinion and decide upon their response”. Julie Hunter, secondary school leader, Wiltshire

I knew at the age of 14, my passion and destiny was to work in the field of education and invest in next generation leaders.  Everything I do centres around my vision and mission. Use it to define what’s working & what’s not. Strengthen what is working & change what it is not. Acceptance & change are powerful concepts to embrace for all individuals, especially leaders. The resource starts the dialogue in a safe environment.  Hopefully it will equip individuals with the ‘how to’ as well.  It’s all about sowing seeds & enabling them to flourish”. Anita Devi, educational consultant, Buckinghamshire

“Success is driven by expectation and our language can empower or tear down our expectations. By reflecting on and being mindful of the words we use when engaging with challenges. Use the “Reframe: Can’t Don’t and Won’t” video to trigger reflection and discussion with your class or tutor group”. Jaz Ampaw-Farr, educational consultant, Buckinghamshire.

“Based on the Lean In concept of having ‘workplace allies’, the resource hopes to stimulate discussion about how we support, champion and advocate for women in school, group situations and the workplace. It highlights the embedded cultural practices that can hold back or diminish women’s strengths and talents and offers an opportunity to investigate solutions that both women and men can pursue, together. If we can change these habits by highlighting and modelling them with young people as well as adults in schools, then we might be able to break through what we don’t realise is taken for granted as ‘normal’.” Rosanna Raimato, educational consultant, Italy.

 “If we want to improve diversity and equality in terms of leadership in the future, we have to get girls in particular involved in leadership now, while they are forming their ideas about leadership and what it means to them. Our resource is a PowerPoint created by girls aged 7 to 11 to share with teachers based on the girls’ own research. It is a model that schools have used to open up gender equality discussions with staff and pupils. It could support whole school CPD looking at inequality in the classroom or be used as a discussion set of questions for children in PSHW or student council sessions. It is hoped that schools may want to then design and carry out their own questionnaire with their own students”.  Annemarie Williams, Executive Headteacher and CEO, Midlands

 “International Women’s Day is such an important opportunity for all of us, however we identify, to think about how we can be bolder, but also to ask questions about the structures and attitudes which continue to discriminate, particularly against certain ‘groups’ of people. Whose are the voices that are rarely heard in popular debates about feminism? What about those who don’t access the internet? What about the health and income inequalities facing older and/or disabled girls and women (and their families) in the UK, as well as those in other countries? If we want to address child poverty, are we listening to and supporting single mothers? Let’s be 10% bolder, encourage those we teach to be 10% bolder, but let’s also widen and diversify our networks”. Pen Mendonca, Graphic Facilitator, London  

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One of our contributors, Yinka Ewuola reflected on “How to be B.O.L.D for change…”

B is for Belief… Beliefs are absolutely everything. “Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you are absolutely right”. What you believe of yourself is everything about your potential, as you are the only one standing in your own way. How you allow the beliefs of others to impact and change the way you feel about your life, possibilities and expectations is just as important: ‘You can’t do that…’ ‘Girls don’t do that…’ They are the limits of others that they are trying to put on you… and no matter the intention – these will harm you. You need to decide what you believe about you, about whether you are going to be, whatever it is you want to be, and then go act on that. Ask ‘why’ (not to others, but to yourself) you can’t, won’t, shouldn’t do the things that you are working to achieve and then set those limiting beliefs aside for new ones… Believe you are worth it. Believe it will be ok. Believe you deserve to be there and have the good things you are experiencing… Believe change is worth choosing and you will do all you can to make it a reality.

O is for One Step Because we are the queens of plans, which means that we try and work out 26 steps ahead, and if we can’t always see exactly where we are going, then you feel trapped and paralysed and confused. But “The journey of 1000 miles, begins with a baby step” – what you need is just one small step in the right general direction. And then another… And then another… Boldness comes from understanding that smaller steps will lead to bigger, brighter places. Hell, even a step in the wrong direction is better than no step at all – action always beats inaction, and you can always course correct in motion – so be bold and take just one step.

L is for Learning and Leading from the Heart Boldness is a heart set… The word Courage is derived from the word  ‘Cor’ which is the Latin word for heart (as Brené Brown reminds us). So what does that courage look like every day? Speaking honestly from our hearts is a great place to start… It’s also about understanding what’s going on with our fear… It’s about understanding that the fear will come… It’s about knowing, expecting it… Because so long as you don’t let those fears stop you. ‘When fear is what you’re feeling (and you’re still doing), Brave is what you are doing’. But learning is so important for boldness… We become bolder after we fail at things (believe it or not) because failure gives us stepping stones for improvements.

D is for Difference See, because even though we are grown up and off the playground – we are still trying way to hard to fit in. And blend in… And to be small, and hidden, and not to noticeable or leery… But we were born to stand out. Boldness comes from understanding that all those things are unique about you are there for the reason you are here… There is nothing more important than making a difference. And the only way to make a difference is to be different. Remember how to be bold for change. Yinka Ewuola, primary school Chair of Governors, London

Please share the free virtual #BeBoldForChange toolkit for #IWD17 far and wide:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1AxQ9bWcYaXSy02UTBEYjVBSjA

The resources are there to provoke thinking and stimulate discussions in your classrooms and schools. Thank you everyone from the #WomenEd community who has contributed.

Other ways to engage with #IWD17:

Blogging:

Contribute to the #BeBoldForChange #Digimeet on StaffRm on Sunday 5th March.

https://staffrm.io/@misswilsey/xqPZu5VJ7I 

Events:

Attend a #WomenEd #LeadMeet for #IWD17 – we have events taking place simultaneously in Bristol, Cambridge, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Uffcolme and The Netherlands on 8th March. We also have regional #WomenEd events on March 4th in London, March 10th in Milton Keynes, March 11th in Coventry, March 25th in Leeds. All of our events are free and listed on Eventbrite, just search #WomenEd.

Tweeting:

Follow the hashtags on Twitter: #IWD17 #BeBoldForChange #womened

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The power of collaboration – I met Steph Green, founder of Dauntless Daughters on twitter 3 weeks ago – what we have curated and she has created in 2 weeks is amazing!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have scan read each of the resouces from the #womened community contributors, I now need to go back and reflect on each one

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The generosity of my #PLN and the #strongertogether spirit of the educators I am connected with.

#CollectiveVoice: Stronger Together

The launch of the Chartered College of Teaching has been a long-anticipated event which has split the profession. On Thursday I was one of the founding members who attended the inaugural conference to launch our professional  body. Spirits were high and there was a palpable energy in the room. The day’s schedule was crammed with  different sessions from a range of expert voices.

Dame Alison Peacock’s vision for the CCoT:

  • Sharing pedagogy
  • Opening our classrooms to the world
  • Connecting the profession
  • Feeling valued and appreciated
  • Removing the barriers to wellbeing – fear, stress, lack of trust
  • Articulating an authentic voice
  • Showcasing what is working
  • Amplifying excellence
  • Sharing knowledge

Alison’s passion and positivity shone through, she believes in the CCoT and I believe in her ability to rally the troops and challenge the status quo.

Justine Greening’s vision for the teaching profession:

  • Laying foundations
  • Imagining the next generation
  • Supporting, developing and shaping potential
  • Enabling talent
  • Improving social mobility
  • Learning professionally
  • Developing career pathways
  • Being heard
  • Feeling valued and empowered

Justine spoke carefully and confidently, making reference to her own professional learning and membership. She left stage and came back on because she had forgotten to mention the need for flexibility – she need not elaborate but at least it is on her radar #womened!

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‘Reach Out’:

Personal high (I love a sing and a dance, Motown is my genre and I don’t mind making a twit of myself – we had a fun table and everyone was engaged) but a professional low for many and some left the room in disgust. I got the metaphor but it split the crowd and gave the naysayers ammunition which detracted from all of the positives.

John Tomsett:

  • Evidence informed practice – we need firm foundations in research
  • The noise – we need to quieten the loud, uniformed voices
  • The glue – the CCoT will connect us

John always cuts through all of the subtexts and speaks such sense, with such clarity, he was the first to mention budgets and selection – the two issues facing all schools and the call to arms for the profession to unite to challenge the policy makers.

Rob Coe:

  • Change
  • Optimism
  • Professional evidence, professional development, professional values
  • Comfort zone – we all need to be better and improve each year

Rob is the voice of reason and appeared to be on the fence about the change that the CCoT will bring.

Panel 1, chaired by Ann Mroz:

  • Truth – it takes months and years to embed research into our practice
  • Impact – we need to be honest with ourselves and others about what is working and be seen with our worse class to get true feedback
  • Context – what works for one teacher and one class will not work for all learners in all contexts

Ann chaired the discussion on research and how the CCoT will support pedagogy.  It was great to see an all women panel but the #collectivevoice was of school leaders and a HEI educator – a missed opportunity for classroom teachers to be heard?

Penny Mallory:

  • Self-limiting beliefs
  • World class performance
  • Risk-taking
  • Bravery

Penny is an inspiring woman – not only has she broken records and smashed the glass ceiling but she has overcome a difficult personal story. She challenged our thinking about how we limit ourselves and how we are risk averse.

Panel 2, chaired by Tim O’Brien:

  • Career ambitions v loving your job
  • Collaborative community practice
  • Opportunities to stay in the classroom and be rewarded for it
  • Distributed leadership
  • Collective efficacy

Tim chaired the panel and modelled the research model used to inform the CCoT’s direction. It was a well-balanced panel crossing sectors and phases and we heard the only two teacher voices of the day.

Tim O’Brien’s closing question:

What is your best hope for yourself and your profession? 

  • Trust
  • Collaboration
  • Authenticity
  • Vision and values
  • Courage to hold your nerve

Dr Tanya Byron:

  • Mental health and wellbeing knowledge – what do we need to know as teachers to inform our practice?
  • Mental health versus physical health priorities – why as a society do we not treat mental wellbeing as equal to physical wellbeing?

Tanya was an entertaining final speaker and shared some of the cold facts about the state of our schools.  The science of learning is an area of knowledge that the CCoT could disseminate research and training on. In 15 years I have never been taught nor studied how the brain works.

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Pen Mendonca:

The fabulous Pen was there to visually capture the day – check out her graphic illustrations exploring the themes of the day.

Why do we need the Chartered College of Teaching?

We need to restore a collective faith, to inspire a collective hope, to unite a collective voice.

How will the Chartered College of Teaching capture the hearts and minds of the teaching profession?  

We need a positive rhetoric, we need a body to talk up the profession to nurture and retain the teachers we have, to engage and recruit the future generation of teachers.

We need a #collective voice to rise above the divisions of phase, sector, region, to amplify our voice and to challenge the system.

What do I need from the Chartered College of Teaching?

We need to make sure that all voices are heard, that all educators are represented. There was a high representation of gender but a lack of diversity at the launch events. Moreover, the dominant voices were not of teachers, but of leaders and external influences. Teachers who are current classroom practitioners did not seem to have a presence in the audience either. We need to engage the critical mass. On my table (100% #womened and 50% #BAMEed) we were representing the following school roles:

  • Headteachers x 3
  • Deputy Headteacher
  • Assistant Headteacher
  • School leaders x 2
  • University lecturer
  • Supply teacher
  • Teaching school director

It is fantastic that the CCoT smashed its own target for Easter registrations within 10 days of launching, we need to build on this momentum and make sure that the founding members are the teachers of today and the teachers of tomorrow. I really hope that the Chartered College of Teaching central team & the founding members can capture the hearts & minds of the profession, uniting them as one.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The hope in the profession and the opportunities to be stronger together

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have just packed up all of my books so am on virtual stimuli until I move and unpack and in a few weeks’ time
  • Have read and shared some brilliant articles today #womened #bameed

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • All of the educators I connected and re-connected with at the CCoT launch on Thursday in London