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.

Networking: Connection, Community, Collaboration

Networking can sometimes be a dirty word for teachers. For the cynics out there we don’t go into teaching to become corporate and to behave as business people do. For the optimists out there, we go into teaching to make a difference – we can do this alone, head down, in our individual classrooms or we can see ourselves as being part of something bigger, contributing to the system rather than a school.  In a lot of other industries networking is an expectation, an opportunity to connect with the community, to communicate what you are doing, to create collaborations. When described like this we see that it is aligned with what we do in education too.

Networking has become a hot topic in education, for those of us who engage in it or those who are intrigued by it. In the last few weeks I have been asked to contribute to several educational events to share my networking story and to encourage others to appreciate the potential power of their Professional Learning Network.

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I think these 3 values embody for me why I network:

Connection:

I meet people who I would not normally connect with. Each connection starts a new professional relationship. Many of these professional connections have grown into personal friendships with people who I would not have met had I not put myself out there. Each connection brings value to me as a person, as a professional but equally brings value back into my school community which will ultimately impact the children. I share my connections and am constantly introducing people who are working on similar projects or who are exploring similar ideas.

Community:

Teaching can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your classroom by yourself. Leading can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your office out of hours, and work in a school where it is them against us. Networking raises you above the local politics and drops you into a space with people who get you, get your situation but who are also seeking different ways of doing things, different ways of working together to find solutions to our challenges.

Collaboration:

This for me is the most exciting bit. Once you have invested in making the connections and grown your community, it is the collaborations that spawn out of this space that create the buzz. Through #womened #bameed #teacher5aday, 3 of the communities who I connect and collaborate with, the opportunities to get involved in things have been endless. A great example of this is the #iwd17 virtual toolkit a group of us are working on for 8/3. Dauntless Daughters, Action Aid, WomenEd and 30 educators contributing a resource each which will then be shared far and wide for others to benefit from.

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Here are my reflections from the events I have been asked to attend and speak at about the Power of the #PLN.

Leading Women’s Alliance #SeizingOpps:

I attended a year ago as DHT, I returned this year as a new HT. Carol and Kate, 2 of the organisers, asked me to share how networking has opened doors and created opportunities for me, personally and professionally. Through Twitter I have met coaches who have helped me to process who I am as a leader and clarify what my vision is. Through reading blogs and finding events to attend through eventbrite  I went to a lot of educational events last year. I met people I knew Twitter for a coffee at these events. One of these coffees was with Jon, my new CEO, he wasn’t recruiting, I wasn’t hunting for a new job but a conversation led to a new door being opened.

#TFAmbassadors event:

The Local Engagement Officers for Teach First London North, South, East and West asked me to speak to the ambassadors about how I have grown my network. I asked them why there were in Dirty Martinis on a Thursday night – was their motivation the free food and drink, or was it the potential connections they would make in the room. I encouraged them to speak to people they did not know in the room, to network beyond their immediate circle of contacts. I challenged them to put themselves out there, to go beyond their comfort zones and to follow up the connections that they made.

#TeachMeetWork:

Naomi Ward is one of our #womened Regional Leaders for the SE. She is doing some work with Portsmouth College and the Apprenticeship team – she asked me to speak   about how networking is a skill that needs to be taught and to address why it is easier for some student groups than others. I referenced the fact that if you are a white middle class man, especially if you attend a private school, that you will have an extensive network of family connections to open doors for you. That you will be able to arrange work placements in the City, in law firms, because you will know someone who knows someone in this space. I reinforced that we need to create these networks for our young people, that we need to remove some of the social barriers and create opportunities for them to make meaningful connections for future collaborations. I cited the example of a school in a deprived part of South London who host networking events, bringing business into the school, to make those introductions and to create those opportunities for the student body.

Diverse Leaders Programme #BAMEed #womened:

We have 3 cohorts of existing and aspiring leaders – 75 brilliant individuals – who are navigating their way around being identified as being from under-represented groups  in the schools’ workforce, finding their career pathway and being inspired/ empowered to fulfill their potential and pursue their dreams. I have led a day with each group before half-term and shared my personal/ professional journey of how investing in networking has impacted my career. We talked at length about the pros and cons, the barriers and the challenges, of being transparent, authentic leaders. We reflected on our whys, considered how to support one another in achieving them and articulated what sort of leaders we want to be. I have felt very proud of each of them being 10% braver and taking their next steps towards their goals.

Teach First Conference – Careers Panel:

Yesterday I was asked to contribute as a new Headteacher to a panel about seeking and securing leadership opportunities. Each of the leaders on the panel had had a different career trajectory but each of us referenced how our networks had supported our growth, we also encouraged the audience to create opportunities for themselves, to put themselves out there and connect with people. We each talked about how we had been recruited and how we were recruiting – with budget issues and a recruitment/ retention issues schools need to be more creative with how they ‘get the people on the bus’ then ‘how they get the right  people in the right seats’. We each networked in different ways but agreed that you need to be proactive and use your initiative.

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So give it a go, come in to the light, push yourself out of your comfort zone, feel the sunshine on your face. I promise you, you will find your tribe of connections who will inspire and empower you. We were all the newbie once and know what it feels like, I encouraged a friend who I trained with to join Twitter this week and she messaged me to say she felt quite overwhelmed at how friendly, genuine, helpful and supportive everyone is in our extended network.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Connecting and collaborating with like-minded people

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading each of the blogs @staffrm by our Diverse Leaders, delighting in their reflections as they find their voice, use their voice and amplify each others voices – check out the blogs #womened and #bameed

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The amazing connections I have made in the last few years – I am now friends with some brilliant educators who I would not have known had I not invested the time in going to #teachmeets, hosting #leadmeets, tweeting and blogging
  • My memory for names and faces – the more people you meet the harder it is to remember everyone!
  • Carol/ Kate, Naomi, Chris/ Chloe for their invites to speak about my experience of networking
  • Allana/ Paul, Jaz/ Bukky  for their contributions to our networking days

Recruitment, Retention and Reputation: Getting the Right People on the Bus

So I am 3 weeks in to my new role as Headteacher of Aureus School. It has been a full on launch into Headship. There really is no preparation for the day-to-day variety of the role. Where on the NPQH are you taught about project management and media relations? I have interviewed and appointed some really impressive Governors, I have networked and initiated collaborations with the Headteachers in my local vicinity, I have been interviewed by the regional press and had a photoshoot in my wellies, high visibility jacket and safety goggles!

The key priorities this term are:

  1. To sign off the aesthetic designs on the site to ensure that the interior fixtures and fittings, colour scheme and paint work are to my liking – who knew I would be able to choose some of the design features of our beautiful building. I have already made small tweaks like swapping dining room tables from trestle style to family dining style – these choices might seem insignificant to some but they will impact on the school culture and routines.
  2. To recruit my team. This is the most exciting bit – ensuring that I get the right people on the bus. To attract, recruit and retain a team who will live the values of the vision I have for Aureus. Our Year 7s will be our pioneer year group, their parents our pioneer families, the teachers who join me from day 1 will have the opportunity to shape our school and carve out their careers in a growing school. The teachers in September will hopefully be the leaders in Aureus’ future.

I have said in previous blogs that I do not agree that we have a recruitment crisis, what we have is a retention crisis. We have qualified teachers who are leaving the classroom quicker than we can train them. This should be the focus of our attention as school leaders – what can we do to retain the talent we have? What can we do to re-engage the qualified teachers out there to get them back into our schools?

I don’t have a magic wand but I do know that we have issues with: the workload challenge facing educators; the wellbeing concerns of our profession; the inflexibility of our schools; the archaic talent-spotting practices. We know the challenges that we face but we don’t hear very much about the solutions to these issues. What we do hear a lot about is that teaching is not an appealing nor an aspirational career for lots of graduates.

When I was recruited to GLF I pledged to recruit in a different way, to lead with me vision and values, to attract with the culture I am hopeful that we will create. I want Aureus to be a school where we model that we can teach brilliant lessons, secure great outcomes and… still have a life! So I have recruited through my network and social media only, I refuse to spend thousands of pounds that I don’t have on adverts.

I found a great image breaking down finding your team as the 3 Rs:

three-rs

My recruitment strategy:

  • To connect with educators through multiple channels including Twitter, StaffRm and LinkedIn
  • To speak at events, leading with my values and authenticity
  • To share my passion for teaching, my love of professional learning and my pragmatic approach to school leadership
  • To grow a community interested in my vision for Aureus through my blogs
  • To amplify the positive narratives about our teaching and quieten the negative rhetoric of the Secret Teacher styled blogs and articles that undermine our profession
  • To create a network of educators who are optimistic and hopeful that our profession is not broken, that our profession can be resurrected

Has it worked?

Well we have not got to the interview stage yet but so far we have had 115 register their interest to join us at Aureus through our EOI (Expression of Interest) online form on our website. Bearing in mind we only need 10-12 teachers in Year 1 and 8-10 support staff this is a healthy ratio.

On Saturday I held an Open Afternoon for those who wanted to meet me and find out more. 55 educators interested in teaching at Aureus joined me from 1-3pm. My invite was clear, please don’t spend a weekend researching the school and trust, to complete an application form until you know our ‘why’?

Once again I led with my vision and values. I gave them 10 reasons to join us on our journey, 10 reasons to join us to ‘Grow, Learn and Flourish’:

10-reasons-for-twitter

I explained my vision for each of these 10 reasons and then shared:

  • The subjects we need teachers for
  • The professional learning we will offer for those aspiring to be SENCOs, pastoral leaders and teachers of shortage subjects like Physics and Computing
  • The responsibilities we need leaders for
  • The options for flexible contracts

I then invited those interested to build their own job spec  and tell me what value they could add to our community and explain how their values are aligned to my vision. I am a pretty confident person and have conviction that we need to #BeBoldForChange but this really was a leap of faith.

The feedback has been positive, to my relief. I saw lots of heads nodding in unison as I shared my truths and my insights and experiences resonated with my listeners. Who knew when I co-founded #womened and supported the launch of #BAMEed that so many of these communities would see me as their future leader, the room was full of a diverse educational community seeking the flexible roles that #womened champion, seeking the unbiased talent-spotting that #BAMEed advocates. As one observer commented, I won’t have a problem recruiting a fantastic team, but I will need to manage expectations as I don’t have the budget for everyone I would to like to recruit.

We will see how many convert from being interested into actually applying, but I am hopeful. I met some really impressive teachers with a sparkle in their eyes and fire in their bellies; teachers who are looking for a ‘candle in the dark’. I hope that Aureus can be that light of hope. When I created our mission statement: ‘Nurturing Hearts and Minds’ it was with the whole Aureus community in mind: staff, students, parents and governors alike.

If you are interested, adverts will go live on http://www.aureus.org on January 30th:

recruitment-timeline

My retention strategy:

When I recruit the staff we need to launch Aureus, my focus will then be on retaining my team. I will work hard to get to know them as professionals and as individuals. Regular career chats will texture our strategic vision for the school. As the school grows, we will grow our leaders.

My reputation strategy:

At the moment I am conscious this is about me, my vision and my values. In the future it will be about how we perform, how we collaborate and how we market what we do. The school community: students, staff, parents & governors will help to articulate and amplify what Aureus School embodies.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Challenging the way that we attract, recruit and retain our staff

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The contributors of the latest #TalkingHeadsBlogs – no time for books at the moment but am loving reading your journeys to Headship!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • All of the teachers who joined me on Saturday – thank you for coming, listening, questioning and supporting – I wish I could offer you all jobs in Year 1, but I hope to work with lots of you over the coming years.
  • Tom and Jake  -the fabulous recruitment team at GLF who gave up their Saturday to support my open event.
  • Owain and Sue – my new friends next door at UTC Oxfordshire who hosted our open event.
  • Team #womened – you know who you are – not only did you come to support the event but you helped me tidy up, your sisterhood is appreciated.

#TalkingHeadsBlog: Inside the Heads of our School Leaders

I have been reflecting a lot in the 6 months since I was appointed as Headteacher Designate for Aureus School, and especially over the Christmas break, over how I can best learn and develop as a Headteacher . I feel very privileged to have a fantastically supportive and experienced #PLN to draw on, who inspire me in my role as a leader.  How can I grow from these critical friendships?

For me I learn best by speaking to, listening to, reading and learning from those who are doing what I seek to do. I learn through my senses and through my experiences. I learn best from those who I respect and trust, those with credibility. I want to learn how to ‘walk the walk’ from those who have done it or are doing it, by listening to them ‘talk the talk’.

So alongside my regular blog as a new Headteacher, I am going to publish a weekly blog, from a Headteacher who is more established and more experienced than me, to gain insight from their leadership journey. They will share the challenges they have faced and the solutions they found, which will in turn help me and others who are starting or have just started their headships navigate the highs and the lows.

SO I INTRODUCE TO YOU: ‘TALKING HEADS’

Why:

  • To promote the diversity of the Headteacher community
  • To elevate the profile and amplify the voices of those challenging the systems
  • To celebrate teaching as a profession and advocate school leadership journeys

How:

  • To create a dialogue between senior leaders aspiring to headship and serving Headteachers
  • To share leadership challenges and solutions
  • To inspire teachers and leaders to aspire to be Headteachers

What:

  • To publish a weekly blog to share leadership journey and insights
  • To use a common Q&A format: 2 Why, 2 How, 2 What questions answered
  • To share insight through varying content: questions selected by the leader being profiled

Target Audience:

  • Deputy Headteachers preparing to secure Headships
  • Senior leaders aspiring to become Headteachers
  • Teachers who want to see leaders who represent their backgrounds and experiences progress up the leadership ladder

#Nurture1617: Past, Present & Future

Wow!

What a year?

It seems like it must have been much more than 12 months must have passed since I wrote my #Nurture1516 post! But clearly this goal setting had a positive impact on me and has guided me through my personal and professional journey. I will continue to use the same 5 point format as it seems to have worked thus far in structuring my thinking and my actions: New Opportunities; New Location; New Perspectives; New Freedoms; New Travels.

2015/16:

New Opportunities:

I have had so many doors opened for me this year. Presenting at #TMLondon and SSAT conference took me out of my comfort zone. I have gained a lot through becoming a DfE coach for women leaders.

New Location:

I interviewed for 2 roles in Bristol and 1 in Bath, I was convinced I would end up back in the West Country and I have enjoyed connecting with the edu-community in the SW. However, the stars aligned and have helped me leave London but will be taking me to a new place to explore and settle in…

New Perspectives:

Supporting the launch of #BAMEed, co-founded by Allana Gay and Amjad Ali has helped my insight into the barriers facing the system. It has also helped me support some of my coachees who are faced with the challenges of inter-sectionality.

New Freedoms:

I have really enjoyed having an outward-facing, autonomous role for a year. It has been weird not teaching, not having a timetable, not having any duties, not being based in a school, but it has been liberating getting out and about. I have met so many brilliant educators, initiated alot of collaborative partnerships, attended some thought-provoking events.

New Travels:

Tanzania and my LRTT experience was unexpected. I had not planned my summer and had it not been for a conversation on a sunny Friday afternoon, following a #womened networking event last July I would not have experienced the brilliant summer I had. A summer that reconnected me to my vocation and reminded me why I teach. I also met a great group of teachers from the UK and from Njombe who will be lifelong friends.

2016/17:

New Opportunities:

Well they don’t come much bigger than starting a school from scratch! I have a big bit of white paper laid out in front of me. My brain is like spaghetti junction, a web of ideas for short, medium and long term at Aureus. I am excited to start making sense of them and planning the strategy to support us in our journey to our opening in September. May 8th is our first landmark as we get the keys and the site is signed over to us that day.

New Location:

I will leave London at Easter and re-locate to Oxfordshire, I am not quite sure where yet, but I am looking forward to exploring and laying down some new roots. When  drive to the school site in Didcot, surrounded by an expanse of green fields and an endless blue sky, I feel a shift in my soul. I am excited to have a change of scene and a change of pace.

New Perspectives:

A new role, means a new CEO, a new boss and a new culture – all will bring new perspectives and new experiences. Equally as a Headteacher I am excited about creating a school community that finds solutions for some of the systemic barriers that #womened and #BAMEed criticises.

New Freedoms:

As a Headteacher and a Regional Director I am looking forward to the responsibility of decision making. The buck stopping with me, does not scare me, but thrills me as it is empowering. I can’t wait to make some changes to things that have frustrated me in previous roles and contexts.

New Travels:

I am starting the new year as I mean to go on – with a trip to Northern Ireland. Following a wedding in Lusty Bay, I will be catching up with friends, old and new in Belfast. Easter takes me to Canada to the #ulead17 conference in Lake Louise and a mini-break in Calgary with my best friend. Who knows where I will end up next summer as it is dependent on how ready we are for opening but Japan and Iceland are still towards the top of my list of places I want to visit…

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • A new year, a new role, a new chapter!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Thrive, Arianna Huffington

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The overwhelming support of the #womened community.
  • Having the grit, determination and resilience to believe in things happening for a reason.
  • Martin Giles for introducing me to my new boss, Jon Chaloner for taking me in to the GLF family.