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”.

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

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

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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.

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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”

Women Leading in Education: The NPQH Launch

2 years ago I was a DHT in London. I had resigned without a job to go to. This had initiated me moving into a role at Head Office leading Professional Learning for staff across 42 schools for a year before I left. It gave me head space to work out what the next move would be. I was being coached to recalibrate and to  find my direction. I had just started my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.

2 years on I am a Headteacher, I am an Executive Headteacher in fact as our 2nd school opens in September. I have led Aureus School for 4 terms: 1 term as an idea, 1 term as an empty building and  2 terms with a staff and student body.

2 years ago #womened was 1 year old, we are now about to turn 3 and have increased our reach to 18,000.

How things can change in a matter of time. In 2 years I have moved from frustrated and in conflict to feeling grounded and anchored. I have found my fit.

This weekend Ambition School Leadership launched their inaugural women only cohort for the NPQH in partnership with  #womened and Leading Women’s Alliance. This weekend it was me delivering an after dinner speech about my leadership journey to headship, not me listening as a participant.

 

 

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I am used to being the event organiser and host, doing the welcome and the housekeeping not the address.  I am used to delivering assemblies with a screen so delivering ‘naked’ (clothes on but slides free!) after dinner was totally out of my comfort zone. Doing keynotes is my #10%braver challenge, it is me modelling that you need to Lean In and step beyond your comfort zone. It is me living my conviction that you say yes and you work it out later. It is me showing that you make mistakes and you learn from them, the more I do them, the more confident and comfortable I will become in the public speaking space.

I only had 15 mins to share my thoughts, reflections and advice so I did not go into detail about my leadership journey, although it would have reassured many in the room that I have had my fair share of rough seas to navigate through, they can read about this on my blog.

 

 

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Instead I shared my journey to headship. I reflected on the power I have drawn from the #womened community. Both Kate and I addressed some of the barriers that women leading in education experience. The imposter syndrome, the inner critic, the fear of failure.

As well as the barriers we reflected on the crowd-sourced solutions. We both shared what could have held us back and how we pushed ourselves forward. I can remember the first time I met Kate at our inaugural #womened unconference, she spoke about the ‘taps on the shoulder’ that women need. I have been fortunate to have had peers and line managers who have tapped me, and I in turn nudge others on.

 

 

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After the speeches I joined Karen Giles and her dinner table – we reflected on women who work silently and do not promote their work. I shared with them the article I had read about the strategy the women in the White House use – the illumination technique – which they came up with to amplify the ideas and work of others to ensure that credit was attributed to the owner.

 

 

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Lack of role models and the absence of a support network can hold some women in education back. Part of my motivation for co-founding #womened was to find my tribe. My source of inspiration in giving so much of my time and energy to our gender equality movement over the last 3 years has been the contacts that I have made. I am surrounded by strong women, by brilliant role models, by inspiring women leading in education.

 

 

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The power I have drawn from the #womened community, together with the skills and experience  I gained from my NPQH with ASL, enabled me to be empowered in finding the right headship for me to be my authentic self. Following many years of school improvement in turn around schools, a start up school was a new challenge. The blank page gave us the opportunity to co-create a forward-thinking school.

The combination of all of these experience and opportunities over the last 2 years led to me being involved in initiating and steering the women’s only NPQH pathway. Had I not have been outward-facing, I would not have met these amazing women.

My motivation for contributing to and supporting this bespoke programme is the opportunity to create a ‘safe space’.  There was a sense of urgency in the room that we need to change the system. There was a sense of agency in the room that these women would be the changemakers to #pressforprogress.

My final plea to them all was that when they secured their 1st headship that they would negotiate, that they would challenge the pay gap and ask for what they need, that they would hold on to their power and not give it away before they had even started.

 

 

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What I did not have time to share was my recommended reading, so here it is:

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This weekend there was a palpable energy in the room. Magic was being created before our eyes by the wise women sculpting the residential – facilitators Carol Jones and Karen Giles, superbly supported by ASL programme leaders Deb Fisher and Abi Brown. Thank you for being Wonder Women.

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I am really excited to see what the future holds for all of the participants.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • 31 future female Headteachers  who will be leading our schools in the future including our 2 DHTs at Aureus School Julie Hunter and Bennie Kara

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • We are all starting Leadership Matters as our summer read for the team at Aureus

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Ambition School Leadership for curating the women’s only cohort launch – especially Deb Fish and Abi Brown
  • Melanie Renowden and Kate Chhatwal for initiating the bid for a women’s only cohort for NPQH
  • The partnership between Ambition School Leadership, Leading Women’s Alliance and WomenEd
  • Carol Jones and Karen Giles for facilitating the inaugural residential for this very special launch cohort of the women only NPQH

Career Development: Finding Your Fit

Job season has started for schools and teachers this week.

I have spent time with my SBL planning our staffing budget for next year. With a start up as long as you get your admissions numbers, and as long as your new team are in it for the journey, your budget for staffing is easy to plan. You know exactly who and what you need as your school grows and your team expands.

With the opening of our primary we are trying to box clever and save money by having an integrated operations team across the 2 schools. As we expand to KS2 in the primary we will be able to share teachers across KS2/3 as well which will make further savings, as well as providing security and stability for the students and parents, on top of career progression and development opportunities for the team. I am keen for Aureus School and Aureus Primary to be one team, for us to be an integrated school community across the 2 sites who connect and collaborate in a meaningful way, with the purpose of supporting our students and their families.

Our applications have just closed for our Aureus Primary senior leaders and we are interviewing this week. We have a very strong talent pool and I am excited to see how everyone performs at interview.  At the end of the month we have our open events for teaching jobs for both schools, in May we have an open event for our operations team. I think the informal events before our applications open has supported us getting the right people on our bus.

This weekend we also have our first #WomenEd event designated to Careers Development across the Midlands, in Birmingham. We have a fantastic line up of keynotes, workshops and clinics to support our community in making the leap to the next rung of their career. But moreover, to help our community to find their fit.

When we focus on the souls not the roles. When we focus on what we need rather than what position we want, the fit becomes easier to find.

So this blog is me sharing my experiences as someone who recruits but also someone who has planned their career and been strategic about each step. Next Saturday I am doing the opening with Annemarie, #WomenEd East Mids Regional Leader, and we are sharing the Do’s and Don’ts of Job Applications from our experiences on both sides of the interview table.

I have captured some of my thoughts and feedback below, framed by our #WomenEd values, our 8 Cs:

Community – curate your network; follow schools/MATs you would like to work at/ staff you would like to work with; you will find out about opportunities in all sorts of ways; you will meet people virtually (twitter/ linked in) and in person (teachmeets etc) who you may end up working with; you will be introduced to people through people

Clarity – know who you are as an educator; nail down your vision and values; know what sort of context you need and will thrive in; name your non- negotiables

Connection – do your research; compare your list of values to their school personality; connect with their social media profile; go for a visit; follow their staff & connect with them in advance

Communication – use affirmative language throughout the process; articulate who you are; speak to everyone you meet; ask questions about what it is like to work there; read what is not said too

Collaboration – ask a colleague or a friend to proofread your application/ CV/ letter; practise the interview/ fishbowl with a colleague; ask for feedback on your performance; sign up for free women in education coaching and have a 1:1 before the interview

Confidence – highlight all of the things you can do in the JD/PS not all the things you cannot do; share the impact you have had; be yourself at interview; believe in yourself and project this; if in doubt do the power pose throughout the day and repeat your mantra/ affirmation to calm the nerves

Community – ask yourself throughout the process: is this my fit? Can I see myself working in this school? Observe how the students enter & leave the school/ how they interact with staff/ how they behave at breaks and lunches – this tells you a lot about the culture

Challenge – prepare questions to ask at interview; don’t be afraid to ask them difficult questions about their journey/ staffing retention/ workload and wellbeing; be prepared to negotiate – know your worth and what you need to be successful in the role

Change – emotionally prepare for the transition; moving schools can be unsettling but change is also good; develop your resilience throughout the process – you will need it either way, being successful and preparing to start over/ or being knocked back and picking yourself up and brushing yourself off.

Throughout my career I have always had a 3 year plan. I have logged all of my roles and what I am responsible for/ how much I am earning. I have always known what I want to do next. As I have become more outward facing I have made sure that my professional identity is streamlined across all of the platforms I network on. I find LinkedIn is a brilliant way to keep my CV live and up to date. At each job offer I have negotiated – I have asked for more money, more time, an office, a laptop/ phone, admin support, CPD commitment and even a relocation package. My LM a few years ago taught me a really good technique – at the start of each academic year I sat down & reflected on the JD & PSof my next prospective role – I RAG rated with highlighters. This became my CPD plan for the year. If I had gaps I negotiated my responsibilities with my boss to close them. I asked for what I needed to progress.

I got my Headship through networking and I recruited most of my team by actively finding like-minded individuals.

I hope these tips are helpful – good luck and enjoy the process – I always learn lots from both sides of the interview process.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Who we will recruit this week to lead Aureus Primary School

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Quiet Revolution is by my bed to start once I have finished Mary Beard’s new one.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • All of the #womened community who have volunteered their time to make next Saturday’s event happen
  • Nicole Fowles and her team for hosting us

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!”

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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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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.

picture1

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.