#TSCornerstones opening speech

In planning the opening speech for our March Development Day, I planned it, changed it all, added to it, shared it with some educators on Twitter, showed it to ex-colleagues, asked for ideas from current colleagues and finally ended up with a keynote speech I wasn’t sure I would remember. This would need some carefully planned slides to prompt me. Despite the delivery of ‘speeches’ filling me with dread, it’s the writing and crafting of them that I enjoy the challenge of. This one, it turned out, would all be about being bold for change.
9 March (11).jpgI opened with this image and asked staff to discuss what they felt these three things had in common. Lewis, a lecturer in Sport, has recently started teaching some English so he was able to identify that they were all nouns. The Digital and eLearning team thought that they could all be bought in Ikea. In actual fact, they’re all celebrated on 9 March (Happy meatball day! And peanuts and umbrellas can be celebrated all month, believe it or not!).

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I also discovered that it was don’t panic day. Although some places said it was panic day which left me in a state of confusion and, quite frankly, panic.

How many of you know what day it was on Wednesday?

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It was International Women’s Day and the theme for the day was ‘Bold for Change’. It got me thinking about what it meant to be ‘bold’.

‘Showing a willingness to take risks; confident and courageous.’

So I got to thinking about when this might have applied to me this year:

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1- In my last talk in December to everyone, I shared how I had been 10% braver so far that year.

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Image available from here

2- In December, we launched ‘wellbeing buddy boxes’; designed to remind us to take care of ourselves, as well as looking out for our colleagues’ wellbeing too. This was a bold initiative; not technically in my remit.

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3- I’ve set my students their first pure online learning materials for the lesson they should have had with me today. A bold action to try something new.

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4- I’m stood here today, hoping I’m not going to fall flat on my face but knowing it’s a distinct possibility.

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So what has been the point of doing these things? Was it necessary to take these bold yet nerve-wracking risks?

Since the talk in December, I have had a number of staff share how they too had chosen to be 10% braver and to share their thanks for my bravery.

Since staff have started sending buddy boxes, a number of them have got in touch about how good it felt to both send and receive one. Here’s just one quote I received this week.

We’ll see what the impact of my online learning risk will have been in due course…

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So I feel like I regularly push myself to be bold. Most days in fact. As a natural introvert, being bold is something I just have to do; especially working in the environment and role that I do.

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In fact a fellow introvert shared this book recommendation and although I’ve not finished it yet, I’d recommend it to anyone other introverts amongst you. So bold- tick! But what of change?

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Working in a learning organisation, we’re surrounded by change; some of it welcome, some of it not so much…

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What we will see, if we’re able to notice it, are the small changes we effect in the students we work with. At the start of the year this can be as small as them arriving with a pen, a hello, a smile. But this grows and when we look back at the end of the year, the changes have been huge. How many times has a student you’ve worked with made a change? How much of this has been a result of them being bold? Taking a risk?

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Conducting speaking and listening presentations with my students last week, I was reminded of how brave they are on a daily basis. They stand up. They speak. They share. They write. They read. This requires much persuasion but they do it. They show up.

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We currently have a student on work experience with us and she shared this blog on Wednesday. A bold risk for her to take but already, educators are commenting and sharing her words.

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You see, being bold and taking risks is linked to positive change and learning. Being bold has been essential for me to grow as a leader; to learn and I’m certain this journey will continue for years to come. The changes this boldness has resulted in has lead to changes in the way I work, my behaviours and attitudes, my relationships with others and so, in turn, has resulted in changes for them too.

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I’d like you to now turn to the person next to you and share one moment, from recent months, where you felt you were bold, you took a risk… share what you think the impact was on your students and/or colleagues- whether the risk resulted in a perceived success or not.

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Now what I’ve discovered about being bold is this (and you may have found this too)- it’s not a comfortable place to be. In fact it’s downright uncomfortable. And that’s because there’s a chance of failing of revealing our weaknesses or what we’re yet to learn. But what’s the alternative? What if we don’t move beyond feeling comfortable? What then? Because if we choose not to take the risk. To avoid being bold then no positive change will occur. No learning will take place and I don’t know about you but that’s not a place I want to be. No challenge? No fear? No risk that you’ll surprise yourself or other people?

‘We must prioritise CPD even though it may never be the most urgent thing on the list.’ Shaping CPD, 2016

Which brings me to development days. The learning they contain is plentiful but it’s really about what we do with it afterwards. Investing all that time and doing nothing with our new learning is wasteful and it’s certainly not bold.You have the chance to spend a day thinking about and deciding how you can be be bold, what risks you might take, how you could change or even support someone else to be bold.

CPD can be a vehicle that helps us to move beyond our comfort zone. How will you use your learning today to move beyond your comfort zone?

At some point today, we’d like you all to update the ‘pledge wall’. Look at the pledges you made after the Learning Festival in January and let us know how it’s gone. What’s worked? What hasn’t? How will you move your learning forward even further?

So there are two things I encourage you to do today:

  1. Put your practice out there; see what others think and have dialogue about what works best. Share the risks you’ve taken, the times that you’ve been bold and what learning has come from that.
  2. By openly sharing the challenges we’re experiencing in our practice with colleagues; we’re more easily able to move past them because we can use their experience, ideas and suggestions. We can engage too with research and evidence. 

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Running through term time; with its challenges and tasks at times assaulting us can feel like this. It’s important for us to find some time to breathe, to reflect, to share practice and success and…

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hopefully have some fun too.

A few years ago, I attended a Learning & Development Conference. One of the activities I was a part of was shared as a way of changing the working environment into one filled with:

  • Celebrating achievement
  • Having fun
  • Championing one another

The speaker who shared the activity said that it had been played every morning in the office and a trophy given to the winner.

It’s a bold risk for me to trying this with co many of you know but let’s give it a go! (It wasn’t the most successful activity ever but the majority took part).

After a demo, we played and finally ended up with our winner.

I shared a hope that the energy created now can be carried through the day; leading to championing of and supporting of one another, genuine collaboration, positivity and fun.

The first activity of today will allow us all to spend some time engaging with practice; exploring the Cornerstones of practice (designed to incorporate the 13 themes of teaching, learning and assessment that you’ll already be familiar with). After this 2 hour activity, you’ll then join your teams for the remainder of the day until 3.30pm. At which point, you’ll be heading back here to review one another’s displays produced for the Cornerstones activity. There will be an opportunity for you to vote on the display you think best meets the criteria.

Now my end for the speech was somewhat scuppered due to my facilitators stealing my cocktail umbrellas during the morning briefing. If I had been able to give them out to everyone, they would have been a reminder that although the summer weather is on its way, it doesn’t mean that stepping out of the door without an umbrella isn’t taking a bit of a risk. What risk could it remind you to take today? How could you use it as shelter from all of your other competing priorities so that you can just enjoy some time and space to consider your development?

I hoped that everyone would have a great day filled with learning, that they wouldn’t forget to share their learning more widely on Twitter at #TSCornerstones and be bold for change!

Why we still need feminism #IWD17

I’ve had these words (most of them at least) sat in my phone notes for some months now; never feeling bold enough to post. It feels like today, International Women’s Day is the day to finally share this. Me being #beboldforchange I guess.

Before you read on, I’d like you to know that I am a champion of other people. I am a champion of other women and there are some things to be hopeful about for the future for feminism. Perhaps there’ll be a day, in my lifetime, where it’s an outdated term that’s long past necessary. Perhaps.

But this post is being written not as a celebration (that will come separately), but as a result of there being too many things that make me less than hopeful.


I’m a woman. I hope that’s fairly obvious to those I meet.

I’m also a feminist. I hope I make that clear when it matters the most. And in 2017, it most definitely still matters.

Sexism, to the untrained eye, is something confined to tabloid papers and drunk conversations. To the trained eye, it can be identified- but it is often disguised as something else- an innocent question, a supportive piece of advice, a reporting of a story, just a joke… The comments aren’t always concealing a malicious intention but they do reveal a society where, whatever we’d like to convince ourselves, women certainly don’t experience equality.

These are just some such comments I’ve been on the receiving end of recently:

‘You’re a young woman so you’ll have to work hard to show them they can learn something from you.’

Their sexist mind believes that my age and sex will automatically mean I’m written off.

‘Why don’t you want to get married? Oh, all women do! Why don’t you want children? Oh, you will!’

Their sexist mind can’t equate the fact I might not fit the mould they believe a woman should.

‘You should get him to change/ stop/ start doing x.’

Their sexist mind believes women to be the keepers of their men.

I once saw sexism being described as plain bad manners. And it is, but I also believe it to be much more than that. Its effects have the potential to be far more damaging than mere impoliteness.

The damage is caused to my friend; a shining light in her work. A woman who is about to start a family. A woman who is in the process of moving house. A woman who has stepped up to lead where her manager has left a gap. A woman who, on top of all this stress, is left concerned about what will become of her job after maternity leave is over. It isn’t ok, in 2017, that she should fear losing her job because her employer may or may not be keen about her returning part-time. Especially in a large organisation that could do far better than that to support women to progress; not place barriers in their way that don’t need to exist.

The damage is caused to a young woman, lacking in confidence, who would like to enter the workplace. She is developed enough at college to successfully ace an interview- only to find that her workplace is male dominated (she’s the only woman in fact) and she soon returns to college with her confidence smashed to smithereens. Fortunately, I’ll be lucky enough to be working with her soon as a mentor for her work experience with us.

A few years ago now, I had a student in my GCSE English class who was studying IT. We often talked about her course and what she was learning on it and before long, it transpired that she had been on an Engineering course the previous year. She’d left the course and seemed sad not to be continuing with it. It emerged that she’d been the only girl in the class- not a problem in itself as the other students treated her as just one of their classmates, but the teacher did not. In one of their first practical sessions she dressed into her PPE just as the others did but her teacher responded saying that he had expected her to appear in pink overalls. She’d never felt respected or like she belonged, so she left. Last time I saw her was in the college corridor a couple of years later and she told me excitedly that she’d returned to study Engineering and was headed to an Engineering Apprenticeship with Jaguar Land Rover. I always wonder what longer lasting damage that teacher’s comments could have had on her without so many positive voices to counteract what he’d told her; causing her not just to forget about her dream temporarily but forever.

Sexism will prevail as the dominant view for as long as society reads things such as these:

Of course, many spoke out against such sexism and that’s great but should we have to speak out against it? What about how the view may have been reinforced for those who didn’t speak out?

The agony aunt pages of our local magazine are filled with women concerned about having to juggle it all because that’s what society requires of them if they’re to be happy and the advice that follows does nothing to counter this view; instead strongly reinforces it. It’s clear that dangerously sexist views are not just confined to national papers.

The media can be blamed for many things but getting in the way of women’s equality is certainly one of them. If some of society can believe many of the other lies they sell us and stories they twist with headlines designed to provoke a response, then we don’t have a chance of seeing sexism eradicated in our lifetime. We stand an even worse chance when we have the leader of the free world speaking about women in the way he has. Time passing has not made these words any less shocking.

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A few months ago now, I experienced a typical day of feminist conflict.

Two things happened:

  1. The unveiling of the #womenofsteel statue in Sheffield.
  2. My partner leaving me an MSA magazine dedicated to women in Motorsport to read.

So why are these two things of conflict? They’re both overt celebrations of female achievement and their contributions to male-dominated worlds. Shouldn’t I be satisfied?

It’s the 100 or so years that lie between the two that bothers me. I believe we should be a lot further on in all of this than we currently are.

Having spent more than enough time over the past few years in motorsport settings of a weekend, I can testify that they represent some of the worst sexism that exists in society. To see any woman making it in this arena is remarkable but I don’t want to applaud that. I don’t want to celebrate the lone woman making it in this male-dominated space. It’s 2017. I want to talk about women in motorsport like it isn’t anything new. We’re not in the middle of war. We now have the vote. Yet we appear to be in the midst of a feminist era where equality exists on paper and is beginning to catch up in reality but society’s mindset leaves a lot to be desired.

So the choice we’re all left with for now is to celebrate female achievement and success, wherever that may be.

Whilst we do it, can I also make a request that we call out the everyday sexism when we see it – wherever we see it? Our silence makes it OK and it’s far from OK.

These two actions aren’t as aspirational as I’d like but perhaps they’re essential if we’re to get to an age where gender is no longer an issue and we’re all humans achieving wonderful things.

At my local train station there’s this end of the platform where, on a weekday morning, women don’t stand. Sometimes, as this morning, there as many as 10 men stood there. It is noticeable to anyone who wants to notice. So noticeable that I choose to stand amongst them. I like to think my actions empower other women to join me.

It is a strange phenomenon and whilst I don’t think it’s really a sexist act by this group of men to commandeer a section of the platform, it’s strange all the same. Stranger still, in 2017, is the absence of women and their equal rights, which is to be found everywhere if you are only able to open your eyes to it.

Let’s #beboldforchange so that 2018 is different.