2017: The year of the coach

Imagine, if you will, a small Quentin Blake sketch of a woman. She’s eagerly skipping around the empty page of a book – leaving sparks of colour with her feet as she goes. You watch her doing this from afar for quite some time before she finally lands at the bottom right hand corner of the page and lifts it up just a fraction. She turns around and eagerly beckons for you to join her.

That particular image was conjured on Thursday evening sat on my newly purchased beanbag in the corner of my office on the phone to Naomi Ward. Many such images have been conjured since November 2016 and whilst each have helped me to reach the point from which I write this now, few have meant so much.

Naomi has been working with me to identify and believe my strengths, crush my inner gremlin (the voice so that so often used to tell me I couldn’t do it), and articulate my values so that I could feel like less of an imposter in my leadership role.

Alongside coaching sessions, a number of other events have been pivotal on my journey over the last year –

In December 2016, I spoke to all of our staff at The Sheffield College about being 10% braver. Since then, staff have spoken to me about what this has meant to them and how they too have been propelled by 10% braver since.

The apparent impact of this message on my colleagues lead to me being more engaged with the work of #WomenEd and so 2017 lead to me attending my first WomenEd event in March. I left feeling so utterly uplifted by the people who surrounded me that day that I endeavoured to remain involved. This was a special place to be indeed.

I continued to connect with the WomenEd crowd and was drawn to present at TeachMeet Reading in June after linking with the incredible Anshi who exudes endless positivity. Just after I presented, I received an email from Jaz: a woman I admire so much for speaking her truth and empowering others through her vulnerability. Her words are pinned on my 2018 noticeboard so that I have a constant remind of the impact I have when I live my values:

Hey hey! I am so chuffed now I get the chance to send you a personal message to say YOU ARE AWESOME! Your presentation was honest, resourceful and powerful! Well done on being 10% braver.

Fast-forward to September 2017 and I had been selected to share my journey towards crushing my inner gremlin and finding confidence at the national WomenEd unconference in September. That day confirmed it for me. I had found a tribe – a group of people it felt good to be around. Here was a collective within which I felt empowered to be me. Truly me. No excuses. No apologies. For the first time in my life.

The last year has brought me to a position where my narrative has been rewritten. No longer is it penned by the dominant voice of my inner gremlin.

  • I have confidence about the impact I have on my team and colleagues.
  • I regularly celebrate the smallest of my accomplishments (mainly with star jumps!)
  • I recognise that proper rest and relaxation is necessary nourishment.
  • I have a clear vision of the supportive tribe I want to be surrounded by.

I emerge from a chapter of my life whose narrative had dominated me with its doubt and distinct lack of confidence in the impact I’m capable of having. I’ve chosen not to rip this chapter up but rather roll it up tightly so that I can hold it in my hand from time to time and remind myself of all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

On Thursday, I sat on the phone to Naomi unsure of how I would ever thank her for the impact she has had on my life.

In 2018, I have taken a lead from Hannah Wilson and selected a word that will guide my actions for the year and this will be my first act of gratitude to Naomi. My word is ‘Believe’ and I will choose to –

  • Believe in being unequivocally and unapologetically me
  • Believe in the strength I possess to get through any challenge
  • Believe in the power of rest to nourish my soul
  • Believe that there is a tribe that awaits me where there is trust and collaboration
  • Believe in all of my strengths and the impact I am capable of having on others

On Friday, I wrote the following words to colleagues I have worked with for two years at The Sheffield College –

Today is my last day at the College and I hold a lot of fantastic memories of my last two years here. I have always believed in the power of sharing our learning journeys with one another and so I will share some brief reflections with you for one last time.

The work we do in Further Education is transformative and over the last 10 years working in the sector, I’ve witnessed the conditions that enable staff working within it to excel.

None of us can do this job alone. It is those staff who work closely with each other and value one another as humans above all else that deliver the best results for our students. I’m thankful to all the teams and individuals who have proven this during my time here.

Gratitude gets you far. I’ve seen, first hand, the impact of a sincere thank you: an email, a kind word, or a small token of appreciation.

Generosity in sharing of resources, ideas, and viewpoints enables great things to emerge. One idea sparks another until everyone is buoyed by their newly-discovered collective efficacy.

Developing people is about opening up a space for them to step into; a space filled with heartfelt encouragement, honest dialogue and listening. Being able to step freely into such a space allows us to step into change, growth, and learning.

No sooner than my message had been sent did I begin to receive responses from all corners of the organisation and I was reminded yet again of how important it is to never underestimate the impact you have when you live your values. These words came from a support member of staff who I had interactions with but someone I never guessed I would have had such an impact on –

Since you started work here you are the one person I believe has had the biggest impact on the College. I have seen how our staff development days have been transformed and how you actually engaged staff, made us think in new ways and have given us so many forums in which we can share our ideas. Most of all you have helped give us a feeling of belonging and empowerment.

As I read through all the messages received and considered my time in Further Education over the last 10 years; the colleagues I have worked alongside and the students whose lives have been transformed, I’m left feeling so privileged to have been a part of such an incredible environment for such a long time….But my Quentin Blake drawing is calling me to turn the page into a new chapter and I’m ready to follow her, or at least I will be after enjoying some days of leave ahead of my new adventure.

2018 will see me take a 10% braver step into a role as the Online Learning Specialist at the Chartered College of Teaching. The role combines my love of professional development and learning with technology and I could not think of an organisation that better aligns with my values. I believe I will find colleagues to form my trusted tribe for 2018 (alongside WomenEd) and I know it will be a brand new space from which I can continue to grow and flourish.

Thank you to all who have shaped my journey thus far. Here’s to a brand new chapter.