The right kind of 10% braver?

I’ve realised that for a long time, I was doing 10% braver all wrong. I’m writing this in case some of you are doing it wrong too, whether you’ve realised it yet or not.

Following the WomenEd hashtag on Twitter and listening to those I respected around me made me feel as though I was only being a strong and courageous woman if I was being 10% braver often. I could only change the world by doing the kind of 10% braver that left me exhausted. Everyone else seemed to be spinning so many plates and contributing so much of themselves to others that I felt I needed to keep up. This says a great deal more about my outlook at the time than it does the community that is WomenEd but there was an aspect of 10% braver that I didn’t hear anyone talking about.

There were good kinds and bad kinds of 10% braver.

There was the kind of 10% braver that others expected of me so I did it without questioning whether it aligned with my own values and moral purpose.

There was the kind of 10% braver that filled me with fear and dread to the very soles of my feet so that I could barely think, act, sleep or function. It was the kind of fear that I told myself I should expect if I was being brave.

There was the kind of 10% braver that left me utterly exhausted at the end of the day, week, month and year as I put in more and more work hours to make up for perceived deficits that I thought only things I was scared of could rescue me from.

There was the kind of 10% braver that made me give all of myself to others, leaving none of it left for my life.

It’s only with time and perspective that I’ve been able to notice this. At the time, I thought I was progressing my career, grasping for my potential that felt ever out of reach, and moving beyond myself and all my perceived areas of weakness; rising above. I proclaimed to everyone that I was being 10% braver and received well wishes and congratulations with women championing me from all corners. I thought that this was feminism. This was belonging. This was progress. This was success.

Was it?

I hid all of the shame, the stress, the not living up to my ‘potential’, and always striving for better when ‘better’ meant taking me further from myself.

In a previous role, I was asked to ‘coach’ a number of colleagues after their ‘developmental’ observations had been deemed inadequate. When I worked with one colleague in particular, she was initially excited about the opportunity and I enjoyed being in her lessons. I practised my self-taught instructional coaching as best I could. She left the organisation. For a long time I owned this as my own failure to coach and to develop another person and so I continued to dig deep and do the job that was asked for me with other colleagues. I perceived this as me being 10% braver at the time; stepping outside of my comfort zone and developing areas I saw as my own weaknesses to make progress and achieve success. It was an even longer time before I realised the reality. Here was a system that was anything but living up to it’s ‘developmental’ label. The coaching stemmed not from a desire for a teacher to improve with the help of a colleague but from a breakdown of communication and a lack of a respectful relationship between the teacher and their manager. The involvement of HR added an obtuse angle of capability that aligned neither with my role nor my soul. It is also obvious now that I look back how many of these teachers were BAME. I was so focused on myself and my own perceived lack of skills and knowledge that I failed to recognise that my 10% braver was facing in entirely the wrong direction. Instead of challenging the system and choosing another path, I was harming both myself and others by stepping so far out of my comfort zone that I was no longer in sight of myself.

I use this example as one of many I could have chosen to share with you. I use it not just as a means of excising some ghosts but also to demonstrate the kind of compromising 10% braver we can persuade ourselves into in the name of anything but a joyful life lived with values and purpose.

I can’t say that I’ll never say yes to something in the name of 10% braver that I really should have said no to but I’m far more aware of the nature of bravery that nourishes me rather than damages me. Let’s take a look at this healthier kind of 10% braver.

A healthy 10% braver is one that leads me to running a bookshop in Scotland and living out my dreams.

A healthy 10% braver is one that leads me to sit and shake my head on the side of a jetty as my partner leaps into the warm holiday sea before taking a moment, a deep breath, plunging in and doing things in my own way without being unnecessarily reliant on the encouragement and support of others.

A healthy 10% braver leads me to applying for a job I know I will love in an organisation I know I will feel proud to work for even though it means jumping clean off the ladder everyone else set up for me to climb so that I can return to myself.

A healthy 10% braver leads me to suggesting that we shout at the full moon whilst flying along in an open topped car beneath the starry night sky to experience the kind of joy I want to feel more often (would highly recommend by the way!)

A healthy 10% braver leads me to running a workshop at work about diversity because I think it’s a conversation that should take place. I set aside the fear I feel because this is insignificant in the face of the challenging conversation that needs to be had.

It’s also the kind of 10% braver that allows me to take my lunch break, to finish work on time, to focus on one job at a time, to not feel the need to respond to colleagues immediately, to take a walk if my head needs clearing, to set aside thinking time, and to make the right decisions in my working day for my health.

None of these are easy, especially that last one, but I don’t feel the same discomfort I felt when I was living out others’ values and expectations of me. I don’t feel the same sense of unease at departing so far from who I am instead of drawing on my strengths.

Take care not to be fooled into thinking that something that makes you feel good more than it does fearful is not filled with bravery and therefore isn’t worthy of your time or celebration. It takes courage to live your life on purpose and to be true to your values. Far more courage in fact than is needed to live someone else’s life and diminish your own value in the process.

A healthy 10% braver never expects perfection from you. You can demand as much or as little of yourself as you feel capable of at the time. Sometimes the bravest decision is to stop.

A healthy 10% braver may still be accompanied by a voice that says you can’t do this but your values can guide you to a decision that sets aside imposter syndrome and your inner gremlin.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t sap you of your strength. It makes you stronger.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t make you feel as though you’re living someone else’s life. You’re living your life on purpose.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t feel you with crippling dread. It’ll lead to joy.

Anything that doesn’t is mere imitation. Leave it be. It doesn’t serve you.

#WomenEd Unconference 4

Today’s WomenEd Unconference was to be an event unlike others I’d attended previously. It wouldn’t be my first, I wouldn’t be presenting, I wouldn’t be attending from the perspective of a middle leader in a college. My resulting pledges and response to the day would be very different from previous events.

The start of the day went much as a typical WomenEd event might. I had a smile on my face and felt the warmth of women sharing their ‘so what?’; being open about how they’d learned and grown from their involvement with WomenEd. Their simple yet powerful messages were filled with a new-found sense of belonging, sisterhood, a life they could decide for themselves, brave choices, and permission to accept 98% as enough.

Next was the chance for me to hear from Alison Kriel for the first time. Her keynote did not disappoint as she reflected on her experiences as a black female CEO; sharing experiences with both men and women that had been filled with the kind of prejudice that will have been familiar to many in the audience but that when spoken aloud were enough to elicit shock. She added words from Maya Angelou to messages of her own and transformed them to become messages of collaboration for the day ahead. As someone who makes full use of crying to release emotions, my tear-filled eyes may have just spilled over a tiny little bit. This is known as stage one (?) on the Carly Waterman cryometer scale, I believe.

At previous WomenEd events, I’d had very clear reasons for being there and attended workshops based on that purpose. This time, I arrived late and picked as the session started, changing my mind frequently before finally plumping for a room and dashing in at the last possible moment. My only hope for this year’s event was to surround myself with the honest stories and voices of a diverse range of women and on that count, the day most definitely delivered.

Instead of summarising my learning from each separate workshop, I have chosen to share some of the things I’m left thinking about as a result of all conversations on the day.

Choosing yourself

There were a number of moments throughout the day that addressed the concept of self, values, and what it would mean to choose ourselves. One really useful exercise was included in Jas Dosanjh’s workshop. She asked us to write down all of the roles we played in our lives and place them in order of importance to our sense of self and therefore also how much of ourselves we might be willing to sacrifice to maintain each. For instance, you might have parent at the top, writer second, teacher third, wife/girlfriend fourth, sister, daughter, citizen, neighbour, friend, volunteer and so on. I wrote my list and then had to start over several times. I like to think about these things carefully and will enjoy revisiting my own list as it grows.

As I wrote my list, I really just wanted to place ‘woman’ at the top but saw that no-one else was thinking this way and assumed I must be wrong. If I did my list now, I’d really like to do that. It’s the one role I have in my life where I have no obligation to anyone other than myself and the relationship I have with myself is the one I’ve learned to prioritise as the most important above all other roles I have.

A couple of attendees vocalised that ‘women shouldn’t’ put wife/girlfriend/partner near to the top of the list, instead investing their energies in other places as men come and go (problematically assuming there that we all have male partners). Whilst I would never reject someone else’s reality, we need to take greater caution over our use of language. I believe there to be enough expectations placed on women by society, by the media, by colleagues, by themselves that we don’t need to impose any further shoulds and shouldn’ts on one another. Our own reality, however similar, is never someone else’s and remaining mindful of that will enable us to push for progress as a collective.

I can say, like someone else in the room, that my role as partner is very high on my list. My relationship is a strong source of energy and love. We each have our own lives and identities but have endless reserves of support for one another’s endeavours and therefore it’s a role worth investing my self in. I recognise this will be different for other people; we each have our own set of values and circumstances.

Prioritising the small things

Further in Jas’s workshop, we were asked to state two things that we’d like to achieve before we die – for ourselves – and then consider what was stopping us. I reached my first one pretty quickly but then, having just achieved a long-held ambition to visit Florence, I couldn’t think of a second. Janice, sat on my table, spoke passionately about a walk of a lifetime to Santiago de Compostela she’d wanted to do. I think this kind of adventure needs some serious exploring and it occurred to me that such a journey might make a perfect WomenEd holiday. Ladies?!

In another workshop, conversations around wellbeing and quality of life emerged. I’ve recognised in recent months that it’s actually not the great lifetime achievements and successes that bring me joy. Much of what I’ve been led to believe in the past is that climbing the ladder of leadership, achieving big success, and grand experiences were the path I should be on. I could only be a good woman and feminist if I ‘had it all’, if I ‘did it all’, and if I could speak at conferences about how I had ‘worked hard to achieve it all’.

Today confronted me with this truth I’d been led to believe. In the last 12 months, I’ve been gradually dismantling that truth as I stepped out of a life that was draining me of myself and into a non-leadership position where I’m well on the way to finding me.

  • I’ve learned strategies to counteract my inner gremlin telling me I’m not good enough.
  • I’ve adjusted the distant boundaries I had that meant I was saying yes to everything and everyone above saying yes to me
  • I’ve given myself permission to engage in self-care that tops up my energy and allows me to experience and notice the present

I’ve decided I’ll write in full about self-care soon but I will share that the start of this journey was to recognise the positive knock-on effect self-care had on me. This enabled me to notice when it wasn’t happening and choose differently. I recently started to get into a bad habit with breakfast. I was eating it before work whilst checking emails. I’d fooled myself into thinking that at least I was having breakfast and it allowed me to ease into work but all it did was allow work to encroach on the time that should have been mine and made my day longer than it should have been. I’ve started to make sure I eat my breakfast elsewhere with a book. It seems like an incredibly small thing but it means I’m starting every day by choosing me. I’m now holding myself to account with breaks, lunch and finish time in similar ways.

The days when things don’t quite go to plan are the days when I’m practising forgiveness. The other days this inevitably goes out of the window are the days when I’m in the office; it’s so much harder to maintain a habit I know is good for me if my colleagues aren’t doing the same. My next challenge will be to continue these habits when I’m in the office.

Flexible working options benefit everyone

In conversations that emerged about flexible working throughout the day, I began to recognise the benefits that exist for everyone if a school can wholly embrace flexible working. It opens up the realm of the ‘possible’. My current workplace is supportive of working patterns and approaches that suit the individual as well as the organisation whether that be in hours, location, days of the week, or contract. I appreciate the lucky position that allows me to be in but some of the experiences shared by attendees today indicate that schools are well on the journey to doing and being better. There’s clearly a long way left to go before parents of any gender have all the options they might need in order to find the right balance for them and their families yet it was encouraging to hear from women who had successfully found a way to manage motherhood and work in a way that suited them in workplaces that support them.

The only part of these conversations that are niggling still is the the route of ‘having it all’. This phrase remains a dangerous one for women and society. Dr Mary Berry’s adage, ‘If you want it’ remains a useful one that adds context and whilst I’m far from a expert in this area, I still find it a problematic concept for multiple reasons. Instead of having the life they want, ‘having it all’ insinuates that a woman must have the full-time job (and do it successfully), that she must bring up the children and take on the lion’s share of care and organisation in this area. Perhaps it is the only reality women will ever get to experience and I recognise it as the reality for many women I know but I refuse to believe that we can’t fight for more than that through flexible working that adequately recognises and encourages a man’s role as a parent too. I also recognise that for some women, there is no choice as to whether or not they have it all. They’re forced to choose one or another because of money, or personal circumstances… and what of those women who choose to solely parent? We should support that choice as much as anyone else’s. Fighting for equality means fighting for choice. Fighting for women to decide the way their life looks as much as physically possible.

Today was my first conference attendance in quite some time. Sunday will be a day of rest to energise ahead of the challenges of the coming week. I’m looking forward to watching the recordings of some of the sessions I missed at some point and catching up on other people’s experience of the day. In the meantime, I’ll be making some pledges that prioritise me as a human first so that I can bring the very best of myself to all parts of my life.

My pledges – the two to continue

Continue with the journey my friends affectionately refer to as my retirement (albeit a rather productive and frenetic one right now). It’s allowing me to connect with my values, my truth, and my self; enjoying the moment, the small things and finding joy.

Continue to support #BAMEed by being part of their steering group. I’ll be blogging about the importance of this work soon.

My pledges – the new one to think about

Attending conferences always comes with nerves as I attempt to overcome my natural introversion and the fact that I don’t actually know anyone that well, beyond the odd tweet now and again. I heard an attendee ask another why they were so quiet and shy; suggesting confidence coaching. I don’t see shyness, introversion, or a quiet and reflective quality as a deficit to be fixed.

I’d like to explore ways in which we could support one another ahead of these events. For instance, meeting up at the start of the day, perhaps messaging in advance to get to know each other so we have some faces to at least say hello and a few words to. Finding introvert-friendly gaps so that we can escape the switched-on-ness of the day and find space to recharge. In the spirit of today, if anyone would like to collaborate on generating some ideas and making it happen then I’d absolutely love to work with you on it.


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.

Crush Your Gremlin #WomenEd

A few months ago, I’d seen the advert online for WomenEd looking for workshop facilitators. I flagged the form for that evening, resolving that I would register and move from TeachMeets to a workshop attended by hopefully more than four people (as my first national conference delivering on ‘making the most of meetings’ had been). It would be a test for me and the 10% braver I needed.

A day from hell ensued and by the time I sat down to the form in the evening, there was no way I could do this. Who was I kidding? What would I have to share with anyone?

By the end of the week and after a session of coaching (arranged through WomenEd), I submitted my form a little after the deadline and this would be my topic. I did have something to share – I would share my journey towards taming my critical inner voice.

But there were months to go yet. My inner voice told me that no-one else shared my journey. They all had this mastered and what did I really have to share? I hadn’t totally conquered it and there were occasions when it was most definitely still getting the better of me.

But here I was because when you make a pledge to 10% braver, you can’t go back on it. Especially as my name was now in black and white on the programme.

Fear lead me to several weeks of me promising to write my presentation and failing to do so; leaving it all until last minute and then changing it all again 48 hours before because I’d had some better ideas, inspired by Naomi Ward.

My workshop began with participants filling out their sticky note of what had made them proud that day and eating a sweet. I wanted to begin the workshop in a positive way. I also allowed time for them to share why they wanted to be at the workshop. I had planned to preface this with a hope that they hadn’t ended up in mine as a last resort because none of their favoured options had spaces left but as mine was one of the full workshops, I knew this wouldn’t have been the case. Hurrah!

I then shared what participants could expect from the workshop and here’s what you can expect from this blog – lots of ideas, not all the answers. Elements of experimentation and I would be sharing my journey. I had heard other women during the day apologising for sharing the personal journeys, stories and perspectives. But how can we share anything else? I’d find it pretty hard to share someone else’s journey and whilst this presentation didn’t share much research or data for people to grapple with, it did share my truth.

In exploring issues around what holds women back, it’s important that we don’t neglect to consider the important part we may be playing in our own sabotage.

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Click here to read the full speech containing the above quote from Meryl Streep.

I then asked all participants to sketch an object that would sum up who they were. We’d be returning to it later. I shared that mine had emerged as a sunshine over time and I had turned it into a motif I could use to give me strength when I needed it the most.

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I began to share how my journey into leadership had progressed. This gif seemed to sum it up perfectly…


Early on in my leadership journey, I had read this in an ‘Insights’ report about myself –

‘She may underestimate herself and either takes anything she does well for granted, or regards it as no great achievement at all.’

This statement had resonated with me. It felt true and I recognised where it had appeared in my life until this point. The issue was that I took it so to heart that I became fixed mindset about it and saw it as unchangeable aspect of my own personality. I soon learned this wouldn’t be the way to view my critical inner voice but in the meantime, I did the following things-

Ignored the problem and hoped it might go away of its own accord-

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Berated myself; believing that I was the only one experiencing this problem-

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And that’s where part of the issue lies. We all wander around believing that we’re the only ones who experience a negative inner voice… but more of that later.

I then shared three of the approaches my old manager, Graeme Hathaway had been able to share with me.

Recognising Impact

Part of the battle in the shift from teaching to leadership is that your impact is not quite as visible and immediate and I was struggling with this. One approach is to consider an action you’ve made and begin to observe it as a ripple moving out from that moment and the sphere of influence it has led to.

Daily Affirmations

There’s a great deal to be learned from this little lady about how to start a day right. Daily affirmations work by helping to remind you every day of your strengths. Your values. The things you will prioritise. Shape your own 3-4 statements to begin with and see how you get on with these.

Celebrating Successes

At the end of every day, I would write down 5 successes, however small. Graeme would write his down too to establish the habit, there was some accountability there. There are plenty of journals and diaries out there that can prompt you to do just this. The advantage is to seek the positive in every day, no matter how bad it has felt.

My favourites are these Inner Truth journals (available on Amazon).

After sharing these 3 strategies, I also shared how WomenEd #10%braver had helped me to take those small steps to be bold, brave and see how my confidence was positively affected. When it went well, my critical inner voice was nowhere to be found. When it didn’t, well… my gremlin was to be found everywhere.

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I knew that I needed to tackle this at a deeper level and that’s where my coach, Naomi Ward, comes in. From a recent session with her, I was able to form 3 guiding principles of gremlins to share at this workshop-

  1. Your gremlin’s voice is not yours. It’s not even a part of yours.
  2. Your true voice is of value and deserves to be heard.
  3. Imagine what you could achieve if your gremlin’s voice could no longer be heard?

A Twitter poll I shared in the days leading up to the conference made it clear that it wasn’t just me who was tempted to listen to my critical inner voice. Whilst not everyone who answered the 1st question answered the second, it gives some indication of how frequently we might be giving our gremlin more airtime than it deserves-

One other aspect of women holding themselves back, is frequently referenced by members of the WomenEd community – Imposter Syndrome. I shared my belief that this is driven very much by our gremlins as it is by other social constructs that exists for us. Our gremlins often mean we put other people on a pedestal; we believe them to possess all of the skills, knowledge and qualities we don’t.

The School of Life’s book, On Confidence, has a chapter dedicated to Imposter Syndrome and this is a quote from it-

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Once the room agreed they were ready to move into crushing their gremlin, I revealed the first part of my workshop title by playing a clip from Bridget Jones and asking a couple of questions –

What does Bridget reveal about her inner voice? and How does it affect her relationship with Mr D’Arcy?

The room concluded that she deflected the compliments and it was clear she had built up some defences based on her perception of herself, or at least the one informed by her gremlin. One participant made a great contribution in that it’s actually rude for us to behave in a way that deflects other people’s compliments or praise of us. Are we suggesting that people we like and respect are incorrect? Are we so arrogant that we really know better than everyone else?

We then worked through stages of a reflective activity that involved individual reflection and paired discussions at points-

  • Visualise a recent time when your gremlin was present and prevented you from doing something you wanted to do.
  • What things does your gremlin say to you?
  • What did the gremlin look like?
  • Where was the gremlin positioned?
  • How did the gremlin make you feel?
  • What did your gremlin stop you from doing?
  • What evidence do you have that the gremlin’s voice was accurate?
  • What was your own voice saying to the gremlin?
  • How would it have felt to do what you wanted to do instead of giving in to your gremlin?

Now was the point at which we returned to our image created at the start of the session. We fleshed it out a little more; noting down how it embodies our voice and values. I then asked participants to consider-

  • What would your object do to crush your gremlin?

I was then about to take a risk and hope that the room was with me. I had forgotten the tape I was going to bring to make a line on the floor so instead we used the doorway.

I stepped through the door and told them what awaited. Their values. Their true voice. Freedom from their gremlin. When they were ready, they were to join me on the other side of the door, which I promised was a totally awesome space. Luckily, everyone came through and I could sense the smiles on some of the faces around me as they stepped into this space.

I shared how since being introduced to this strategy by Naomi on Thursday, I had searched for lines I could cross during my day. I now already look forward to stepping over the top step at the train station I use every day, walking into my office and other rooms in my workplace. It’s a way of me noticing how my gremlin is speaking to me and allows me to press reset. Before my workshop, I had a wander around to find suitable lines I could cross over to feel free of my gremlin as I knew I’d need this to counter the nerves that inevitably accompany the facilitation of a workshop for the first time.

Then came the challenge of encouraging the group to go back into the space where we’d just left our gremlins…

Once we were back, we explored how actually having a greater awareness of other people’s struggle with their gremlins might help us with our own. WomenEd is an incredibly inclusive community of people that allows everyone to share their stories with one another but I still felt we could do more to share the truth of success and the gremlins involved.

I challenged everyone in the room to go away and write a letter to me that I could share more widely via my blog. A letter because the art of letter writing is lost, and it would be a letter that could-

Remove the gremlin’s power for women everywhere.

Click here for the letter template

Send to: Hannah Tyreman, The Sheffield College, Granville Road, Sheffield, S2 2RL

The workshop ended with Billy Joel’s lyrics, some of which have helped me to accept my strengths and myself just the way I am. In the world of education, eternally driven by what’s next and what else is going to be improved of developed, it’s not easy to achieve.

As we listened to the song, participants shared pledges and I handed out their workbooks and letter headers to take away. You can find all links to resources used in the workshop and those for further exploration here. I will also be adding those recommended by workshop participants too –

Was my gremlin heard during the workshop? Absolutely! Did I step over a line to escape the voice numerous times during the workshop? Absolutely! Was it rather loud a few hours ago once the workshop had ended about what I could and should have changed about the workshop? Absolutely! I chose nice food and a Lush bath bomb instead. A future day will allow me to consider with logic and perspective what could have made my workshop better should I choose to run one again in the future but for now I would celebrate –

  • I had managed to get the workshop together after leaving it until last minute.
  • I had been 10% braver.
  • I had facilitated a packed workshop to 29 participants, many of whom have now made year long pledges to tackle their inner gremlin as part of the closing call to action for the day.
  • Other participants spoke to me afterwards and tweeted out what they had gained.
  • I am immensely proud of myself for being bold for both myself and others.

I hope that I receive some letters so that I can begin to share stories of conquering our gremlins. I hope that all participants commit to their pledge and we can stop allowing our inner gremlin to hold us back from smashing ceilings and being our authentic selves.

10 things I learned from my first #WomenEd event

Image available from here

This week marked International Women’s Day. The theme was #beboldforchange

I took this to heart and pushed myself to be (even more) bold all week:

  1. Writing my first feminist blog – Why we still need feminism
  2. Delivering the opening speech at development day on the theme of being bold – Read it here
  3. Organising a development day that was a bold departure from previous days – View the Storify here
  4. Signing up to attend my first ever #WomenEd event

Having followed the movement and been actively involved in it via Twitter, I was keen to connect with WomenEd in person and what better place to start than the event in Coventry, which would be crammed full of inspirational women? This was the bold moment of the week I was most looking forward to but at 10pm the night before, I had still not booked my tickets. Why not?

Well, first of all, it would involve that interaction thingy. That bit where, as a natural introvert, I have to converse with other humans and I feel the pressure to somehow find the way to live up to my, far less vulnerable, online persona. Now this is something I’m used to getting over and moving past. I have to be bold if I’m to enjoy life as an introvert and there are certain things for which I just need to take a deep breath and plunge headlong into. This would be one of them and I felt sure I would be rewarded with valuable connections.

So what else was holding me back?

My boldness this week had left me feeling exhausted and a little bruised. My inner voice was being her biggest b*%$!y self and I had received some less than welcome feedback. You know the kind. Not the stuff you can work with; not the specific comments and helpful suggestions but the kind that attacks you as a person when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Friday night saw me going to and fro about attending. Would it be one bold step too far or would it restore some of my resilience? I finally decided to book my train tickets and fell asleep.

In the morning, things felt clearer. My mum wondered whether I had in fact walked into a public lynching rather than a gathering of educators. And yes mum, the staff providing the feedback were all male, white, and of a certain age. How did you know? After reading the more positive and useful feedback again and watching Maya Angelou on the train (mum’s recommendation), I was feeling a little stronger.

There are many notes and details about the day I could share. I have chosen to summarise it into a list of 10 lessons learned.

1 – Claire Cuthbert is 100% braver

I learned from @Clairecuthbert9 that other people too commit to acts of 10% braver but feel more as though they’re acts of 100% braver. I learned that through sharing vulnerability and nerves with an audience is of value. Did it make us doubt her? Not want to listen? Believe it would be terrible? No. Well certainly not for me in any case. I learned that Claire is a local CEO who’s young, female and defying male expectations of her; no she’s not a deputy, an assistant or even a head – she’s the youngest female CEO of an MAT. I learned that sharing your journey openly and honestly with others can lead to connections and inspiration.

2- Viv Grant is, quite simply, inspirational

I learned from @Vivgrant that vulnerability is important and permitted BUT we need to address our inner landscape so that your outer landscape means your vulnerability becomes a strength. When the inner landscape is in disarray that vulnerability can emerge in unhelpful and uncontrolled ways. I learned the importance of bringing ‘who we are’ to school leadership. But who are we and what are the key experiences that have shaped who we are and how we show up? How we show up is so closely related to our childhoods and how we were brought up. I’ve learned that during my soon-to-be-planned, regular reflection time, I need to spend some time considering the following three questions:

  1. How do I wish to be seen? Authenticity- you have to understand what you want to be. To prevent us adopting a mask that’s not us. There’s too much around us shaping us into something else.
  2. What do I need to let go of? What might be blocking you? Sometimes it’s habits. That’s their stuff and baggage. We can’t carry that around anymore. It prevents the dissonance between our inner and outer landscape.
  3. What will be my first step? My 10% braver.

3- Claire Stoneman is a leader who acts on her values

I learned from @stoneman_claire that it’s important for us to be upstanders, not bystanders. If there’s something that doesn’t sit right with our gut then it’s unlikely to be right. We have a responsibility to do something about it. I’ve learned that it’s ok to question things; even if they are ‘policy’. ‘Tolerance’ for instance – it should be ‘acceptance’; it’s not ok to just to tolerate others; we need to accept them and who they are. I’ve learned that a movement to reduce instance of homophobic bullying in schools and colleges is still necessary and that the truth of Dominic and Roger Crouch can help to begin this journey with students. I’ve learned that once I discover something that doesn’t sit right with my values, I need to make use of the recommended questions to work through it, challenge it and act upon it:

  1. How does it far with your personal values or the values of your school? Why does it need changing?
  2. Who can listen to you, help you, question you, challenge you, support you in making a difference?
  3. What data is there to support you in your quest for change?
  4. What underpinning frameworks (within your faculty, school, organisation, nationally) support you in your quest for change?

4- Kat Schofield is defined by her soul and not her role

I learned from @PearlOchreRose that feminism is absolutely still necessary and not just in the face of sexism from men but in the face of women who do not lift one another up. I learned that there can be life after burnout but that it’s a difficult journey; the need for me to focus on my own wellbeing grows stronger by the day. I learned that sharing honest journeys was certainly an emerging theme for the day. I learned that there’s a great deal of debate to be had about leadership styles but that authenticity and your soul are really the important things.

5- Amanda Pearce-Burton is precisely what was needed

Being 10% Braver

Today was a Development Day packed with the sharing of practice, the celebration of great work and plenty of festive fun.

It also contained a sprinkle of added bravery and we can all blame Amjad Ali and his TeachMeet last night, #TMOxford. I was thrilled to find a live feed for an event I would have ordinarily attended but that a move up north, a class until 4pm and a Development Day had prevented this year. As I watched on the train, listened in the Co-Op and made notes when I got home, I was inspired by the words and passion of many of the presenters:

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr and her celebration of the amazing heroism of educators- highlighting the important, and often life-altering, role we are privileged enough to have.
  • Natalie Scott and her authentic self, great practice and inspirational stories of very real students and their very real lives.
  • Vic Goddard and his ever-influential ‘good sense’ advice and love for the profession.
  • Amjad Ali and his infectious enthusiasm, good humour and overwhelming generosity. Mainly this man because somehow, he’s always had the power to inspire me- to blog more, to share my ideas more, to host TeachMeets and to be brave. I’m unsure what his secret to this is…

And so I ran, excitedly, to my partner and babbled about yet another last minute decision- a great idea I’d had and how I was so excited, but scared, but I must go and do some work now! We’ve been together for 9 years. He’s seen this excitement before and usually responds with a knowing smile, a nod of the head and a calm reminder not to be too long or to work too hard (knowing full well that I won’t be finished until it’s finished). Last night was different though- he got excited with me and entertained my ramblings far longer than usual- we realised that this was the first time, in more than a year that I had been THIS excited about something. I resolved that it had to go ahead and that the only way it could was if I told everyone on Twitter, sought the encouragement of the @WomenEd community to be #10%braver and told my Principal, Heather Smith, to hold me to what I was going to do (without letting on what it was).

3pm arrived and the time for being brave was all of a sudden upon me. I had come close to not speaking at all at the end of the day out of fear, frustration and fatigue. Would 10% braver make me feel more confident or would it make me regret ever having the idea in the first place?

Below are the slides and ‘script’ I sort of followed except didn’t as I just held it in my hand the whole time … Proud!

Here’s the video so that you can find out what I ACTUALLY said, if you want to:



Earlier this year, I was introduced to the idea of being 10% braver- originally emerging from the #WomenEd movement- and I was inspired to give it a go!

I’ve done a few things over the last year that I’ve considered to be a % braver


Changing jobs.


Moving cities.


Speaking at a national conference.


Heading back into the classroom


Sticking it out for another day, week and month when I really just felt like this…


But last night, watching a live feed from a TeachMeet- an event where educators get together to inspire one another, I felt inspired to get another few % in before 2016 was over. So you can blame educators gathered in Oxford for the reason I’m stood in front of you now.


Today was a Development Day originally intended for sharing practice and celebration.


We’ve seen a great deal of sharing practice today- NOTES

I actually left my notes in the office so I tried to remember them.. I managed 3 of 4 without prompt…

In Foundation Studies, a lecturer was sharing how Functional Skills standards could be dissected to enable students to receive personalised English and maths targets. 

In Design and Visual Arts, the team spirit was clear to see throughout the day and they were focussing on their areas for development in collaborative, supportive and purposeful ways.

In one of the ETF workshops, staff were engaged with exploring vocationally relevant maths and English starter activities their teams could make use of.

In Media, Performing Arts and Academic Studies, staff were exploring how to incorporate more British Values in their practice.


But I’m left wondering how much celebration has taken place…

I’d like you to spend some time thinking about what you would choose to celebrate this term.

Firstly– congratulating yourselves- the first term of an academic year can often feel like this…


(gif shamelessly magpied from Amjad Ali’s #TMOxford presentation)

If we’re lucky then we have colleagues, like these, who help us over the finish line…


(gif shamelessly magpied from Vic Goddard’s #TMOxford presentation)

What are the small, and not so small things you’ve done this term that should be celebrated?

Secondly– congratulating your colleagues. Who has done something a % braver this year? Who has taken an action that gets them and us one step closer to transforming the life of another?

When I say so- you’ll find slips of paper dotted around the room. I’d like you to take a few moments to write a note to a colleague- something you think they should be taking some time to celebrate. You can choose to do this anonymously or otherwise- just make sure you fold it up, place their name on it and drop it in the box on the way out so that we can share it with the recipient as a motivator for the start of the new term!

But before you do that…

16 Dec- 10% Braver (19).png

The January Development Day is themed as a Festival of Learning- a day where we can gather together to learn something new and turn it into an action. I’d like each of you to commit to being 10% braver next term- finding that one thing- even though you may be taking brave risks already- What will your 10% be?

How did it come across to others when I shared my brave moments from the year (arrogant)? What did people think when I only shared 4 pieces of practice shared on the day and all from curriculum teams (left out)? Should I have given some time to writing their celebrations instead of passing onto the next speaker (almost definitely)? How much of what I intended to say was missed out and meaning lost (parts)? How did senior leaders feel about what I was saying as I hadn’t told them anything (disappointed)?

There are a hundred things I could have said or done differently but I refuse to fall into that Hannah trap again. I did it. I will celebrate it. I will feel proud. I am now free to catch-up on work, prepare for holiday and enjoy Christmas food and company.

I felt inspired to go 10 % braver. I was truly authentic ‘proper’ Hannah for the first time since I started my new job. I consciously went all in for 10% braver and I can honestly, hand on heart, say that I enjoyed what I was doing for the first time in a year (after the fact anyway and some of the during it too!) It felt purposeful, meaningful and I hope I achieved some of my aim:

Giving others the permission to feel proud of their achievements, giving them a giggle at the end of term and an opportunity to celebrate their colleagues. 

I am inspired to bring my authentic self to work more often and I’ll definitely be committing to more 10% braver moments next year.

I hopefully inspired at least 1 or 2 others while I was at it.

Some of the messages of celebration to be posted to colleagues for the start of next term:


Next time I feel I can’t do it, that I’m not the right person for the job, that I don’t have the right personality or skills- I’m going to remember this moment, seek out those who inspire me the most and take a shot at 10% braver.