How #WomenEd helps me.

by Jess Mahdavi-Gladwell @drjessm   #BirthdayCelebration

On March 7th I was privileged to attend the @WomenEdSE #LeadMeet. It was brilliant on so many levels, I got to see my friend Kate Evans (@purekathryn76) in a different role and saw her shine (I also got to meet her mum who is a legend!).

I met Kerry Jordan-Daus (@KerryJordanDaus) for the first time IRL (really have no idea how it hadn’t happened before), got to meet Alison Kriel (@AlisonKriel) without making too much of a fool of myself, had a most excellent reason for a catch up with a CTeach buddy, saw a new colleague out of work for the first time and bumped into a few other people I had met at various meetings as well as on Twitter.

Another big plus was that it finished at lunch. I love a bit of Saturday CPD but this being a half day when my teenager barely noticed my absence made the guilt from choosing work over family time a little less. As well as giving a workshop, I enjoyed the speakers and was also able to listen to a workshop given about unsung heroes in education. As you may have gathered, it was a really positive experience for me.

It was International Women’s Day 2020, also the last weekend with unaltered plans, I honestly did not question for a second whether a friend visiting was OK or whether meeting with about 40 others in one room was sensible. I certainly didn’t expect that it would be the last social event I attended for such a period of time.

So much has changed. Social distancing, no pubs, restaurants or cinemas to visit and many people finding that they actually can work from home. With schools largely closed, the variety of social media posts is astounding. Some tell stories (maybe fairy tales) of children sitting attentively at the table, engaged in their respective tasks. Some encourage us to focus on mental health and not attempt the impossible. Many reflect the challenges being faced by ‘home schooling’ parents, in terms of their direct content and the increased posts about chocolate and/or alcohol consumption. People are exercising who don’t usually and I see more of my neighbours for the Thursday evening clap than I usually do. Ideas about community seem to be changing. I read of people putting on make up for evenings with friends held over Zoom and see sadness as weddings are postponed.

As teachers often do, I find myself reflecting. My school is still open as all our pupils are vulnerable.

We have vastly reduced numbers attending and I’m making regular contact with students and their families by phone. Daily phone calls are not a method of building home-school relationships that I’ve tried before, but it’s worked. I’ve realised how much paperwork I can get through in one working day when there are no interruptions and unexpected things to deal with. I’ve realised how the interruptions, the unexpected things, stopping to say hello, reacting to change, add texture to my days. Much change, so what did I learn from my experience of #WomenEdSE that still applies in this altered time?

I applied to speak without reading the small print (sorry Kate and Kerry). Had I realised it was called a #LeadMeet, I wouldn’t have applied to attend, never mind to speak.

The process I went through while writing my talk made me reflect on how everyone who works in a school is a leader in some way.

The start of this year saw me begin a new role with manager in the title so time for me to step up and make sure that I put my ideals into action. Over the last three months, I’ve begun working with some inspirational leaders, people from whom I am learning a lot about leadership in challenging times. People who model an inspiring mix of strength, focus and commitment while showing each member of the team that their strengths are known and valued. As I develop my own leadership skills, I’ve a range of people to challenge and encourage me, even during uncertain times.

I made a pledge at the conference to support women around me on their own journeys which is harder to do without face to face contact but it isn’t impossible. So, while my time is filled in an atypical way, I hope that I can be someone approachable, someone who notices what’s going on with those around me, someone who is brave enough to reach out and not too proud to learn from mistakes I make.

@WomenEdSE, I look forward to a time when things are closer to usual and we can meet again to learn and celebrate together. So, in the meantime, let’s join together on 19th May to celebrate and reflect on everything that #WomenEd has achieved in 5 years. So young, but so powerful. You’re invited; go on, come to this party.

Here are the details to book this Free online event to celebrate #WomenEd's 5th birthday: 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womened-10braver-what-has-womened-done-for-you-our-5th-birthday-tickets-103936687430

I'll see you there!

 

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