Strength in our Vulnerabilities

by Kate Brown @katebrown2016      Thursday 5th March: #LeadMeet for #IWD2020 at Dr Challoner’s High School, Buckinghamshire. 

There is an undeniable irony in that even as I write this blog, I am all too aware of the fact that the reason I have never published my reflections previously  is the belief that my thoughts are not as interesting, engaging or impactful as those of the Edu-Twitter community that regularly share their ideas and whom I admire.

The question surrounding my self-belief is part of the reason I was determined to be 10% braver in my role as a new #WomenEd Network Lead and decided to host the first (of hopefully many) #WomenEd events to mark International Women’s Day 2020.

I was struck by the different direction each speaker took the overarching focus on #EachforEqual: whether it was considering ‘Unconscious Gender Bias’, or ‘The Importance of Releasing the Female Voice’. As I listened to each speaker, I was struck by the realisation that they too shared my feelings of frustration about flexible working conditions; my concerns about criticism from stakeholders; and my feelings of being an imposter. These men and women each encapsulated the qualities of a successful educator, but rather than being impressed by their ambition; title; or list of responsibilities, I was impressed by their vulnerability.

It was empowering for everyone to hear how these inspiring individuals shared the same feelings of self-doubt; how they struggle with the lack of positive feedback at times; how they question their decisions; how they change their minds; and how they embrace these vulnerabilities in their respective roles.

The more I thought about the importance of vulnerability, the more I felt that this is a side of leadership in education that is rarely talked about. Many young people struggle with perfectionism and the unobtainable depiction of this within the media. How powerful I thought it would be, as a young person, sat listening to these established adults, who have achieved so much, to hear about their worries and concerns.

I sat there as an educator, feeling reassured by this shared sense of vulnerability, but I was acutely aware of the empowering message this also sent to the 40 students who joined us at this particular #LeadMeet.

I hoped it gave each student the opportunity to hear the strategies, approaches and techniques employed by each speaker to manage or address their concerns. I also hoped that it would help these young people to see that rather than viewing these vulnerabilities as a weakness, the speakers were able to use these feelings to enable them to be more empathetic, understanding, forward-thinking, open-minded, resolution-focused, responsible leaders within school, and more community-centred citizens within the wider-world.

I feel that viewing our vulnerabilities as a strength may also go someway to challenging the stereotypes surrounding gendered behaviours that still exist within society: encouraging men to cry, empowering women to be decisive decision makers. It is only by viewing these actions as a strength, that we can dispel the myth that these are negative traits, that should be supressed or concealed, and in doing so, free each individual to be themselves and to feel equal and authentic in this identity.

I feel incredibly lucky to work within such a motivating and supportive community and wish to extend my thanks to the speakers and delegates that supported this event and helped to further connect like-minded thinkers within @WomenEdSE.

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