#DailyWritingChallenge Day 1: Kindness – an anonymous blog

March: Being a Lodger (London)

Their business was going under, the daughter had university exams coming up, they were anxious about the people they support.  None of us anticipated what lodging would be like during lockdown.  Things began to unravel.  I am a straight talker – they are skirters-round.  I get enthusiastic – they are more reasoned.  I am a one – they are a family.  More and more of my comments were greeted by awkward silences.  I was accused of being blunt and bossy, of bossing them around in their own home.  I was told they were glad I wasn’t their teacher.  I started to avoid them as much as I could.  I spent most of my time at the allotment or wandering around the streets talking on the phone.  When I told them I was leaving, their relief was palpable.  It didn’t matter that I was being picked up by a man that I had only recently started dating who would take me to a cottage in the middle of the countryside to stay for an indefinite time period with no transport of my own.

Kindness of the Month:

I made friends with the woman on the allotment next-door and told her everything.  She listened and shared in turn.  Although she was a total stranger, her kindness made that time possible.  She let me sit in her greenhouse when it was raining.  I don’t even know her name.

April: Being a Girlfriend (Kent)

Week 1 at his mum’s “spare cottage” was glorious.  Week 2 the arguments started.  He hated it if I was anything but happy – but not too happy!  Week 3 was bad – we stayed away from each other, and I refused to put on a show for his mother.  He told me that sex with his previous girlfriend had been better than with me – and other similar comments.  When I accidentally broke his mum’s candle holder, he got furious.  When I told him I wanted to leave, he said he wasn’t going to drive me anywhere – I’d have to make my own way – despite being miles from the nearest bus or train station.  I felt trapped.  I’m not ok with being shamed.  I’m not ok with having someone shouting in my face for making a mistake.  I messaged round, and eventually got through to a friend who said he’d love to have me stay and would pick me up.

Kindness of the Month:

I was put into an email group with four women from church of all different ages and stages of life.  Although they were strangers, they sent me the kindest messages, sharing their own experiences, empathising and making suggestions.  I can’t wait to meet them all in person.

May: Being a Friend (Surrey)

My friend picked me up the next day.  As I arrived, I was told, “Make yourself at home and help yourself to anything!”  “Phew!”, I thought, “Finally I can relax!”  It only took a few days before I realised how wrong I was.  My heart sank.  If I spoke on the phone, I was too noisy.  I wasn’t allowed to shower after 8pm or before 9am and I wasn’t allowed downstairs after 10pm.  I was allowed to use one glass and one mug per day and it had to be the short glass and it had to be left on the right of the sink when not in use.  I had to ask before I ate anything, watched anything or listened to music.  I had to eat what I was given – all of it, no excuses.  I was told I was closed-minded, always negative, inflexible and rigid.  I was told off many times a day for every infraction.  After confronting my friend, I was accused of being unkind to him.  This was my lowest ebb, as by now I started to believe the things said.  I started staying in bed all morning and couldn’t sleep at night.  I dreaded the day.  Every minute turned into a battle to distract myself from the desire to self-harm.  After a while, I realised I needed some transport of my own.  I spent days on Autotrader, looking for a sale within walking distance so that I was able to pick it up.  I had saved up for a Masters course which I had just heard had to be postponed a year.  I spent it all on a car so that I could get away.

Kindness of the Month:

I discovered the Daily Writing Challenge – a community of people online who knew nothing of my circumstances but were continually kind and encouraging in their comments and responses.  This community of kind people who I had never met gave me something positive to think about at a time when I needed it most.

June: Being a Sister (Bristol)

I drove to my sister’s house where her 2 month old son, my first nephew who I hadn’t yet met, was waiting for me.  I hadn’t lived with my sister since I was 10, so I didn’t know what to expect, but she and her partner were relentlessly kind to me.  I spent my days there rocking the baby to sleep or wheeling him round and round the garden.  It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know them all better.  I left when I was needed back at school for the end of term.  My sister and I both cried as we said goodbye.

July: Being a Colleague (London)

Coming back to London, I didn’t want to go back to the house where I’d been lodging, so one of my colleagues agreed to put me up in return for some pet-sitting while I sorted out my accommodation.  Other colleagues have provided tea and cake and socially distanced picnics.  Gradually, all their little kindnesses are putting me back together again.

kindness 6

 

NourishEd: Mother, Daughter, Sister, Woman

Four labels, four identities, four experiences. How does the intersectionality of these roles shape me into being the person who I am and who I have become?

I am Hannah. I am a woman who is a daughter and a sister. I am not a mother, but I am a god mother, I am also an aunt. I am a human being who is sisterly.

mother daughter sister woman

Motherhood

A mother is a woman in relation to her child or children –  I always wanted to have kids and thought I would be a mother one day. I am now 41 and single, and I have accepted the fact that that ship has probably sailed. I am not sad but am at peace with that reality. I am not a religious person, but ironically, Hannah is the name of the wife of Elkanah in the Old Testament. Her rival was fertile Peninnah, whilst Hannah was barren. After a blessing from Eli she did become pregnant with Samuel. If I am meant to be a mother, it will happen, and I am open to what that may look like. I have always dated men who have children and I have often considered becoming a foster parent. My own Mum got married at 18, she had me at 20 and my sister at 21. She was a young mum as I grew up, a lot younger than most of my peers’ mothers. Her own mother had passed when I was 3 or 4 years’ old, so she navigated being a young mum without the support of her own mum. My Mum owned and ran a large successful nursery school, so I was already around kids growing up, Gran was also a primary school teacher, so it is probably why I ended up teaching. Mum throws herself headfirst into being a Grandmother, I wonder if it is because she is subconsciously making up for us growing up with that figure in our lives.

To mother is to give birth to but also to bring up (a child) with care and affection. As a teacher, I have been a maternal figure in every school I have worked at. As a Head of Year, a Faculty Leader, the only female in a school as Vice Principal and as the founding Headteacher of 2 schools, I have always mothered my students, my staff. I am nurturing and a matriarch, and I was very much a tiger mum with my team.  So I may not have given birth to lots of the children who I have nurtured over the years, but I have been a maternal presence for them and often get called ‘Mum’ by students in error.

“It is not about how much you do, but how much love

you put into what you do that counts”.

Mother Theresa

Godmotherhood

In the traditional sense, a god mother is a woman who presents a child at baptism and promises to take responsibility for their religious education. I am the God mother for 3 families, 3 of my close girl friends have bestowed the gift of choosing me to play an active role in their children’s lives. To be a god mother these days is to be an additional adult, a role model. I treat all of the children in each family as my god children –  I am an aunt to all of them. Godmother can also be defined as a woman who is influential or pioneering in a movement or organisation. I was not aware of this significance and love this use, I am thus the Godmother of #WomenEd too, a 30,000 strong community of women.

Daughterhood

Daughterhood is the state of being someone’s daughter – I am the eldest daughter or our small family, both my parents are also the eldest. We have all experienced being the firsts in our families. As a teenager my relationship with my Mum was tumultuous, we argued a lot. We are both of a fiery disposition, we are strong willed, opinionated and we are not afraid to articulate our thoughts and feelings. This led to regular fireworks. As I left home to go travelling and then to University, my relationship with my parents changed. They enabled my independence, they encouraged my adventurous outlook, and they supported my career aspirations.  I know they are very proud of everything I have achieved. As I have got older, my Mum and I have found a peace and an ease to our relationship where we seldom argue anymore.

Sisterhood

I have a younger sister, Philippa,  who is 18 months younger than me. In some ways we are chalk and cheese, in other ways, we have a lot in common. At secondary school we often fought, but when I went to University and she moved in with her partner Jon, my now brother-in-law, we became closer. Despite this, I was fiercely protective of her and would always fight her corner – no one was allowed to be unkind to my sister or they would receive the ‘Wilson Wrath’. She is one of my best mates and I would choose to have her in my life, even if we were not related. I know I am lucky to have her as a constant source of emotional support. She is the kinder, gentler, more thoughtful and more free-spirited version of me! She is also a fantastic mother. She married and had kids young, like our own Mum, so it often feels like she is my big sister as she is much more settled and more responsible than I have been.

Sisterhood is not just those who are blood related though. I am lucky to have a lot of sisters in my life, friends where the connection is really and truly deep. My best-friend Zoe emigrated to Canada 10 years ago, but we are as close today as we were then, in some ways we are closer as we make the effort to talk once a week. We make a concerted effort to stay in contact and updated with one another’s lives. I am the god parent of her eldest and visit them each year or we meet on a holiday somewhere in the Americas. I have other ‘sisters’ who are fellow kindred spirits, they are soul sisters and they are my wing women. I am fiercely principled in sisterly conduct and I just do not understand women who are not sisterly in their attitudes and actions. Unsisterly behaviour is a non-negotiable for me in my friendships and working relationships.

Aunt

I have added Aunt as this is a facet of my identity that is really important to me. I am a proud aunt to Flinn and Etta, my sister’s kids. I was there straight after their births and I have been very involved in their early childhoods and a constant presence as they have grown up. I love spending time with them and am proud of the lovely characters they both have. I take my responsibility as their legal guardian very seriously, should anything happen to my sister and my brother-in-law, they have bestowed their trust in me to bring them up with their values. I am also close to my own Aunt – Bec is my Mum’s younger sister and I lived with her for a period when I first became a teacher in London.

Womanhood

I am proud to be a woman and I love the different facets of my identity. My relationships with other women make me the woman I am today. I consider myself very lucky to have so many strong, phenomenal women in my life looking out for me. Founding #WomenEd five years ago opened a flood gate and I have met so many inspiring women: women who have smashed glass ceilings; women who have smashed concrete ceilings; women who have survived tragedy; women who advocate for other women; women who nurture and empower others; women who are pioneers and who trailblaze a different way of being, a different way of leading.

Thank you to all of the phenomenal women I know, you inspire me, you empower me, you challenge me and you nurture me. This poem by my favourite writer is for you all:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

NourishEd: This is How We Look When We Lead

I have always been tall. Well above average in height shall we say. I come from ‘good stock’ it has been said by family friends who are farmers – Dad is 6ft 1 and my Mum’s aunt is also 6ft too, so we have height on both sides of the family. But I am not just tall for a human – I am really tall for a woman. I tower over my female friends and some of my male friends too.

I can remember having friends who were taller than me at primary school and in Key Stage 3. I think I stopped growing around Year 9. My body hit pause, I was tall, but not exceptionally tall at this stage. Then something happened in Year 10. I shot up a few more inches. I became huge. A giant.

Being 6ft 1 when you are 14/15 and growing up in the 1990s in North Devon was hard when it came to clothes. I can remember the pain of clothes shopping as a teenager. My younger sister, by 18 months, is a couple of inches shorter than me, and we have very different body shapes. I have always been curvy, carried a few extra pounds and am all leg (36 inches is my inside leg measurement!) whereas Pip is sportier in her physique and has a long back/ shorter legs. It meant that sharing clothes couldn’t really happen either.  Saturday shopping trips for jeans or black trousers would often lead to arguments and tears.

My Mum is above average height at 5ft6 but she looks like a midget standing next to Dad, my sister and I. We often get comments when we are all together about how she gave birth to such giants.  The human body is an amazing thing! My sister married someone taller than Dad so her family are all very leggy too and her teenager kids will soon tower over all of us. We definitely make an impact when we are all together, as you can’t really miss us as a family unit!

My height has helped me in my sports teams, I played netball, hockey and tennis for various teams at school, college, locally and then for university, often playing up a year due to my physical size. No, I don’t play basketball – a question I get asked a lot… So, my relationship with my height has been very much part of my relationship with myself, my friends, my partners and my career.  After all I don’t know any different, there are some characteristics about our identity which we cannot change and whilst my weight has fluctuated, my hair colour has changed and my dress sense has evolved, my height has been a constant!

But how has my height shaped me as a leader?

I think I have probably taken my height for granted in many ways. Physically I know that I am very present. I am always visible – you can’t really hide when you are this height! I trained in tricky single sex boys’ schools and have always handled myself in busy corridors, playgrounds and have been known to separate many a fight. To be fair I just need to stand up as one of my behaviour management strategies. I know I have not had to work as hard as some of my smaller peers to establish myself, although I have also seen very tall men who are gentle giants who I have had to train and coach to be more present physically, to own their space so it is not always a given that if you are taller behaviour management is easier.

I was promoted early on in my career to Head of Year and I then became a Pastoral Middle Leader (the only female). I moved quickly onto SLT (I have served as the sole female on several male heavy leadership teams). I know my physique and my height, along with my loud voice and my confidence, have empowered me to hold my own. They have been an advantage in my career and perhaps, on reflection, I have experienced less bias than my petiter female friends, as a consequence. I think sometimes my male colleagues forget I am a woman in fact, as I can hold my own with the banter and handle myself with the jostling.

Being tall, leads to different choices about dress code too. I own heels, but I don’t need to wear heels. I used to wear them, and as my corridor stomp is well-known – colleagues and children would hear me before they could see me! But as I have been promoted, my work uniform has evolved and usually consists of a smartish dress with flat daps/ ballet shoes so I don’t suffer with sore feet,  and so I can run around schools all day –  as a school leader I was usually seen chasing a runaway down a corridor or up a stair case! When I worked under men who were shorter than me, I consciously wore flat shoes so as not to overpower them. They didn’t know this, but it was out of respect as I knew they had an invisible chip on their shoulders about their height. However, if they pissed me off, the next day I would come in wearing heels as symbolic gesture!  I can remember at my second school I had a friend who had the same stature as me, our Headteacher was a small irritating man. The two of us were a tag team and would walk a corridor either side of him, hemming him in, if we needed to challenge anything.

So, my height has served me well as a leader, it has empowered me to be visible, to be present and to manage behaviour. Moreover, it has enabled me to hold my own as a woman in a male heavy space.  Being tall has served my professional life well as it makes teaching and leading easier, whereas in my personal life it has been more problematic, but that’s a different story!

Some days I do feel like Gulliver in Lilliput. Travelling to Singapore in my 20s with a university friend, I felt like I was in a circus freak show. And, really, I should be rich for the number of times I have been asked “what’s the weather like up there?” Most of the time I can laugh it off, and after a few drinks in a bar if I get a “big lass” comment they usually get a retort along the lines of “rude git”. It is in those moments where you catch your reflection when you are standing next to a smaller colleague or you see a group picture and you are towering above everyone else that remind you that you stand out. It could make me self-conscious, and perhaps it did when I was younger, but I have worked through that and accepted myself for who I am.

I would say that my relationship with my weight has been less positive. Being tall and carrying weight is a double whammy. At school as a child I was bullied by a group of bitchy girls who called me BFG (“Big F***ing Ginger”) and the worse thing I have been called by a kid is a “Fat Bitch”. Although I think my retort at the time was: “whilst I might be fat, I am far from a bitch!” It has taken me longer to find peace with my body shape, my curves, and my weight. I don’t think my weight has impacted my leadership though. It is just who I am, I am comfortable in my skin and I have a strong sense of self. As a teacher and as a leader I have supported a lot of students struggling with their self-identity and their body image. I know I was lucky to have a strong family support network, so my self-esteem and self-confidence have always been high.

As for my hair colour, we were ginger when we growing up, so my sister and I were on the receiving end of all of the schoolyard taunts. My sister fared it worse than me as she has curly hair too. The jibes cut her a lot deeper than they did me. I have always had thicker skin than her, and in defending her, I learnt to accept myself, I think. When I went to university, I started to dye my hair and lost the ginger hues, and as I have aged, my hair has become naturally darker. Women don’t tend to comment on other women’s hair colour but some of the male leaders I have worked with, especially those who were threatened by me, did make comments about me being a feisty redhead, so I guess I have had to navigate some of the stereotypes that come with that too. I can remember watching an episode of Graham Norton and he had a couch of stunning redheads on it, and Julianne Moore shared her fascination with the British slurs for being a ‘ginga’ whereas in the US redheads are seen as being exotic. An interesting change in lens on what we value about difference in how we look.

Personal identity is interwoven with professional identity. Our leadership self is a fusion of how we look and how we behave, with what we know and what we create. Being myself, being authentic – being a tall, curvy, ginger – is who I am. I accept that, I own that, I am proud of that.

CollectivEd: Mentoring Matters

How can we align our Early Career Teachers offers across groups of schools?

Crossing the boundary from being a school leader to working in teacher training in a Higher Education Institution has challenged my perspective on many things including how we train our teachers and who trains them.

Throughout my career I have volunteered to mentor and coach others, for free. Throughout my career I have invested time, energy and resource into the development of others, for free.  It’s what we do isn’t it? We give ourselves, our skills our experience to others to help them on their paths.

When I moved into a system leadership role in a MAT to lead on our Teaching Schools’ activity and align it with our SCITT I scrutinised the consistency of our offer to staff. When you join a family of schools you expect there to be some equity in experience and opportunity across the schools. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because people talk! People share and compare their context, their contract to others.

We had 200+ trainee teachers each year, and the same again as NQTs and then as RQTs. Across our 42 schools we had at least 500 Early Career Teachers each academic year. Working with my colleagues who led each part of our professional learning provision we summarised our offer:

  • The ITT Entitlement
  • The NQT Entitlement
  • The RQT Entitlement

Each were a simple one page overview of the consistent offer each group of trainees would receive, ranging from contact time, to mentoring time, to lesson observations and peer observations, CPD opportunities. Alongside this we set out the support on other such as technological devices, socials and welfare packages. It all existed, it just needed writing down, tweaking and a few inconsistencies ironing. Each document then went to the Headteachers’ Board for approval and all of our schools committed to the agreement.

When I moved from one large MAT to a medium size one, also with a Teaching School and a SCITT, I repeated the process again. It made sense to make things coherent, cohesive and consistent across a group of schools with shared values and practices.

On reflection, on both occasions I neglected to initiate the same parity, the same attention, for the mentors. I had hundreds of early career teachers on my mind, as my focus. I was forgetting that this number doubles when you take into consideration the needs of the mentors who are the ones nurturing them.

It wasn’t until I co-led the mentoring training for our PGCE and fielded questions from the floor about how much time they, the mentors, needed a week to support our trainee teachers through our distance learning course that I realised my mistake. I had 200 pairs of eyes on me. I had 200 sets of ears listening to me. They had come to the training, some willingly, some begrudgingly. They knew what was expected of them and their trainees. But what about them? What did they get for their efforts? Who was going to inform their Headteachers and SLTs of what their needs were?

I put out a series of tweets that night as I reflected on this to explore the common experience to probe further:

  • How many mentors are given extra time to mentor?
  • How many mentors are given extra money to mentor?
  • How many mentors are given extra training to mentor?
  • How many mentors volunteer to mentor?
  • How many mentors are told they have to mentor?

The responses were quite stark. The school system is not looking after our mentors.

In my role as Head of Secondary Teacher Training I am often invited to speak at educational events. A recurring theme is to talk about how schools can support the mental health and wellbeing of our early career teachers. I can talk passionately about this, but I have started to flip how I frame it to amplify the message that:

If we look after our mentors, then they will look after our trainees.

Schools should not have a focus on our early career teachers at the expenses of our mentors, who are often juggling leadership positions and remits, team management and their own families too.

So, as we plan for the next academic year, I invite you to consider the following question:

What is the incentive to be a mentor in your school?

I would propose you need to consider the following as part of your Mentoring Entitlement:

  • Time – mentors need to meet their trainee for 1 hour a week, they need to observe their trainee once a week, they therefore need a timetable reduction.
  • Training – mentoring and coaching is an art, if your provider offers training they need to be released to attend it, or they need to source their own training which the school needs to fund.
  • Meetings – the weekly mentoring meeting needs to be protected so that both the mentor and the mentee know it will happen weekly.
  • Cover – the mentor needs to see the trainee teach in a range of classes, they will need some cover of some of their lessons in order to be released to do this.
  • Observations – the bulk of observations need to be done by the mentor, but other colleagues in that subject, specialists such as EAL/ SENCO and Senior Leaders could and should share this load too.
  • CPD – schools who have centralised professional learning effectively and efficiently align the training needs of early career teachers, a weekly training slot with a rotating facilitator will save time and energy but will also align messages.
  • Devices – don’t assume that everyone has access to a laptop, to be more time and energy efficient if the mentor has a school device they can type observations as they go and draft termly reports on the trainee’s progress from home.
  • Admin – being a mentor is admin heavy, whether the documents are hard copies or virtual they need time to read, type and verify evidence – this takes time!
  • Deadlines – schools are deadline heavy places, be mindful that mentoring incurs additional external deadlines too – add them all on the school calendar so SLT are aware of external deadlines when setting internal ones.
  • Workload – being a mentor is one more thing to juggle, and depending on your trainee’s temperament, performance and progress, the amount of support needed can be significant.
  • Wellbeing – increase in workload, affects the wellbeing of colleagues, no matter how experienced they are, keep oversight of how the role affects the mentor as well as the mentee.
  • Supervision – often the mentor is the first port of call for disclosures when trainees are experiencing personal issues or their mental health deteriorates, who is checking in on their mental health and wellbeing?
  • TLR – most whole school responsibilities have a financial incentive attached to them, some providers pay for school placements, mentors should be recompensed for this important role with a fixed term TLR for the year.
  • HR – as an organisation you need Job Descriptions and Person Specifications to state your expectations of your mentors, this will enable you mentors to have clarity about their role and they can then be held to account.
  • Line Management – when schools have multiple trainees from multiple providers and pathways, it can get really complicated, the mentors need to be a team who come together under a professional learning leader who oversees all activity and who is a conduit to SLT.
  • Network – connecting mentors across a school or across a MAT enables them to peer support and share what is working with each other.
  • Progression – for staff aspiring to become Lead Practitioners, Specialist Leaders of Education or be trained as a coach, mentoring is a great stepping stone. Consider building mentoring opportunities into your progression map for staff progression.

As we move into our summer term and plan staffing for next year, as we review our budgets and confirm our allocation of trainees, as we draft our timetables please also consider the entitlement of our mentors.

As a system we know we have a recruitment issue, moreover we have a retention issue, perhaps we can mend the leaky pipeline of early career teacher attrition if we invest more in our mentors.

Oprah Winfrey Quote: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see ...

 

 

CollectivEd: Virtual Reality Mentoring – co-authored by David Gumbrell and I

The brain doesn’t draw a distinction between the real and the imagined.

Jared Horvath

If the definition of ‘virtual’ is near, and the definition of ‘reality’ is what you experience as a human being, then the experience of ‘virtual reality’ is close to the feelings, senses and emotions of being in that situation. What you see and hear combines to provide an experience that is channelled through your emotional brain. As you appreciate this world and assimilate your sensory inputs, you are tagging experiences to feelings.

If mentoring is empathising, supporting, encouraging and improving performance, then how is that experience in terms of feelings, senses and emotions? The mentor cannot maximise skills and realise potential if the experience, channelled through the emotional brain, is not positive. If the mentee is assimilating negative sensory inputs, they will be tagging those to the event. This can have lasting effects if done inadvertently – or deliberately.

If we are to create a Virtual Reality mentoring experience, what are the feelings that we seek to engender and nurture, and which should we do our best to avoid?  To be effective, there needs to be an emotional connection. Mentoring is a feelings and values-driven process. Mentors need to consider how to start building this relationship, in a virtual way, with their mentees from September.

Actively Listening

As mentors, as we listen deeply, we need to listen to what is being said and how it is being said. We gain clarity by listening to understand, instead of listening to interject. We can tease out answers and help make sense of confusion and uncertainty by listening, mirroring back what is said and building confidence in the speaker. The speaker will be better able to communicate their feelings and articulate their concerns as they become comfortable in this virtual space; the dynamic will be strengthened as their confidence grows in both the listening and the speaking. As mentors, we also listen for what is not being said. We can help make connections and join up the dots. Active listening is supportive, reassuring and emotionally intelligent. By listening carefully and deeply, we seek to alleviate worries, concerns, anxieties and doubt. A virtual mentor is a listening ear attached to a friendly face.

Active listening is tiring because we are not used to doing it. All too often, we listen superficially rather than intently, distracted by other things on our mind or the worry that time is pressing. Listening to someone and sensitively responding to them allows them to feel confident and builds trust that you are there for them. Mentors have to listen hard to pick up nuances, key words, and the way things are being said as well as what is being said. Being skilled at this takes time and dedication; mentors have to overcome the urge to judge, speak, advise and talk at length. There is time for them to do this, but the proportion of the mentee speaking should be greater than that of the mentor. It is a fine balance to strike, but effective mentors can do this. The emotional brain can enjoy the reality of being in this safe space, as they feel that someone is listening carefully. There is no concern that they are there reluctantly, or because they just have a job to do.

Building Trust

As mentors, we are trusted to nurture the trainee teachers by the senior leaders. The mentees equally place trust in us. In any mentoring or coaching relationship, it is important to contract how this relationship is established, maintained and nourished. The more trust you instil, the more secure your mentee will feel. The more confident they are in the mentoring relationship, the more relaxed they will be in sharing what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Moreover, they will become open in disclosing what they are struggling with, both personally and professionally. Trust is the lynchpin of all relationships, but is built over time, and normally through face-to-face experiences. Consider relationships that you have formed virtually and how trust has been established. Meeting as human beings first, establishing rapport as individuals and getting to know each other is an emotional investment in the mentoring process which will enable this relationship to flourish.

Trustful relationships take time to build. Trust in relationships takes no time to break. The skill of a mentor is one who is able to construct that relationship and allow the mentee to relax in their presence. Through reassurance and actions holding true in the future, the integrity of the relationship begins to strengthen. Underpinned by values, the relationship itself is valued. Once attained, it can be developed and nurtured, and can have a significant effect on the effectiveness on that partnership to engage in professional dialogue that is both impactful and empowering. Positively conveyed, a trustful relationship can gain traction more easily and make the changes that are needed to the pedagogy and practice. In this virtual reality, there is little resistance to change, as the mentee feels secure under the guidance of their mentor as their trusted guide. Without trust there is insecurity, doubt and nervousness to proceed. Mistrusting the advice leads to a lack of engagement and thus opportunities to develop can be missed.

Identifying Goals

Goal-setting guides the mentee on their journey, and mentors support in co-creating space and co-constructing goals, thus enabling the mentee to have more ownership over their development. Individuals are empowered and have more agency when they have been involved in the processing of articulating goals and choosing which goals to prioritise. Simon Sinek talks about ‘the Why, the How and the What’ of communication. As a mentor, when goal-setting with your mentee, consider defining the ‘why’, agreeing the ‘what’, but enabling the mentee to choose the ‘how’. The more open the discussion, the more freedom there is to explore and discover the authentic way for the individual to rise to the challenge.  Confidence heightened, they will be able to learn and to grow at their own rate and in their own way. Goals can be big, or they can be small, dependent on their starting point and their context. Some goals will need challenging to be more audacious, and others will need reining in to be more realistic.

In identifying goals, we are giving a direction of travel to reach a new place – an agreed, desirable destination. All too often, goals can be imposed, delivered or given. Sometimes labelled as aspirational, they can sometimes feel impossible, especially when there are no signposts to help to support the journey to that place. As an effective mentor, you need to be looking to get agreement on the signposting, rather than the destination. Getting to checkpoint one, two and three, rather than getting to the end. In presenting it in this way, you will be striking a balance between realism and guidance – whilst not telling or not imposing. At each checkpoint, you will feel differently about the destination. You can take stock, reflect on how far your mentee has come, and prepare for the next step. In setting the reality, you as the mentor can fix these parameters and yet allow space for the mentee to experiment, experience and discover the route for themselves too. Good mentors pave the path rather than erecting the signposts that guide others on their way.

Being Realistic

As mentors, we bring our experience and our wisdom to the relationship. We help to anchor ideas, centre feelings and locate the abstract in the concrete. Being realistic, the voice of reason and pragmatic will create a sense of calm for your mentee. A sense of realism will enable them to keep perspective and reduce their feeling of overwhelm. They need you to be a calming physical presence whether in school or virtually. Creating a safe space, a calm environment and a regular opportunity to share agitations will enable conversations to explore the subjective and move to the objective. It is a human need to want to belong, and to be seen and heard. The virtual mentoring space does this. Moreover, in lockdown and in bubbles, we know that there is a sense of social isolation where the negative can quickly become amplified; the virtual mentoring space is an outlet for your mentee to diffuse their negative thoughts and feelings, which you can help them reframe.

A sense of realism can evoke a feeling of not being threatened. The most productive emotional state to be working in is when both mentor and mentee feel calm and focused on a positive outcome. Contextualisation can bring this realism and map targets against the backdrop of the school setting for the pupils. It is easier to ‘buy-in’ to the plan if the mentee feels they are being supported to succeed, rather than doomed to fail. Encouragement to be the best they can be is different to trying to achieve perfection; we are all imperfect, vulnerable human beings after all. In this atmosphere, your mentee’s sensory inputs are now reassuring them that they can do this, that is it possible and that it is realistic. No longer agitated, they feel empowered and positive, wanting to get started on this realistic journey to a new place in their teaching.

Empowering Others

Empowering others is one of the primary roles of being a mentor or a coach. Creating the conditions for early career teachers to grow, learn and flourish is a careful balancing act. Mentors need to carefully walk the tightrope between being supportive and providing structure, whilst giving enough freedom and space to experiment. Part of the ‘reflective practice cycle’ is to experiment and explore, to be able to make mistakes in a high challenge, low threat culture. Risk-taking can be inhibited by the fear of failure; opportunities for personal and professional growth can be restricted when we strive for perfectionism. Mentors need to guide their mentees and help them navigate their journey; but the mentee needs to be the one who is firmly in the driving seat. Sitting next to them, like the supportive driving instructor, you empower them to be in control and enable them to learn the ropes. Positive and constructive feedback will keep them stay future-focused and solution-oriented. Your presence is the crucial source of encouragement.

To increase the level of autonomy for your mentee is a desirable aim for all mentors, and yet sometimes this could be given more of a priority. Rather than ‘doing it for them’ we would be much better placed to move to ‘being there for them’. Motivation is key to reaching any goal and autonomy is the greatest motivator of all. The feelings evoked when one is offered control can be empowering, exhilarating and enjoyable. With your mentee intrinsically motivated, you can then guide, support, and regulate that enthusiasm to help them reach their goals. By tapping into this desire, you are both going to maintain a much faster pace of growth, productivity and effectiveness in meeting high standards in the end.

Investing Time

Mentoring is often an expectation that is not recompensed with additional time nor money. It is a ‘going above and beyond’ accolade that brings rewards through the satisfaction of nurturing other people – but it can feel like another pressure to shoe-horn into your busy schedule. To be an effective mentor, you need to project manage both yourself and your mentee. Consider the good habits you want to instil in your mentee and ensure that you model these to them. Valuing the process will require an investment of time and energy. Being highly organised and an effective communicator will ensure that the year goes smoothly. Make Outlook (or your preferred diary system) your friend and schedule everything: every mentor meeting, lesson observation, peer observation, report deadline, training session. Allocate time each week to meet, to reflect, to review and to evaluate. Little and often will ensure that you both stay on top of the process. Alongside the formal meetings, consider how else to show your mentee that you value this relationship and that you are invested in them.

Time is precious and thus a valuable gift to offer someone else. As a mentor, you have to be prepared to give the time. When you feel like wriggling out of the formal mentor meeting, you need to reframe and be enthusiastically in that space. If they need you, you have to be willing to set your own agenda on hold and to be there for them. For them, this will evoke a feeling of being valued. Not in a monetary sense but valued as a human being and valued as a teacher learning the trade. A mentor/mentee relationship needs investment for it to pay out. Lack of investment pays with lack of dividends at the end. Well-placed investment can reap rewards for both parties. Both can learn, benefit and feel better for having this shared time together. Rather than feeling onerous and the mentee feeling unwanted, mentors need to work hard to evoke feelings in their mentor that their time is being spent with them unequivocally. Switching the mindset from ‘having to be there’, to ‘wanting to be there’ is helpful. Time spent effectively is time well spent.

Showing Empathy

Before you engage with your mentee, take some time to reflect on your motivations for joining the profession. Jot down some of your thoughts and feelings about your own experiences as a student teacher, as a newly qualified teacher and as a recently qualified teacher. Identify the highs and the lows as you started your journey; consider who supported you, recognise what had the biggest impact on your progress, your confidence and your fulfilment. Mentoring is a values-driven, feelings-driven and relationship-driven process. To be an effective mentor, there needs to be a strong emotional connection with your mentee. This connection will be established and nurtured through your emotional intelligence and your empathy. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will be able to meet them where they are on their journey. Be mindful that it is likely that the profession has changed, the school system has changed, society has changed since you trained – so be contextually-literate to the current pressures and demands placed on them.

Showing empathy is not doing it for them and it is not aiming to make them emulate you. Rather, it is to guide their thinking and encourage them to be the best teacher they can be. When we have to judge, we need to feed back with sensitivity. When we meet, we acknowledge the time commitment to that meeting and use that time effectively. When we offer advice, it is done with a warmth that is not going to wrangle, but rather produce a positive reaction from the early career teacher. An empathetic mentor will be able to significantly impact on classroom practice because the mentee will feel empowered to action the changes that evolve within your meetings.

In Summary

The experience of ‘virtual reality’ is to be close to the feelings, senses and emotions of being in any situation. This piece aims to identify the key elements that would be needed for any mentor/mentee relationship that seeks to engender these positive proactive emotions with a view to them manifesting in classroom practice. For the relationship to be productive, the suggested actions in this article need to be the priority for you as the mentor. Aim to put them front and foremost at every meeting – and a successful partnership is highly likely, even if created in a virtual reality.

Virtual reality

The #DailyWritingChallenge Day 101: Reflections

At the start of lockdown I decided to use writing to create a positive daily habit and to also help me process my emotions about what was going on in the world. I started the #DailyWritingChallenge with the pledge to write every day, it was a pledge to myself.

I shared this idea on Twitter and lots asked if they could join me. Within a few weeks the DM group was bursting at its seams and I was starting a 2nd one as more and more people were asking to get involved.

The format was simple, each day I would share a one word, values-based theme. I would tweet it and anyone could post a piece of writing: blog, story, poem inspired by it. Each person who blogged shared their post in the DM group, and connections were formed as we each read, reflected on, discussed and shared each other’s contributions. I collated the group for each theme and put them in a thread for the day. I think one day we had 30 submissions. Sue Webb then very kindly published each collection on the VbE website.

I love the traction this simple idea has gained. A lot of new people have stepped into the blogging space, finding their voice and growing in confidence with each contribution. My morning ritual has definitely served me well in creating a routine and keeping me connected.

Acorn Quotes About Seedlings. QuotesGram80 Best Acorns & Oak Trees images in 2020 | Oak tree, Acorn and ...

Who knew when we started how many days we would be writing for and how cathartic this would be?

Who knew how this community would blossom and how many new friendships would be formed?

Who knew we would have contributors from all walks of life and from Canada to Nigeria?  

Who knew what a positive daily habit we were creating and how stimulating reflecting on a word a day would be? 

A lot of people asked me how I chose the themes. I am an organiser and a planner. I collapsed a load of values lists I found on the internet and began to group them into 5s for each week (we wrote Mon-Fri). I kept a few key themes in my back pocket, like ‘Hope’ for when we really needed it.

Being aware of what was going on in the world, in our schools and in our lives I then shaped our reflections for the week thematically. Here are the 100 themes from the #DailyWritingChallenge for your reference:

#DailyWritingChallenge themes People dipped in and out as they had capacity and inclination. There was no pressure to read them all nor to write every day, everyone set their own rhythm. Some people methodically plodded through the themes and looped back to close gaps. I know many intend to revisit the themes before they joined us, or the themes they missed when schools reopened and life got busy again.

I think I was the only one who wrote on all 100 themes, not that it was a competition with anyone apart from with myself. Some themes were easy to write about and they flowed out of my fingers, others were harder and made my brain hurt. Some themes that were symbolic to me did not resonate with others, some blogs I rushed and was not proud of became the ones that got the most likes and comments.

I still have a list of at least another 20 to go through at my leisure. For reference here are my top 10 most read blogs:

  1. Day 18: Freedom
  2. Day 56: Boldness
  3. Day 1: Kindness
  4. Day 7: Friendship
  5. Day 38: Authenticity 
  6. Day 59: Safety
  7. Day 27: Perspective
  8. Day 48: Compassion
  9. Day 33: Love 
  10. Day 64: Agency

I have received some lovely comments from people who have been involved saying thank you for initiating it, for creating this space and for bringing people together. It has been such a pleasure to do so. Thank you to everyone who got involved, the writers, the readers and the amplifiers.

thank you for bring so many wonderful souls into my life. I hope you know the impact you’ve had on me. You’re a wonderful human being and it’s a pleasure and honour to be a part of the #DailyWritingChallenge family”.

Baar Hersi

“Thank you so much Hannah for giving us all something to think about and be part of. Although I haven’t had the time to write for a while, it’s been fantastic to read the blogs. 100 blogs is impressive too. Amazing work!”

Mark Chatley

“So powerful, Hannah (your last blog). I really do hope we continue as humans in our « quest » and in our listening…« The year the earth paused. The year time was suspended. The year humanity looked up. The year humanity listened. The year humanity focused. » thank you SO much for organizing this and all the behind the scenes work you put in… huge hugs”.

Hugging face
Jennifer McDougall

“A wonderful final blog, Hannah, ending an incredible 100 days which have had a huge impact on many levels for many people. Thank you for your vision, actions, words ….and for your HUGE humanity!”

Two hearts

Inspirational reads by so many awesome bloggers….thank you all.

Sue Webb

Many people have asked for it to carry on but I feel like 100 days is a good place to stop. We will be launching the #MonthlyWritingChallenge at the end of August though so watch out for that and get involved!

#MonthlyWritingChallenge

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 100: Humanity

noun. human beings collectively; the quality of being humane; benevolence.
Humanity comes from the Latin humanitas for “human nature, kindness.” 
Humanity. Human nature. Human kind. 
What have we learned about ourselves as humans in the last few months?
2020 is the year we will not forget in a hurry.
The year the world stopped. The year the earth paused. The year time was suspended.
The year humanity looked up. The year humanity listened. The year humanity focused.
I have said many a time to friends and family over the last few months that I feel like I am on the Truman Show and one of these days I will find the ladder, the exit and the sky will be peeled back to reveal life has been going on without me.
If everything we experience is a lesson, and everything is an opportunity to learn and grow, what has this situation taught us?  
Prior to the global pandemic, prior to the lockdown, what state was our humanity in?
How has, and how will, our humanity change as a result of this collective experience?
How has our lens changed and how will we see things differently moving forwards?  
humanity 3
Humanity is the entire human race, every being who exists on Earth.
Humanity is the feelings humans often have for each other.
Humanity is the characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy.
Humanity means caring for and helping others whenever and wherever possible.
Humanity means helping others at times when they need that help the most.
Humanity means forgetting our selfish interests at times when others need our help.
Humanity means extending unconditional love to each and every living being on Earth.
Humanity is a virtue associated with the ethics of altruism derived from the human condition.
Humanity is about helping others, understanding others and empathising with others.
Humanity is symbolised through human love and compassion towards each other.
Humanity is the strength of individual commitment and the force of collective action.
Humanity relieves suffering, ensures respect for human dignity and creates a more humane society.
Humanity can be shown in many different ways – by helping, by supporting, by sharing.
Humanity is underpinned by  Empathy… Compassion… Gratitude… Kindness… Respect… Humility…
Humanity is a virtue.

Humanity 4

We are human beings, not human doings. We sometimes need to remind ourselves of that. For me lockdown has reminded me to give myself time and permission to just be. It has given me a lot of time to reflect. The thinking and the writing space has helped me to explore some of life’s big questions:
Who am I? What do I do? Why do I do it? What is my purpose? What impact do I have? What will my legacy be?  What kind of human being do I want to be? How do I want to be remembered? 
Who we are… What we do… How we show up… What we share… Everything is a choice.
We need to have faith.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean is dirty; the ocean does not become dirty”.
Mahatma Gandhi 
We need to serve others.
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity”.
Leo Tolstoy 
We need to be compassionate. 
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive”.
Dalai Lama
Humanity 5
Thank you to everyone who has written, read, reflected, discussed & championed our growing series of blogs for the #DailyWritingChallenge. It has been a privilege & a pleasure to initiate and curate. I have loved reading all of your posts and amplifying so many new voices. You all have a very special place in my heart for how we have supported each other through the last few months. The writing process has been self-care for me and a cathartic process, I know it has helped a lot of you manage the emotional rollercoaster too. The love from the community has brought me so much joy.
humanity 2

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 99: Belonging

noun. an affinity for a place or situation.
To have affinity is to have a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something.
To belong is be the property of  or to be a member of (a particular group or organisation).
We all want to belong. We all want to feel an affinity for a place or situation. We all we want to belong as equal members.
We long to be seen.
We long to be heard.
We long to be accepted.
We long to be valued.
We long to be loved.
We long to…be.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”.
Maya Angelou 
We want children to belong in our classrooms. We want want colleagues to belong in our workplaces. We want individuals to belong in our communities. We want to citizens to belong in our society.
When we belong we are healthier and we are happier.
When we belong we take less sick days.
When we belong we stay in roles for longer.
When we belong we perform better at work.
So how do we create, build and nurture a sense of belonging? How do we create inclusive cultures where everyone belongs? How do we build a sense of affinity?
To build a sense of belonging requires active effort and practice. One way to work on increasing our sense of belonging is to look for ways we are similar with others instead of focusing on ways we are different.
Three ways we can create  a sense of belonging for others:
  1. Establishing trust
  2. Developing a rapport
  3. Managing our impact
Feeling like an outsider can create a greater sense of loneliness.
Four steps to achieve a greater sense of belonging:
  1. Challenging our core beliefs
  2. Practising unconditional self-acceptance
  3. Making room for “and”
  4. Prioritising healing ourselves
We all need to feel that we ‘belong’ somewhere – fostering this feeling in our employees  can make all the difference when it comes to building an effective team.
Four ways to foster belonging in the workplace have emerged from research:
  1. Creating allies at work
  2. Engineering empathy-building experiences
  3. Encouraging healthy interactions
  4. Processing exclusion verbally

As educators, we all want to create a sense of belonging for the children we teach.

Seven ways to foster belonging in the classroom:

  1. Making introductions immediately and get started on the right foot
  2. Prioritising high-quality teacher-student relationships
  3. Creating a supportive and caring learning environment
  4. Being sensitive to students’ needs and emotions
  5. Setting standards and expectations for discourse
  6. Showing interest in students
  7. Fostering a sense of community in the classroom by establishing classroom respect and fair treatment
To belong is more than being tolerated, it is being accepted and celebrated.
To belong is to be included, to be welcomed, to be loved.
To belong is to feel secure, to feel stable and to feel safe.
Definitions | Brené Brown
When we belong we are authentic.
“True belonging does not require that we change who we are;
it requires that we be who we are”.
Brene Brown 
When we belong we are courageous.
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect”.
Brene Brown
When we belong we are at peace.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other”.
Mother Theresa
Diversity, equity and inclusion are the words of the moment in our world.
Belonging is found in the space at the intersection.
Belonging is every individual’s ideas mattering.
Belonging is everyone’s identity being represented.
Belonging is power being distributed equally.
Belonging is everyone being valued.
Belonging: A Conversation about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion ...
A quote I use a lot as it is a great metaphor about being seen is:
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being invited to dance”.
Verna Myers 
But I also like this variation about being heard:
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, belonging is having that voice be heard”. 
Liz Fosslien 
Let’s all reflect on our own sense of belonging but also on how we create belonging for others around us too.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 98: Justice

noun. just behaviour or treatment; a judge or magistrate. 
Justice, in its broadest sense is the principle that people receive that which they deserve; with the interpretation of what then constitutes “deserving” being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.
Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, is a common symbol on courthouses in and inside some court rooms. She symbolises fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice.
How do we do justice to the theme of justice? I am not sure I have the bandwidth today to go deep into this theme, so I will start sharing my thoughts and I will then return to develop them later…
Is our world just?
My world is and always has been just. However, my world is white. I live in a privileged bubble where I do not experience prejudice and I am not discriminated against. I am straight, white, heterosexual, cisgender and able bodied. I care about and am committed to social justice as an ally, but I am painfully aware that justice does not always prevail.
Judgement
Justice is the result of the application of the law of the land. I have never been a juror, but the jury are a sworn group of people who are convened to make a judgement. The jury decide the penalty of a law being broken, and following their verdict they serve justice.
With the focus on unconscious bias in the education system and in recruitment processes, there is data being published in the UK this week about the disproportionate number of black children being excluded compared to their white peers. Meanwhile in the US the for-profit prison system is incarcerating a disproportionate number of black men.
How does the justice system address the social stereotypes and the biases at play to ensure that judgements are fair and just?
“Justice and judgement is often a world apart”.
Emmeline Pankhurst
Universe
We would all like to think that the universe is on the side of justice. Justice relies on integrity – on the universe imparting what is right and what is wrong. Justice relies on perspective, but perspective comes from knowledge and experience.
There is a proverb that says “The more laws the less justice”.
Do we have too many laws? Do we disempower ownership of behaviour and consequences through the red tape?
This can be linked to schools with too many rules. In a school or  society founded on global human values, the culture and ethos is based on contracting withing the community about how we treat each other.
Justice is thus about relationships, commitments and accountability. A commitment from us as individuals, a collective pledge re how we behave and interact, and how the universe holds us accountable.
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.
Martin Luther King
Society
We all aspire to living in a just world, in a fair society, but we don’t. In fact the social inequities are becoming starker.
Justice requires those with privilege, those with advantage, those with dominance to relinquish some of the power that they hold.
The privileged, the advantaged, the dominant have established the systems and structures that trap the marginalised in the injustice.
How can we address the imbalance in society? How can encourage the privileged to reflect on the power they hold? How can we hold the people with power to account?
The are 5 principles of Social Justice: Access (greater equality of access to goods and services); Equity (overcoming unfairness caused by unequal access to economic Resources and power); Rights (equal effective legal, industrial and political rights); Participation (expanded opportunities for real participation in the decisions which govern their lives).
One of the ways of addressing the power imbalances within society is through advocacy.
“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both”.
Eleanor Roosevelt
Truth
Justice is based on truth, on what really happened. A basic problem in law is that facts are usually contested. The legal process is designed to uncover the truth of what happened, and perjury is a serious offence.
How do we establish the truth? Who’s truth is the truth as there is your truth, my truth and somewhere in the middle there is ‘The Truth’? 
Truth in the law means objective, reliable facts that may be admitted as evidence in a trial. Yet, some critical theory philosophy rejects the idea of justice because it rejects the existence of truth.
The Socratic vision of justice is of natural law. Natural law is a theory in ethics and philosophy that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern our reasoning and behavior. Natural law maintains that these rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by society or court judges.
“Truth never damages a cause that is just”.
Mahatma Ghandi
Interpretation
Justice requires human interpretation. The situation and the facts are reviewed and interpreted through the lens of the law.
How do we interpret the law? How do we perceive justice in society?
I dabble with having card readings to help me clarify my thinking. In Tarot card readings the Justice card indicates that the fairest decision will be made. Justice is the sword that cuts through a situation, and will not be swayed by outer beauty when deciding what is fair and just. The meaning of the card is interpreted differently dependent on which way it faces. The perspective of the judge alters our view of the situation.
“Justice is invisible. You can’t decide who gets civil rights and who doesn’t”.
Angela Davis
Concepts
Justice is underpinned by different concepts and theoretical frameworks.
Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which one of the responses to a crime is to organise a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community.
As a school we embraced restorative justice instead of a punitive sanctions policy. Restorative justice is about finding resolutions and about learning from our mistakes.
How do we teach morality in schools? How do we instill morals in our children? How do our morals guide our behaviour? How do our morals shape our sense of justice?
“Justice is the sum of the moral duty”.
William Godwin
Equity
Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges.
Social equity is concerned with justice and fairness of social policy.
Social policy is policy within a governmental or political setting, such as the welfare state and study of social services. Social policy consists of guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare, such as a person’s quality of life.
Social advocacy is the concept of empowering a team or group of individuals to support an idea, need, person, or group.
In #FastForwardDiversityInclusion this weekend we talked to Dr Fran Johnston, a researcher and transformative change leader. She stated we can judge the success of an organisation or a society by how they treat the marginalised.
How do we fight for social justice as an individual? How do we advocate for social equity? How do we challenge social policy?   
“Justice will be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.
Benjamin Franklin
This theme has made my head hurt today. It is our 98th day, it has been a long few months and I am tired, but it is when we are tired that we slow down, that we step back and that we can lose momentum. Let’s stay focused, committed and purposeful to address the injustices in the world.
“Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Martin Luther King

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 97: Challenge

noun. a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength; a call to prove or justify something.
verb. dispute the truth or validity of; invite (someone) to engage in a contest.
The global pandemic has been a challenge. The challenge has been complying to lockdown. The way we choose to live our lives has been challenged.
We have been challenged personally and professionally. We have been challenged individually and collectively. We have been challenged mentally, physically and emotionally.
What have we learned from the challenge? How have we grown as a result of the challenge?
A challenge:
Different people respond to different challenges in different ways. As a competitive person I like rising to the challenge, but in areas where I know I can potentially excel. Challenge me in an area out of my experience, my expertise or my comfort zone and I might not be as up for it.
A challenge is a situation we find ourselves in, posed to us by someone else. To receive a challenge is to have an opponent, someone to compete against. Sometimes a challenge is posed by ourselves to ourselves, we compete against ourselves.
Who are we a challenge for? How much do we allow ourselves to grow when a challenge is given to us? How selective are we in each challenges we take on?
A challenge can be learning a new skill or flexing an old one.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson  
A challenge can make us look at things differently.
“Challenges are what makes life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”.
Joshua Marine
A challenge I have recently faced is having a lodger, and his partner, trapped in my house with me during lockdown. I have lived by myself for a few years, I love my own company and my own space. Having not one, but two people, in my space, all day every day had its challenges, but we made it work.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on how my lifestyle serves me. 
The Challenge:
We face challenges day in and day out. We rise to them consciously and sub-consciously. There are challenges with a small c and there are challenges with a big C.
The Challenge is an obstacle or a barrier. It is something bigger than us. It is something out of our control.  It is something to fight against.
The Challenge is systemic. It is structural. It is societal.
The Challenge is limiting. It is the double standards. It is the inequities. It is the injustice. It is the missing rung on the ladder. It is the reinforced ceiling.
How aware are we of the scale of the challenges we face? How often do we compare our challenges to the challenges of others? Do we check the privilege of the challenges we face?
The challenges we rise to enables us to learn and grow.
“Don’t limit your challenges; challenge your limits. Each day we must strive for constant and never ending improvement”.
Tony Robbins 
The challenges we overcome empowers us.
“Accept the challenges so that you can feel of the exhilaration of victory”.
George Patton 
The Challenge I am committed to taking on via my work with and for Diverse Educators is the challenge of diversity, equity and inclusion in our school system. The challenges faced by people from diverse backgrounds in our teaching workforce and experienced by the children from diverse backgrounds that we teach, need addressing. The challenges are societal, systemic and structural. The challenges need collective agency.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on my own privilege and I have scrutinised where the power is above and around me. 
To be challenged:
To be challenged relies on us to be humble.  To be challenged requires us to be resilient. To be challenged needs us to be receptive. To be challenged compels us to be vulnerable. 

Challenge is a two-way process.
We challenge and we are challenged.
To be challenged can often feel uncomfortable. It invites us to raise our game, to justify our position, to explain our standpoint.
How do we receive being challenge? How do we process being challenged objectively rather than subjectively? How do we not let being challenged get under skin and respond with grace?
To be challenged is an opportunity to win or to learn.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional”.
Roger Crawford
To be challenged is an opportunity to learn and to grow.
“Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation”.
Bernie Siegel
I am challenged by those around me. I invite challenge and I am open to it. I have critical friends who I trust, who I seek challenge from. I am currently going through the branding process for Diverse Educators and I have sought challenge from people in the community to stimulate the creative process.
As a result of being challenged I can see situations from different perspectives.
To challenge:
To challenge takes courage. To challenge takes action. To challenge takes commitment.
We all have the capability and the capacity to challenge the people, the ideas and the things around us. But sometimes it is not our way, or it is not the way the team or the culture around us works.
We need to create cultures where it is safe to challenge. We need to cultivate teams where we can have fierce and courageous conversations that challenge us.  We need to create the conditions for challenge being delivered and received in an objective way, where we depersonalise the challenge from the person articulating it, where we can listen to and learn from the challenge.
How do we perceive challenge? How do we challenge others? How do we respond to external challenge? 
To challenge is to feel the fear and do it anyway.
“There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet”.
William Halsey
To challenge is to take a risk, despite the consequences.
“The greatest glory in living, lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. Nelson Mandela
To challenge is in my DNA. I ask questions. I ask for detail. I ask for evidence. I ask  for reasoning. I encourage people to look at things from different perspectives.
To challenge does not always make you popular, but so be it.
To challenge is to have a voice and to use it. To challenge is to have strong values and to live by them. To challenge is to have a loud, positive inner voice and to listen to it.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on how I have challenged in the past and how I will challenge in the future. 
A challenge… The Challenge… To challenge… To be challenged… Each reveals our true character.
How do we reflect on, capture and learn from the growth we have experienced by our resilience being challenged?
Martin Luther King Jr Challenges Quotes | Inspiration Boost