Guest blog by @_Esther_Gray
As I write this blog, I am in a unique position for this time of year. Instead of the knot in my stomach I have become accustomed to feeling in late August, I am filled with butterflies and great expectations. In May, I took a leap of faith and resigned from my position as deputy head of a large rural secondary school. I have worked there for the last 14 years so it took a lot of soul searching to reach my decision. I trusted my gut; I knew it was the right thing even though I resigned without securing a new post first. Every part of me was telling me to take the plunge and I was right. I don’t think I have stopped smiling since!
I think my pledge for change started with an internal monologue for many months preceding my resignation. I talked myself into it and then talked myself out of it again. No matter how much I ‘ummed and ahhed’, I always came back to the same bottom line: the school was not the right fit for me anymore; there was not enough care of people and my values were no longer aligned to the vision of the organisation. The situation at work wasn’t going to change but I decided that I could make a change. So, I decided to rewrite my own narrative and I relished not knowing what would happen next. How often in our lives do we find ourselves in unchartered territory? I savoured the weeks in between when I didn’t know what I would be doing next because I suddenly felt that anything was possible.
Anyone reading this blog who can identify with my story will know that feeling impotent doesn’t tend to promote self-efficacy and confidence. It took me a long time to wake myself up and to feel that I had the power to make the decision I did. Looking back, I was depressed, although I would only have admitted to feeling ‘low’ at the time. It took a ‘final straw’ situation at work and the perfect timing of some helpful people and wise words to make me realise that remaining in that situation was untenable.
So, who were those people and what were those words of wisdom? I met an Executive Head on one of my NPQH sessions who told us we must never accept bullying or intimidation, even as leaders. She shared her story of being bullied by a governor when she was first appointed into headship and what she learned from the experience of getting help and standing up for herself. I sought help on Twitter to prepare for an interview task that was worrying me and was bowled over by the number of people willing to help me. One person in particular went above and beyond, setting me a task and even marking my work! I attended my first WomenEd conference in July and found a room full of people who were there to listen, share stories and support others unconditionally. I read blogs, followed people on Twitter and realised there was a whole world out there – a world that was progressive, open to debate, hopeful, willing to help others… willing to help strangers, like me. It gave me hope. It made me see that there was another way. It woke me up and gave me the courage I needed to start anew.
So here I am, about to embark on a new kind of professional life. In the year ahead, I will be working with my sister and best friend as a trainer, adviser, writer and facilitator of professional learning and development for teachers and leaders. I will be creative again; working on projects and networking with new voices. Who knows what will happen? Anything is possible. What I know is that I will be healthier, happier and excited by my work again. I will be learning so much and will have the time and space to reflect on all that I am experiencing.
So my personal pledge for change is to relish this change: to mark it, to observe it and to be thankful for it; to be influenced by what I am learning but never again to lose sight of my true authentic self. My pledge for change is also to help others as much as I can. To give my time freely and generously as those strangers did for me; to work with coachees as part of the DfE Women Leading in Education Coaching Pledge; to share all the learning I am doing with colleagues who remain working in my school who don’t have the access to learning that I will this year; to reach out to people and to be part of the debate we are currently having about education. I can’t wait.