Last night wading through TV left me thinking. On one channel was ‘12 years a slave’ a film based on the experience that when a person is sold to an owner the latter is entitled to treat them as they wish. On another was ‘Jamestown’ a TV series based on the premise that stating a brief obligation when paying for women to join your town means they must fulfil that post even if not as advertised. The last was ‘Eurovision Song contest‘, a show based on the premise that pageantry is a great escape from reality.
At some point in my career I have fell into all three typecasts where I did as I was told as they paid my wages, worked in a situation that was not even close to what was advertised and purported to the external viewer that it was all opportunity full of pomp and pageantry. The bubble of my existence did not allow me to see beyond the immediacy of my situation. I felt that to progress I needed to keep a smile and keep playing my part. Eventually someone would notice and move me onto better circumstances.
What I didn’t notice was the definition of me that was being built. It is hidden in those statements that I allow to subconsciously define myself by the bias of others.
‘Your must be great at discipline’ – Yes I am. Everyone know where the line lies and that I will always respond as needed.
‘You get on really well with those tricky parents’ – Yes I am. Those parents want their concerns discussed and actioned not just listened to.
‘Your students respond really well to you.’ – Yes they do. I speak to adults in preparation as though I am preparing adults.
‘You are really ambitious’ – Yes I am. I model what I want BAME students & BAME adults to see.
Those statements of definition were not compliments. They were a part of the barriers to my progress into Senior leadership because they created a non strategic image of me. They were definitions of a great teacher or middle leader not headteacher. In short I was being told that I was great but not strategic headteacher great. Ambition takes you only so far, having a defining narrative in my head sets barriers to exploring possibilities.
So I discard those comments and fill my headspace with others - You are inspirational, passionate, supportive, candid, humble, and for me most importantly, authentic. These words change my self-imposed narrative. It is no longer about an obligation to my employers or a post or a school image but about doing the things that bring development towards the best version of me. The best version of me is the one that commits to making education a positive profession.
I cannot change others choosing hold onto biased perceptions despite differing evidence. I can refuse to let their bias determine my authentic self. After all, none but ourselves can free our minds.