Whose narrative defines you?


Two years ago a newly appointed Headteacher told me I wouldn’t fit his SLT but should be his Head of Science because I was excellent at that and it would give him the opportunity to train me. I agree with the first part. I would not fit. A fit in education reinforces historical imagery of what a leader looks like. I am too female to fit, too black to fit, too Caribbean to fit. Being a leader in education was not for the likes of me.

This moment is the second turning point in my career. I went through a cycle of grief. Shock that I was being discarded; anger that I had invested with no mutual investment, detachment from the school life. Then I rang my coach and had a dialogue. Not a rant or moan or talk … a real dialogue. He had one question “Does the narrative of someone else define you?”

I was stumped. By being a UK teacher from a foreign background I had always sought the approval of seniors to know that I was ‘doing the job right’. As I progressed, I introduced more ideas but had always relied on feedback to determine how well that had gone. I allowed my seniors to define me, what I could do and where I go next.

Changing that mindset required thinking deeply and honestly. It takes accepting risk and the fear associated. You have to be bold.

I decided at that point that the narrative of someone else does not define me. I accept that some people choose not to see what I am capable of. I accept that some people have defined ideas of what a leader should be. It is not their job to make me better, or support me or champion my potential. It is mine.

I accepted my next job in the primary sector. I faced up to colleagues who said I was stepping down, taking an easy option, was inflicting a pay cut on my family and other unsupportive ideas. However, I moved. Having seen primary students in transition I wanted to spend time with those practitioners. I moved. I loved it so much I have spent another year.

I joined the WomenEd network. I volunteered as a London leader, helped to organise events, spoke at other events and became a coach to encourage more women to aspire to leadership.

I co-founded BAMEed network and started working to bring change. I speak out and write on shared experiences. I speak on behalf of people who I never met to bring attention to discrimination in education careers. I work with all colleagues to change it.

I balance a life of home, work, networks and sometimes get the balance completely wrong. Each time I reflect, adjust and learn. Being bold is the ability to have faith that the person you know best can do all what you challenge her to. Define your narrative. Hear the voices of dissent without making it your voice.  

Author Profile

Allana Gay

Allana Gay

Senior leader primary & secondary, Future leader, WomenEd co lead

9 stories


Youlande  Biosah Youlande Biosah @youlandebiosah 7 months ago
Thank you for sharing and in my eyes you're the epitomy of leader who takes bold steps for change
Natalie Wilcox Natalie Wilcox @natw 7 months ago
Genuinely shocked at the comments from your Head and inspired that you didn't let them stop your ambition and desire. A great story of overcoming someone else's preconceptions.
[Retired Colleague] [Retired Colleague] [Retired Colleague] 7 months ago
Great sharing of the impact one person's opinion can have on our professional journey if we let it. The bold thing is definitely defining your own journey. We can learn so much from the climbing wall of leadership. Sideways, backwards it is our choices which we learn from.
Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 7 months ago
Really looking FWD to getting to meet you. This was a 'slam dunk' blog. Loved it.
Allana Gay Allana Gay @allanag13 7 months ago
Thanks @youlandebiosah. You compliment me highly but just starting a way for the next wave like you.
@natw & @mshmfl So many women lose out because of the perceptions of one person. We all have to choose which parts we use and not let it drown our self image.
Vivienne Porritt Vivienne Porritt @vivienne 7 months ago
'have faith that the person you know best can do all what you challenge her to.' Fantastic thought and you inspire so many with your authenticity and bravery.
Matt  Young Matt Young @mattyoung 7 months ago
Fabulous and shocking in equal measures @allanag13. So proud of you and to be part BAMEed with you. Thank you for sharing.
Kerry Jordan-Daus Kerry Jordan-Daus @kerry 7 months ago
Absolutely shocking, but I feel too often what happens. We don't fit their "box". It's our ethnicity, our gender, our class, OUR voice, our authenticity. We won't be silenced. How many women have been lost because of this kind of behaviour? #womened has become a powerhouse to STOP this happening.
Bolupe Maborukoje Bolupe Maborukoje @bmarybon 7 months ago
"Hear the voice of dissent without making it your voice". - Powerful words that resonates with me. I'm bold for change.
Suzie Happy Suzie Happy @suhappyness 7 months ago
You define you!! Hear! Hear!
Nasima Riazat Nasima Riazat @nasima 7 months ago
I'm so glad you didn't let the negativity hold you back. Onwards and upwards. :-)
Jill Berry Jill Berry @jillberry 7 months ago
This is moving and uplifting, Allana. Keep writing your OWN story!
Taneisha Pascoe-Matthews Taneisha Pascoe-Matthews @pascoe 7 months ago
Thank you Allana for this post. I have been very fortunate to be a participant on the TBAP Women and BAME Leadership Program. I am ready to make my brave and bold move in 2017. Thank you @vivienne and @jillberry
Annemarie  Williams Annemarie Williams @awilliams 7 months ago
I love this blog. A great reminder that we are the magicians of our own lives. Your determination in not letting someone put a glass eceiling on your achievements is an inspiration to us all! Also a reminder that as heads we have a responsibility ensure we actively promote diverse SLT's for the well being of staff and the aspirations of our students.
Sandeep Phagura Sandeep Phagura @sandyph 7 months ago
I loved reading this! You are a change maker and due to your inspiration, many of us will follow in your foot steps and 'infiltrate'
Penny Rabiger Penny Rabiger @pennyrabiger 7 months ago
Yes. Yes and yes. This speaks volumes to me. Thank you.
Jill Berry Jill Berry @jillberry 7 months ago
Really pleased to see you engaging with @staffrm, @pascoe - I'm sure you'll find it useful and interesting.

And if you're building up your contacts, I can recommend @nancygedge and @lynnreachoutasc - both great on SEND.

Christine Couser Christine Couser @cacouser 7 months ago
Hope you continue to be beautifully bold
Lisa Pettifer Lisa Pettifer @lisa7pettifer 7 months ago
Thanks for sharing this, Allana, I really enjoyed and appreciated your narrative, seeing you define yourself in your terms and setting out on a pathway that's meaningful for you. Lots if us can learn from the clarity you've shown here.
Hannah Wilson Hannah Wilson @misswilsey 7 months ago
This is a powerful post Allana. We talk about being authentic & finding the right fit. You embody this. Your courage & conviction empower you & will inspire others. Your strength of character & confidence will guide you. Looking forward to watching you step into Headship soon!
Sarah Hardy Sarah Hardy @sarahhardy 7 months ago
And look at you now...owning that boldness and courage. Wonderful to see how you stepped up and defined yourself as YOU. Xx
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