In the room.

There is a song in the musical “Hamilton” called “The Room Where it Happens”.

Today, for the first time, I experienced a live WomenEd event. Over the last couple of years, I have supported WomenEd online, blogged as part of digimeets, had incredible coaching as part of the WomenEd coaching pledge, Skyped with Hannah Wilson, co-facilitated an event where we tried to get something off the ground in Scotland and created the Scottish #Womenedwednesday hashtag.

All of the support and learning that these activities and connections have brought me has been invaluable. Without the digital connections that have been facilitated through Womened, I would not have achieved much of what I have as a leader and teacher.

But today I experienced the immeasurable impact of being in the room where a WomenEd live event happens. 

The venue was Aureus School and the event was called Breaking the Mould. It was mainly aimed at women leaders from Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and posed the following questions:

Why do women lead differently?

How can we challenge the leadership stereotypes?

What can we learn from role models who have broken the mould?

How can we create a female shaped leadership mould?

I had signed up for the event back In December, knowing that it would be a chance for me to connect in real life with some of my WomenEd sheroes; with Scottish Schools on holiday from the end of June, I’d known that I’d be able to plan my annual summer pilgrimage to family in the South around it….

And so, today, I set off from Salisbury at 7.30 and drove for a leisurely hour an a half to get to Didcot for a 9.30 start.

The first treat was meeting the gorgeous Kiran Satti in the car park; we have been virtual friends for a while and we immediately fell into easy conversation.  

And then the day kicked off with an intro from the inspiring and hugely engaging Hannah Wilson.

She told us of her desire to “fill her cup” and be inspired enough to get her through the last 2 weeks of term.

She asked people to consider their reason for being there and I spoke up: to be there for real; to show that there is a real Lena behind the Lenabellina blogs; to be in the room, (even though I might disappoint in real life…)

And then, eight speakers who made me remember why I do what I do.

It is hard to do them all justice as so much of what they said, the humour, the passion and vulnerability will not be replicated in my black words on a white screen. 

But, here, the essence of what I heard them say:

Jaz Ampaw Farr:

If you have no why as a leader, your why becomes fear. 

The stuff I am scared of you finding out is what connects us.

Do not live in the confines of who you are too scared to be.

Rae Snape

Use the resources you have on the inside and the outside.

Use the WomenEd network as a resource to find answers to your questions.

Be a mentor and be mentored.

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou.

Ladies, you are enough. Just keep learning.

Rae Snape.

Lee Ryman

Seeing children in Kenya and Sweden who were passionate about school made her ask (about England) “what the hell are we doing?” and inspired her to walk

away and start her own school.

Passion, authenticity, commitment to wellbeing, values and real learning.

What schools offer is not suitable for too many people.

Pupils should be able to follow their interests and passions.

What change would you like to see in the world of education?

Debra Kidd

Sometimes we may need to walk away from a mould if we do not fit it, rather than breaking it.

How do we ensure that mavericks can stay as educational leaders?

How we ensure that difference and diversity are celebrated and that we do not have to fit into labels like “I am a teacher of x subject/ secondary/primary”?

We need to lead from within and not wait for change to come from outside.

Alison Kriel

If someone is polar opposites to you, invite them in.

If you are going to lead, be honest in who you are.

To get through every day:

Know yourself.

Know your values.

Stay true to your values.

If you are happy in your job, you will be productive.

What are we modelling for children? Do we want box-tickers or people who connect and accept us for who we are?

What needs to be adjusted to that you can be true to your values?

Having people who are different to you in your team is not the same as having different values to them.

Paulina Tervo

Technology as a force for good.

Wanted to make films that will change the world.

Global citizenship can be delivered through immersive storytelling.

We can be held back by fear and labels.

Tech start-up has no female role models…. so she became one.

Can you see yourself as a leader?

If not, why not?

Carly Waterman

Our inner voices can be both enabling and debilitating. 

Name your inner critic (Doris) and challenge!

Everyone who wants to give back on education should be given a platform, not just the teachers and school leaders. 

Your negative inner voice knows you so well but is filtered by fear and paranoia.

Mary Myatt

WomenEd CPD is very special.

Mary’s ambition is to have used up all of her by the end of her life.

The power of concentration that is nurtured by others is healing.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has inspired Mary:

Show Up (honestly)

Look Up (literally, at the sky and metaphorically, at your vision)

Speak Up (you have a right to express your voice)

Team Up

Never Give Up (there will always be energy at the start and then a hump but if your vision is right, keep going)

Lift Others Up.

Mary points out that we are human beings first and professionals second.

When children keep talking after a teacher had asked for quiet, they are not being disruptive.

My self esteem as an educator does not trump children’s learning.

We must live our values and not just laminate them. 

I listened.

I nodded.

I made notes.

I cried.

I hugged.

I felt nurtured and challenged.

I decided that now is not the time for me to walk away, no matter how hard it has been recently.

I was reminded of my why.

At the end of the day, Hannah asked us to consider the pledges that we will mark as a result of the day.

Mine is to keep going and to step out of the shadows of fear.

I am hugely grateful to Hannah and the WomenEd team for today.


The Mould in which I have been comfortable has, to date, been one where I have worn a mask; the cartoon avatar, the authentic voice behind the keyboard. That has been the best I could do until now. But now I know better and need to do better; to bring my whole self and resources into the room.

My final word:

“Education is everything.  We can’t and shouldn’t simplify it and talk in terms of it being the job of either teachers or parents. We need to accept that our job, as adults, is to be honest with children and to help them negotiate the complexity ahead.  It is our job to develop in each child the skill to know and understand himself, the tools to express herself and the strategies to meet challenges along the way. And it is our job to talk openly and honestly so that, if and when bad things happen, like abuse, children know to talk about them so that they do not become a source of guilt, a life-stealing force, a legacy of hidden pain and shame.”

Lena Carter


Breaking up and breaking down.

Breaking up and breaking down.

This post is inspired by a tweet from @RogersHistory (Tom Rogers) on Friday:

“Ok, so today we broke up. Major elation at school but does anyone ever get that deflation once that’s worn off and your alone? There can be a strange sort of melancholy in any ending, even a happy one? Weird, but get it temporarily at end of every year before holiday sets in.”

I break up and I break down.

Suddenly everything I know is taken away; routine, what to eat, what to wear, what to do. Excessive pressure is an excellent motivator but also a way of absolving all responsibility for making decisions.

A friend said to me recently that a high-pressure working life can be tolerated, as long as periods of sprinting are followed by periods of jogging; but what happens when you have been sprinting for months on end; if not physically then mentally? What if, even during the other times that you were meant to stop and relax and give your attention to your loved ones and your own wellbeing, your head was secretly still working and worrying because how do you stop worrying about not having teachers to teach and having children who are in such distress that they might be dead after the holidays and having new assessments to administer and having more and more and more and more with nothing taken away and having to protect your colleagues from it all and yet having them resent you because you represent “management?”.

All through this, you keep going. Because you can see that there are small wins and every single day there is something that helps you keep your faith in what you are doing; a smile from a pupil who doesn’t normally smile; a word from a colleague who can see the bigger picture of what you are doing; an end of year review that celebrates the huge achievements in your school; a parent who tells you that you are what the school needs.

And then what happens is that you hit the first day of the long holiday, the only holiday when you really can afford yourself time off, and you break down.

Some folk avoid it by going straight off on holiday.

Some avoid it by launching into DIY, an exercise regime, more doing; maybe even straight into planning for next year.

Each unto his or her own.

But for me, I need to not plan for a while. To not do. To not be responsible.

To take responsibility for me and to remember some key truths about my self. 

To sit on my sun deck for a while and not do. 

It is the hardest thing for me but also the most necessary.