Lena Carter · 7 months ago
I have had an absolutely brilliant day.
I was involved in co-facilitating the inaugural national Scottish #womened network meeting in Glasgow and it was the most wonderful, motivating and energising experience.
Our aim was to explore the ways in which #womened can be promoted and further developed in Scotland and we put every minute to maximum use in achieving this.
In spite of my complete inability to stick to time, Caradh (Pert) kept things on track and we skipped nimbly from presentations to a carousel around the 8Cs to more discussions and some inspiring, moving and 10+% braver #leadmeets from Christine Couser, Gillian Hamilton, Jacqueline Risk, Elizabeth Gowans and Amanda Corrigan.
We explored our “why”, our “what” and our “how” and we looked at how our national approach to supporting women and men leaders will be similar to and different from others.
I am exhausted tonight but I am also glowing as I reflect on what was shared and what we as a group achieved. We have bonded as and we have produced a plan. Our first campaign will be online and we have launched #womenedwednesday, thanks to the brilliantly creative Joyce Matthews.
I reflected a fortnight ago about what #womened means to me:
Today was an incredible opportunity to explore clarity, communication, connection, collaboration, confidence, community, challenge and change.
There are exciting times ahead for leaders and potential wo(men) leaders in Scotland. Today was a tremendous start and we owe huge thanks to Caradh and Hannah for making it happen.
Lena Carter · 7 months ago
Pride comes before a fall.
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
Why is it that these two sayings have influenced me so much in my life? Why do a feel a crippling sense of superstitious fear that whenever I achieve something, I should talk it down and underplay it, lest something happens to spoil it or take it away from me?
Is it because I come from a line of grafters with a Protestant work ethic and a secret conviction that fun is a sin?
Is it part of that particularly British quality that means that self-deprecation is valued above self-confidence?
Is it just me?
I spoke at the WomenEd Scotland event last Saturday about this issue and about the fact that I manage to be able take the idea of delayed gratification to the extreme and that I never seem to get to the point where I feel a success; once any goal that I have sought to achieve is in my grasp, I set myself another one and rarely allow myself to take the time to celebrate or enjoy my achievements.
A while back I went on a long car journey with my daughter and we bought sweets to help us get through the boredom. At the end, half a packet of liquorice allsorts remained and I squirreled them into my bag, vowing to treat myself with them the next time I did something worthy of a reward.
But three months on and they still remained untouched. My internal jury didn’t feel that the work on the school timetable had merited a reward. Nor the presentation given to local Head Teachers on supporting pupil and staff wellbeing during challenging times. Nor the day-to-day juggling of work, family and domestic chores.
But that jury was overruled by the WomenEd Scotland contingent who supported me in allowing myself an allsort. They aren’t the best choice of sweet to eat when talking to an audience, but no-one minded too much.
The wonderful WomenEd Scotland tribe also helped me to see, through honest discussions and stories shared, that it isn’t just me and that too many of us undermine and sabotage ourselves when we are doing well.
It is time for this to change.
In a profession where we know that children respond best when they are praised and rewarded, it does not make sense to deny ourselves praise when we succeed.
I finished the timetable today. It is an amazing achievement, given my limited training, lack of prior experience and limited time. I am very pleased with myself and I want to share that with you.
Tonight there are no allsorts left. And tomorrow, I might just buy myself another pack.
Love is the answer.
Lena Carter · 7 months ago
This week I gave an assembly for my third year pupils about all that they have achieved in the last year.
I repeated the message that I have given several times this year:
Each one of you is an individual. You are each on an personal pathway that needs to be right for you and that will help you to be the best future version of you that you can; we may have future tree-surgeons and brain-surgeons in the room, future musicians and magicians and so there is no one size fits all. Success for one pupil may look very different to success for another.
Having read something in the week about the fact that the “I failed at school but am a millionaire” Richard Branson-style stories aren’t really helpful to schools or pupils, I added the proviso that, however much we may doubt their ability to judge all types of achievement, qualifications are important currency. We therefore need, over the remaining years of school that remain for our third years, to get them as qualified as possible, whilst ensuring that they are happy, healthy and doing the best they can.
I then briefly addressed each pupil personally.
Some pupils were praised for their outstanding marks in specific subject assessments. Others for turning a corner in terms of motivation or attitude. Others for coming to school every day after periods of absence. Others for sporting or musical achievements. And others for being overwhelmingly positive, helpful or responsible.
Some got a combination of several of the above.
It was an incredible privilege to share the amazing successes of the young people with whom I work.
And it felt particularly apt to do so ahead of our minute’s silence to show respect for Manchester.
I ended by talking to them about the tragedy. I reminded them that the world is full of wonderful, loving, positive people like them and that hatred and negativity are in the minority. I urged them to fight despair with hope and to reflect on the words spoken by Harry Styles the night before:
“We have a choice, every single day that we wake up, of what we can put into the world,” Harry said. “And I ask you to please choose love every single day.”
I love my job, even at the most difficult times.
Lena Carter · 6 months ago
Today I have been reflecting. I have been reading the things that others have been saying about the events in London last night.
Once again, we are urging each other to fight hate with love, negativity with positivity and despair with hope.
I wrote this after Manchester:
To be honest, today I don’t feel hopeful. I feel sad, angry, exhausted after trying to be relentlessly positive.
But I think it is ok to say that.
When I studied psychology some time back, I remember reading ideas about how we need to express are darkest, negative, shadow-side feelings that we experience as well as the positive emotions and thoughts.
If we don’t, they will find a way of coming out in ways that may be harmful to us or others.
Life is both light and shadow, sunshine and rain, ups and downs.
So today I am down and allowing myself to be.
I will watch the concert for Manchester and I will weep and grieve.
Life is sometimes cruel and we need to allow ourselves to hurt.
And tonight, though we would never have anticipated it, the tears will be for London as well.
And then tomorrow I will move on.
On acting like adults.
Lena Carter · 6 months ago
I went to see the incredible National Theatre Touring production of Jane Eyre yesterday.
It was everything I hoped it to be and more from a theatrical perspective.
So many messages were explored and communicated about being female, being male, being human; about morality, religion and sanity.
But also about Attachment, Adverse Childhood Experiences and about the crucial importance of Nurture in childhood.
Although of course Charlotte Bronte would never have heard of these new fashionable, capitalised terms.
We see in Jane a little girl who has had the most traumatic start in life through the death of her parents.
This is then exacerbated when she is sent to live in kinship care with an aunt and her cousins who reject and abuse her.
There are so many times in the story where we see how things might have been different for the looked after Jane and her emotional development. Perhaps the most poignant for me in this performance was the point in the play where Jane returns to see her dying aunt, Mrs Reed. The aunt is trying to defend her dislike of Jane as a child and to justify it by invoking sympathy in light of the fact that Jane would often fly into violent rages and attack others.
In the play, Jane’s response was to answer “but I was a child.”
In the book we read this:
“My disposition is not so bad as you think. I am passionate but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me.”
(Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, 2006).
The attempt by Mrs Reed to turn herself into victim and blame Jane for a natural response to the distress she has suffered is sharply exposed.
But how much have we adults moved on since Mrs Reed?
How many times must we remind parents that love is a far more powerful tool in influencing a child’s behaviour than punishment? That meeting the needs of a child is not spoiling but rather supporting the child into an emotionally secure future?
Mrs Reed may have argued that she had Jane forced upon her but the reality is that she had a choice, as an adult. Jane as a child did not.
How many times must we remind ourselves as teachers that no child is bad and that we are the adults in the relationship whose paid job it is to support and care for all the children we encounter? If we don’t want to have that responsibility, we have the choice to find a different job where we don’t. The children in our schools don’t.
Jane is a success story, a poster girl for the looked after child who survived and thrived in spite of it all.
But 170 years on from when Charlotte Bronte so brilliantly launched her into the world, why aren’t we doing better?
How many of those labelled criminals, terrorists, or delinquents might have spoken Jane’s words?