Delving into the Unknown

A Challenge

I have written personal reflections on my teaching career. I have written about what dealing with a 90-year-old mum with dementia has taught me about the workings of the mind. I have even written about my experiences of dealing with anxiety for Jamie Thom’s book. But today I am journeying into new territory- writing about what I am good at!

This is a challenge which has been set for us by Victoria Maguire, who tweets as @WeLeadWellPodc1, who ran a coaching session for some of us from Twitter. This came from a series of conversations about the language we use and how this presents us as leaders. We then blogged about some of those things we do and offered some ideas about why we do it.

My first reaction at the end of the coaching sessions when if we would blog about what we are good at, was a moment of paralysis, closely followed by the familiar feeling of the sweaty palms of anxiety. The idea of considering, and even worse, publicly sharing, what I think I am good at was, well, quite incomprehensible! After all, we are constantly told to downplay what we are good at or what we have achieved. It is seen as rather ‘un-British’ and definitely unfeminine. Don’t be brash. Don’t be arrogant. And most importantly, know your place. I wonder if there are elements of my working-class background too, which often leaves me feeling like I am running amongst academic circles in which I certainly do not below. Back to the imposter syndrome.

Well, that’s enough ‘hedging’ around the topic now and I suppose I have better just get on with the task in hand (yes, I am procrastinating and possibly even prevaricating- Hamlet would be proud).

A Good Teacher

  • I am a good teacher. I know how to convey difficult ideas, draw out understanding from students, shape learning, model and motivate. I am good at managing a class and keeping students focused and on task, whilst also knowing what makes them tick. I also have always been good at building relationships with students, even those who don’t necessarily want to have one with a teacher. I know a lot about ways to teach and have both knowledge and experience to be responsive to the needs of the students in my classes. I am often used as an example to others and they have visited my classroom and listened to sessions to learn about effective practice.

Good Learner

  • I am a good learner. I like to learn academically and, whether it is about subject knowledge or pedagogy, I can motivate myself to learn, explore and retain information. This has helped me in many aspects of my work and led to a really strong (downplaying a distinction in my language use there again) result in my MA Lit last year. I can still remember the tentative steps I took to getting an A level in English when my son was small, so this is a huge achievement for me.

A Good Organiser

  • I am good at organising myself and others. I work systematically and try to use systems as a way to support others in being more organised and streamline their work too. They might not always want to embrace the systems straight away and different people work differently. However, often once they give it a try it can help to make a difference. People recognise my ability to manage workload whilst still be effective in my job.

Empathy

  • I am good at empathising. I try to consider what people are feeling at different points and understand how they might perceive things. I don’t always get it right, but I work hard to understand and listen and use that information to support others.

A Good Runner

  • I’m a good runner (comparatively). All of the above is comparative of course. I am a good teacher, but I know there are many others who are better. I have a good understanding of Literature but there are many others who are better. I find just saying ‘good runner’ harder than those other things though. Whilst I always want to be a better teacher or learner etc, I am happy to consolidate and reflect on those things before moving forward. The very nature of running, with its forward momentum, doesn’t seem to allow this. We are always trying to push for the new record, the new distance and even when you are just going for a short run to enjoy the ride, it is with the knowledge in the back of your mind that you will be putting something else in the bank for later runs. But I am good. I have two sub 4-hour marathon times, including one last year. I have run ultra-marathons, including 50 miles over the South Downs and two lap ultras, one of 62 miles in 24 hours and the other of 70 miles. I have a 23 min 5K PB. I am on day 407 of a run streak today, averaging 5 miles a day, 35-60 miles a month for over a year. I need to own it, even if I live with a 29-year-old who eats all that for breakfast (at least I gave him good running genes).

What Next?

This has been a hard process. A really hard one. I feel a bit sick just writing it and I haven’t even yet considered at this stage how I would feel sharing it with others. Will this be something which has a positive outcome if I do put it out there? Will there be those who respond negatively to this, thinking I am bragging or even exposing my weaknesses? Does that even matter?

What I am learning though is that there is a power in sharing, and it is always good when you see others doing the same when prompted by your actions. So, I guess the question now is will you delve into the unknown and share what you too are good at? Will you take the challenge? I look forward to reading other blogs on what you are all good at too.

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