At ACEL conference, I had the pleasure of having several thought-provoking conversations with some very well known educators and some…well not so well known. Both were very interesting, rich discussions. And by rich I mean the conversation had me connecting various ideas and concepts; it had me asking questions; it ignited my curiosity. One of the conversations I had really got me thinking… why are some educators so well known, while others not so much? Is it about gender, culture, race, experience (or lack of), having a platform, being connected or having the support of others?
Reflecting on this question, I drew on my own experiences.
I remember one principal sat me down and asked me where did I see myself in five years and what was my passion? She wanted to help me achieve this. This conversation has always stayed with me. She said she believed that someday I would become Dr Stringer. I laughed out loud! The deputy principal shared that she could see me working with beginning teachers one day. I laughed at that comment too! What did they see in me that I couldn’t see? What I do know is that these leaders expressed their belief in my potential. Without me realising it, they were building my self-efficacy and over the years they built my capacity.
In the last few years, I’ve spoken with some educators about doing my PhD. I’ve had various responses. Why would you want to do that? Ah, but you have a husband and three children. Where are you going to find the time? Very rarely did I receive any encouragement...until recently. When I attended Harvard, I was encouraged to ‘Go for it’. The support and encouragement from many (even strangers) was surprising. I was fortunate enough to met Maria there. Maria is a lecturer from Monash University in Melbourne. There are some people who come into your life when you most need them. We connected instantly. She read my blogs and continually encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Just this week, I was fortunate to be invited to #EdCoachRES that provided more support and encouragement. Being surrounded by ‘You can do it’ people really makes a difference. I need to be more like that for others. I need to pay it forward.
So I wonder…Do we support each other enough in education? In Australia, we have the Tall Poppy Syndrome (see below). Does this affect our Australian educational leaders and presenters? Do we promote and encourage our newest teachers to be ambitious, to become leaders, to reach for the stars? Do we model or advise them to play it safe? Do we mentor, support, coach and guide? Do we encourage risk taking? Now change all these questions to 'how'. Asking 'how' generates more reflection. Personally, I want to further develop my ability to support and encourage other teachers, as so many continually support and encourage me.
According to a Chinese friend, they have a similar saying- chū tóu de chuán zǐ xiān làn This means: rafters that jut out rot first. And another: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. We should encourage our educators to jut out and to support them, so they don't get hammered or cut down.
And the learning continues...
For those who aren’t Australian or familiar with Tall Poppy Syndrome, here's some background information.