Education Changemakers; Celebrating our new CollectivED Fellows
What does it take to be a changemaker? This is a question I have reflected on recently, and in particular with regard to my good fortune to engage with some amazing educators over the last few months, all from the comfort of my own home. During August and September we confirmed seven new CollectivED Fellows who are joining a buoyant international network, each one is a changemaker and worthy of celebration.
In this blogpost I will introduce our new Fellows and then use their words to share one aspect of their work, as an illustration of their role as changemakers. Reflecting on their work has helped me make sense of what it takes to be a changemaker.
Julia Skinner is a former headteacher who is now using much of her energy and expertise as a changemaker in governance. Julia says that has a headteacher her mantra was always ‘recognise potential and release it’. She explains that ‘this applied to pupils and adults in my organisations’. She extends this to her current role. ‘Effective governance is all about confidence. Many of the volunteers who make up school governing boards are not within education and come with enthusiasm but also a nervousness that they don’t know what they are doing. My role is to support them through a variety of activities including reading, discussion, meeting with others but above all encouraging them to speak, ask questions and take charge of their own learning. It is wonderful when you see that lightbulb moment and shoulders going back in pride and are able to hand the reins over.’
Jasen Booton is also a school governor and former a teacher and leader. Much of his work now is as an education consultant supporting schools and teachers in England and internationally, for example coaching school leaders in Venezuela and Doha to develop language and literacy programmes and online resources that support children learning English as a second language. His practices are based on core values with an emphasis on collaboration, both are significant in changemaking. ‘I believe that it is important to value each other's contributions, celebrate each other's successes and respectfully appreciate different viewpoints. It is the people who form a community of learners. I also believe that collaboration is essential in order to achieve more together than we could achieve on our own. My experience of facilitating participatory decision making has shown me that success is more likely to be sustained when participants pool their talents. From my experience, teachers are highly critical of themselves and therefore need to trust that the feedback they receive is productive and intended to support their professional development.’
Cath Proffitt is a senior lead teacher who specialises in coaching and supporting professional development. She has a strong sense of purpose and also a pragmatic approach which allows her to generate change. She has focused on ‘breaking down barriers to CPD’ and has shaped this around a ‘non-hierarchical, dialogic and collaborative system of coaching’. A drive to support other professionals’ development means that she privileges ‘growing autonomy and efficacy using emotional integrity’ and she embraces creativity. While often working with individuals Cath also recognises the need to for ‘the vision and values to be embedded as part of the school ethos which enables teachers to be facilitators of the highest standard which ensures all students achieve their full potential’.
Charis Hart is a school-based senior mentor who has completed her Masters’ dissertation with a research focus on how mentoring and coaching can support Early Career Teachers (ECTs). This has been a transformative experience. She states that ‘I re-discovered myself as a co-learner with my ECT colleagues and viewed every mistake and experimental approach as a learning experience’. Being a changemaker requires self-work and reflection. Charis notes that ‘I also had the opportunity to examine my own positioning as a mentor and put ECTs at the heart of our mentoring programme so that we created a more developmental approach’.
Jodie Lomax has also recently completed her Masters’ dissertation on mentoring. The focus was driven by a commitment to create positive experiences of mentoring for others. This is a critical ambition as it intersects with the Early Career Framework (ECF) in England which Jodie states ‘has placed a spotlight on the power of mentoring and the need to place much greater value on mentoring in education’. As a changemaker Jodie sees the potential gaps and wants to resolve them. She worries that the ECF ‘threatens to keep the focus on the early careers’ and believes that there should also be a commitment to ‘the use of mentoring as a lifelong career professional development tool. It is more important than ever before that teachers, at all stages of their career, have access to high quality mentoring and coaching that can improve their practice and occupational wellbeing.’
Aaron Berry has been a mentor to student and new teachers and has used this experience to work with Abul Kalam to establish EduMentoring. With Abul he has built ‘a community of educators that support and develop each other. This mentoring opportunity is open to educators at all stages, and we have successfully matched educators in primary and secondary, from early career teacher and PGCE students to experienced headteachers and educational researchers, in order to build positive professional learning.’ As a changemaker Aaron believes in collaboration. ‘In the development of EduMentoring, we have aimed for inclusivity and participation and this has led us to collaborating and partnering with other organisations, such as MenTeachPrimary, collaborating with them on mentoring for male primary teachers and CollectivEd, in offering CPD for participants.’
Angie Browne is a former headteacher who has made changemaking her driving force, particularly to raise the profile, position and confidence of women and BAME leaders in education. She describes her journey towards coaching certification as the ‘beginning of a somewhat fierce engagement with the relationship between professional wellbeing and the opportunities to engage in professional learning and receive support. I became particularly interested in the specific needs of women and marginalised colleagues in the workplace and began to question the access that many of these groups had to CPD that supported them.’ Angie has created a Nourished Collective which is a network and online platform ‘dedicated to increasing the opportunities for women for educational change through enhanced professional agency and wellbeing.’
What does it mean to be a changemaker in education?
While we can become weary of change, we can also recognise the need to take hold of opportunities and use it to shape ideas and put processes in place that allow us to adapt to changing circumstances. We can also create change when we build the confidence and capacity of others who are overlooked in the status quo. We need to demand change and work to challenge systems that lead to inequality. Changemakers act because they know that their decisions and behaviours can have positive influence. They may be creating changes within organisations or working across systems and society. Their act of supporting others, their commitment to values-led actions, the determination to make a difference and their creativity are essential components of the reciprocal relationship between the education system and our society which have the potential to shape each other for the better. Changemakers are not arrogant or selfish but take people with them and build others up. They bring much needed optimism and openness to education.
You can find out more about our Fellows through the twitter hashtag #CollectivEdFellows or by following @CollectivEDFel1. We will work to support the Fellowship community to sustain positive impacts on the lives of educators and outcomes for learners and we will invite Fellows to be proactive in developing approaches to this. You can read more about the work of our new CollectivED Fellows through the working papers that they have contributed to CollectivED 11.
Aaron Berry @aaronaberry
Jasen Booton @JasenBooton
Angie Browne @nourishedcollective
Jodie Lomax @researchleadjo
Cath Proffitt @ProffittCath
Julia Skinner @theheadsoffice
You can read about other CollectivED Fellows in earlier blog posts.
Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.