The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Mel Greenwood

Being your authentic self

Are you ready to be your authentic self and inspire those around you? Mel Greenwood highlights the importance of embracing our unique stories and advocating for diversity in the workplace.

Who am I? What distinguishes me from the person next to me? What is my story? What makes me unique to my school? Am I celebrating my school's curriculum offering and community? We should ask ourselves questions like these daily.

We are all different pieces of a large puzzle, which is our school community, and each piece is unique and should be treated as such. To thrive in the environment that we live and work in, we need to feel celebrated.  

Each of us is unique and brings different experiences to the table, but we often don't share these stories and experiences unless an opportunity arises

Embracing uniqueness and sharing stories

Like the children and young people we work with, we perform at our best when we feel safe and valued. While completing the same ECT programme as your colleagues, remember that you are not the same person, nor are you the same teacher. Don't lose sight of your uniqueness on this journey.

Before working at my last school, I wasn't aware that Ruth was a knitter or that Phil enjoyed glass painting. I also didn't know that Ramez was a talented guitar player or that Claire had a passion for service learning. Unfortunately, the students they taught were also unaware of these unique talents.

Each of us is unique and brings different experiences to the table, but we often don't share these stories and experiences unless an opportunity arises. Knowing each other's stories makes us more sensitive to our needs. It enables us to complement others' strengths and support each other in areas where we may not be as skilled.

Let’s carve out opportunities for story sharing

This blog challenges early career teachers to shape the teaching profession differently by opening their classrooms and unapologetically embracing their unique personal and individual identities. Try out these challenges. 

  • Start a conversation with someone in the staff room that you wouldn’t ordinarily speak with. Ask them about what they are reading now or what their favourite thing to do at the weekend is. 
  • Pitch an idea to the person/s in charge of professional development in your setting. Could you set up a speed date event where the main purpose is to get to know each other more and share skills or passions? 
  • Link with a colleague and arrange for a class afternoon/lesson swap so that you can share one of your passions with their class and vice versa. 
  • Focus your morning meeting times in your classroom on sharing stories. Get to know your students, your TAs, and your LSAs a little bit better and give them space to find out more about you too. 
  • Offer to support your colleagues with something you are skilled at. When I think of engaging, purposeful displays and working walls, I think of my colleague, Georgia. She would offer her time to other colleagues to help them plan out their classrooms and display spaces. Her creative skills were utilised to support others. 

As educators, we are fortunate to work in a multi-generational workforce. Let's embrace this and learn from one another as we grow together. Keep an eye out for colleagues who are spinning their unique stories into action.

Do you notice that Abel down the corridor excels in something you would like to learn more about? Does Grace have a talent for selecting literature that perfectly meets the needs of her students? Take the opportunity to ask and learn from one another.

Early career teachers I have worked with have found it invaluable to spend time in their colleagues' classrooms, observing and learning from staff of different ages and at various stages of their careers.

Embracing this diversity of experience and creativity can offer valuable tips and tricks that enhance our teaching. If you haven't yet had the chance to do so, consider scheduling some time with your mentor to map out opportunities for observation and learning.

Celebrating ourselves

We are our worst critics – no doubt about that! 

Think about what makes you unique and advocate for yourself and encourage others to do the same

The shift to online teaching during the pandemic presented a difficult challenge for teachers. While it did offer some benefits such as professional development in technology use, the constant scrutiny from families made it difficult to feel valued and supported.

I found myself overthinking and nit-picking every aspect of my teaching, unable to fully develop my unique teaching style. I know many other teachers felt lost in the monotony of online teaching.

You are a complex and wonderful individual, a blessing to the world and the teaching profession. Don't be afraid to share your story and be unapologetically you. In the UK, we are fortunate to have a set of protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act that safeguards our uniqueness and protects us from discrimination. 

Being unapologetically authentic as teachers

As a white cis woman, I recognise it may be easier for me to say, but to make space for others to share and celebrate their stories, I must be willing to share mine as well and pave the way for dialogue and advocacy. We must support each other's unique and beautiful stories and stand up for one another against discrimination in the workplace.

Our children and young people look to us as role models and seek representation among the adults they encounter, regardless of how it looks. By being our authentic selves, we pave the way for them to do the same.

As adults, we may be the only ones in their lives willing to share our true selves. We have a responsibility to celebrate our diversity and empower others to do the same.

So, today, be your authentic self. Think about what makes you unique and advocate for yourself and encourage others to do the same. 

Staff Wellbeing Award

Support and improve physical, emotional and mental health for all staff through the Staff Wellbeing Award.

Find out more.


Similar Posts

John Dabell

Leadership with a little 'l'

John Dabell explores the concept of leadership with a little 'l'. He emphasises the importance of soft skills such as character, charisma, compassion and humility to achieve effective leadership. Headteachers have to mix little and large styles and blend courageous leadership and thought leadership...
Mel Greenwood

True staff wellbeing

Mel Greenwood challenges the effectiveness of common staff wellbeing activities and advocates for a more personalised approach that includes professional development, flexibility, empathy and active listening. Drawing from personal experiences and conversations with educators, she emphasises the...
Mel Greenwood

A culture of learning and growing – ECT years and beyond

Find out the importance of continuous learning and growth for educators, emphasising their impact on improving the educational experience for students. The earliest years of your teaching career can be the toughest, but for some, these are the years that see the most growth as an educator. After...