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WomenEd LeadMeet - Resilience: Strengths & Solutions

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

It's almost to the year when I held Bournemouth’s first WomenEd event. Since then, we've had a CoachMeet, our first LeadMeet in March, WomenEd’s inaugural BeachMeet in July and last week we had our second LeadMeet. It’s fantastic to see familiar faces and new faces with each event. We are slowly building a WomenEd Community Hub in Bournemouth.

Why Resilience: Strength & Solutions?

I chose the theme of resilience for this autumn’s LeadMeet as it is an area of need within the educational community. If we look at the Wellbeing Index Report of October this year, the annual measurement of the mental health and wellbeing of educational professionals reveals more than three-quarters have experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms in the last year.

OfSTED support the above findings in their blog published on Friday 30th November 2018: Teacher well-being and workload survey: Interim findings:

They conclude the ‘concerns about the well-being of teachers are well founded: Teaching was one of three professions with the highest reports of stress and depression, in the 2017/2018 Labour Force Survey.’

Indeed, the statistics are stark. The numbers of teachers with mental health issues, that want to leave the profession, whose stress levels are at such a point they are unable to function, whose work-life balance is non-existent and the volume of teachers who are ringing the educational support line (see link below) is astounding but not really surprising in this current climate in education in the UK.

So, instead of feeling down and quite often there's a sense of helplessness, why not have an event to consider how we can use our strengths, gain support and tips on how to bolster our resilience? Let us consider how we can not just survive and endure, but enjoy and thrive.

The LeadMeet

A number of the attendees had never been to a WomenEd event before so I gave an explanation of the birth of WomenEd and the reasons why it was needed. We then had three very different speeches.

Sally Dennehy @SallyDennehy is an experienced teacher from the West Country who has led on media, English and teaching and learning. She has recently taken a two-year sabbatical to complete an MSc in Anthropology with UCL. In her talk she deconstructed pressure in the school work place by summarising her ethnographic experience in a school in comparison with her work as a teacher. While increasing resilience is important, she asked, where can we release the pressure? How can we change our relationship with pressure spots to ensure that our work is healthy as well as purposeful? These were highly pertinent points. As leaders in schools we need to consider, if we are adding something, what are we taking away? If a new policy will increase workload, then reconsider it!

Sally had some key tips above for school leaders. The Education Support Partnership has more on how leaders can promote staff well-being:

Nick Tarr @learningSLT is an Assistant Head responsible for Teaching & Learning at a local secondary school. He talked of his rapid journey in leadership and how becoming a senior leader and a new father aged 29, was a baptism of fire. He had a great learning curve in terms of his own professional practice and well-being. What really helped Nick was a clear vision and target for what he wanted to achieve, supported by being coached. Mindfulness enabled him to calm his mind and his family grounded him.

Nick is also stubborn and has real determination to succeed. He loves the phrase ‘I’m possible’ rather than impossible which resonates with the WomenEd community’s mantra of 10% braver.

Vicki Tongeman @VickiTongemanCoach is a Personal and Business Coach, Trainer, NLP expert and Author. Having previously trained and coached Parents in Children's Centres and People in Recovery, she realised that adult's confidence issues stemmed from "negative" childhood experiences and programming. She wanted to give Parents and other Adults the tools to build inner confidence with their children, and so developed the story "Daphne and the Smiley Shells".

Vicky found children are forming negative beliefs about themselves, fearing they are not good enough, believing they can't and never will, succeed and are taking those beliefs on to later life. In the book, Daphne, regularly notices her own unique gifts and personal attributes, celebrates positive behaviours & small wins and visualises larger ones and ultimately cultivates a positive mindset. It’s a fab little book which is ideal for Early Years and up to KS2 to build resilience and cultivate a growth mindset. It’s a strong message as resilient children will become resilient adults.

Leonie Hurrell @ThinkingAcademy is a former head teacher, the founder of the Thinking Academy and works with Dorset Mind. Looking at the research about the key skills of resilient people, we reflected on our strengths and were able to identify where we can build on our skills. Her resilience activity was fantastic. We looked at a table where we rated ourselves out of 10 for each box. This encouraged great conversation and enabled structured self-reflection. 100% of the room agreed their greatest area for development was self-compassion. Leonie spoke about us having a resilience bucket, but if we have a leak, the bucket will soon be empty.

Summary & my personal reflections: I rounded the evening up by summarising all the speeches as I have done above.

On a personal level, as I come across as quite confident, have strong self-awareness and am pretty self-assured, it may come as a surprise for you to know that I have suffered from anxiety the last few years. There are a number of reasons for this. I have 2 children under 5, we relocated from London to Dorset, I have been building my own consultancy company whilst working part time, being a full-time mum and I was completing a university course on coaching. I do like a challenge and would have coped better if I hadn’t suffered from severe sleep deprivation too! But to be fair, I realise now I had very little self-compassion.

At the LeadMeet I relayed a conversation I had with my best friend:

‘What do you do for you, Mal?’

‘Well every Wednesday I have a full day with my youngest son. I love it.’

‘No…what do you do for you?’

‘Every Friday morning, my other half and I spend some quality time together, have breakfast, go for a walk or go to the Littledown spa. It’s really nice.’

‘That’s not just you though is it? What about you?’

Something did not compute. I realised in that moment, that whilst I had work-family balance, I did not have anything for me. In fact, between being heavily involved in my career and becoming a mother, I’d lost a bit of me along the way. So, my bossy, but lovely friend set me a task that I had to do something for me at least an hour a week before the next time I saw her. She asked me what I used to love doing as a child. I said ‘Singing and dancing but I don’t have time for all that now’. She said I needed to make time. She was right.

My bucket was quite full in so many other ways but there was quite a large leak as I had virtually zero self-compassion.

I had seen an advert for a musical theatre choir, Sing People Sing. I had previously dismissed it but decided to go looking for it. Choir Director, Nicole Dawson auditioned me and I got in! I have to say, joining this choir has had a hugely positive effect on my life. According to scientists, (don’t ask me which one) singing strengthens your immune system, gives you a workout, improves your posture, helps with sleep, lowers your stress levels, improves your mental alertness and is a natural anti-depressant. Singing in the choir has done wonders for my stress and anxiety levels. I have plugged that leak in my resilience bucket.


This event has been the first step of many for a number of people in the room to begin strengthening their wellbeing by building on their strengths and plugging the leaks in their buckets of resilience. What will you do to plug that leak in your bucket?

A huge thank you to the presenters at this event and to Heather Torrens & Bethany Junior for hosting.

The next event will be on Tuesday 5th March 4.30-6.30 to mark International Women’s Day 2019. The theme is Gender Balance: Think equal, build smart, innovate for change

Links for support & resources:

Mal is an Education Consultant specialising in Leadership Development and Coaching in Education. She is a Regional Leader for WomenEd, the Dorset Advocate & Coach for the MTPT Project and a Gender Charter Advocate.

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