They say you need to truly know a man you need to walk a mile in his shoes. To truly know a woman you have to do a whole lot more than that and she certainly won’t let you walk in her shoes; do you know how quickly stiletto heels wear out?
It pays to see the world from her point of view, because she’ll bring so much to your organisation if you choose to harness the energy and drive that comes from a life hard lived.
This is particularly true in education as life’s crappier experiences lend empathy to those who have survived them, and they will understand vulnerable children more than anyone who has not lived through a dreadful childhood, regardless of training or professional experience. That understanding will come with solutions. They will sound off-the-wall or a bit ‘happy clappy’ to those who manage behaviour and relationships with children in a more ‘traditional’ way but watch how many children can be turned around by someone who really understands what it’s like to be in their place.
Away from the classroom, this blog has a much bigger message about leading people; there are few of us who won’t be motivated by feeling valued and understood. Fail to motivate and you have failed to lead, you have merely managed. Some will be happy with that. If their focus at work is not also their passion. People who’s passion lies in creating a truly amazing educational experience for children are similar to parents who had a tough upbringing: they are often trying to create the childhood for others that they didn’t have. If you squash that you will squash them, and you will lose a gift.
You probably don’t realise these people, male, female or neither are there. You probably see them as any other employee, you may not have seen the signs in their CV or how they go about life but the clues are there:
Workaholics who spend an inordinate amount of time working out of hours: why do they do that? Are they recently independent and frightened of getting behind and losing the independence that accompanies success?
Is there CV a bit erratic or they’ve moved frequently for a period of time? Could that be that they’ve worked throughout a terrible time, like a tortuous divorce, and had to move home/job/both?
Does their early career and/or university life look a bit sedate compared to recent times? Could that be the partner and family leading her to believe she wasn’t capable of more, because they weren’t?
Is she ambitious and wants to go at a superhuman pace? Could that be as a result of rebuilding her finances having been thrown out of her home by her controlling and abusive ex-husband with a grand total of £273? She will work all the hours god sends and more to maintain that financial security. A deprived, neglected childhood maybe? I wouldn’t hold her back if I were you – she can be successful with or without you but it’s better for everyone if you let her take you with her. She’s done great things on her own before and she can do that again.
Away from the CV, should you be looking, they’ll be other tells. She might even share her experiences with you, if she feels you’re listening. But if not she’ll keep all of that hidden. She might even come across as being a bit bolshy and opinionated. People who have had to stand up for themselves often are.
In that whole process of getting up when knocked down, often literally, that person will have learned and developed an understanding of the world that you will struggle to find in textbooks. Because they are an anomaly. The world has tried to break them and failed, so you can help them to help you be more successful in improving education than you’ve ever imagined. Or you can put them in a box. They’ll stay there for a little while, improving things within the limits you set. Then they’ll go and set the world on fire elsewhere.
Or you can be kind. Take the time to understand what is driving people and which skills and experience they can bring to the table. I guarantee that those conversations will pay dividends in what you get back. I’d avoid the shoes though; she worked hard for them.