Frances Ashton (@FKAEnglish) talks ambition, confidence and Maternity Leave CPD.

I want to be an Assistant Head Teacher. I’ve never actually written those words down or said them out loud to anyone other than in dinner time musings with my other half.

I’ve thought them. Many, many times. But somehow, giving those inner thoughts volume was too risky: they stall and flake out before they can reach my lips.

And recently I’ve been wondering why?

It’s not like it’s a pie in the sky ambition. I’ve been teaching for 8 years and have taken several promoted posts along the way with increasing levels of responsibility. I worked as a Lead Practitioner, Second in Department, Advanced Learner Leader and have taken something from each role that has built my determination that I can handle a more senior position. Most recently I became an Associate member of SLT, leading on Teaching and Learning: my dream focus. But as for the next step? I’ve always erred on the side of caution when it comes to being open about my ambition. Fearful. But of what?

Perhaps its a fear of all of the labels that can adhere, primarily to women (particularly to mothers) who want to move forward professionally. Of being deemed ‘controlling,’ ‘bossy,’ and ‘unlikeable’ when my male colleagues might be ‘confident’ ‘commanding’ and ‘respected.’ And I’m not alone. In ‘Lean In’ and a series of articles in the New York times, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the tendency of women to hold back for fear of being more harshly judged than male colleagues. There is also the research that shows that women won’t apply for jobs unless they feel they cover all of the characteristics and qualifications outlined in the advert. Men however, will apply if they cover only 60%.

Having read her book, I made a concerted effort to be clear and unapologetic when giving my views and ideas and pledged to eradicate the undermining ‘just’ from my requests to colleagues. But I still wasn’t direct and open about my ambitions.

But now, on Maternity Leave with my second daughter, this has changed. My 2016 heralded some joyful events but also housed the most challenging and unspeakably difficult moments of my life. I’ve always considered myself to be resilient, but 2016 made me brave.

Moving forward, I’m getting involved in the local WomenEd group. I’m reading about leadership. I’m re-reading A Level texts and drafting useful resources. And I’m blogging here.

I’ll make no apologies for my ambition. I’ll not moderate my aspirations. I’ll be (more than) 10% braver.

And hopefully in the not too distant future, I’ll be celebrating.