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If not now, when?

‘Being a mum is a full time job’, they say but what if you want a career too? Farihah Anwar explains how she is excited to take the next step and begin her journey toward becoming a headteacher.

A mum sits on the sofa after her children have finally gone to sleep. She looks weary; her shoulders tense with the weight of the world. “What about the kids?” she worries as she deliberates over an exciting work opportunity.  Taking on more responsibility appeals to her on many levels but she feels torn between the demands of a high profile role which would have a positive impact on a large scale and her commitment as a mother to the children whom she loves more than life itself.  Sound familiar? Countless women face this internal struggle daily when trying to balance motherhood with their careers. The scenario I’ve just described was in actual fact at the start of The Incredibles 2, which, as a part-time working mum of three children, I was pleasantly surprised to find inspiring!

Over the past few years I’ve repeatedly asked myself this, along with many other questions. Should I apply for the NPQH? Could I work full time? How will we cope? Is ‘coping’ good enough?

So I watched delightedly as Elastigirl made the leap and took on a prominent role. Her eyes shone with pride as she told her husband how she rescued a runaway train and I was reminded of the very first day when I was in sole charge of a school (I was an Assistant Headteacher at the time).  An email from a previous Headteacher swam before my eyes: “It was great to hear about your day Farihah and to see your shining eyes as you spoke with energy and passion about the trials of your day – which you conquered of course!  I know you are destined to go on to Headship if that is your aim.”
Yes, I remember that day well.  I also remember the day I accepted my very first teaching job, working for the aforementioned Headteacher.  “I don’t really want to teach any higher than year 4,” I had stipulated as I started as an NQT in a middle school catering for years 4-7.  Fast forward 14 years and I’ve worked in three schools and taught every year group from year 2 through to year 6.
“I can’t imagine doing anything other than teaching my own class,” I exclaimed as I completed my NQT year.  Despite the limitations I placed upon myself, I have subsequently been a subject leader, a year leader, assistant head and deputy head.  Not bad for the girl who never used to say a word in staff meetings!
So what changed?
Well…in a nutshell, I did. Or to be more specific: I grew, developed, learned. I was inspired, guided, mentored, coached, encouraged and yes, at times, cajoled by fantastic leaders and colleagues. And now here I am, sitting in front of my laptop with the NPQH form in front of me, cursor blinking, inviting me to reflect.

How did I get here? It’s quite simple really and it boils down to three things:
1.  The sheer joy of learning and discovering that ‘yes I can do that!’ and not only can I do it, but I can teach others how to do it too!
2. Passion and drive to exceed – instilled in me by my parents and developed as I found my vocation.
3. Encouragement and belief from others.

Of course there have been some bumps along the way but I choose to learn from each hurdle and then focus on the positive, uplifting voices and influences around me.  I am where I am today because of the support and guidance I’ve had – the fantastic Headteacher who spotted and nurtured my potential, the inspirational mentor who is always on the end of the phone whenever I need her, the colleague and friend whose encouraging advice included the familiar quote which forms the title of this blog.  Not to mention my family who support me unequivocally.
So wherever you are in your journey through teaching, believe in yourself and the potential you have to learn and grow.  Treat every challenge as an experience you can learn from and surround yourself with others who will inspire, support and guide you.  And whenever you can, pay it forward.  
As Maya Angelou’s grandmother advised her, ‘When you get, give.  When you learn, teach.’
The nervous feeling that bubbles in my stomach as I start to fill in my NPQH application form is a pretty good indicator.  My time is now.

2 Replies to “If not now, when?”

  1. Dr Jill Berry says:

    This is excellent! Enjoy the journey – and never hesitate to ask for support if ever you need it. There’s a whole community out there rooting for you!

  2. Farihah Anwar-Simmons says:

    Thank you for your kind words 🙂

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The author

Farihah is an experienced deputy headteacher working in a large primary school in North-West London. She is passionate about bringing learning to life and helping children’s innate creativity to flourish. With a wide range of experience including curriculum leadership, CPD leadership, Pupil Parliament and various middle leader roles, she is committed to developing herself and others through a growth mindset approach. As a mum to three young children, she works part time and is keen to promote diversity and flexible working practices.

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