Which industry do you work in and what do you love and/or loathe about it?
I have worked in education for the last 18 years but with the last eight years being in special and alternative education. I love how every day is different and that you have to be prepared for anything to happen. Working with children every day and different professionals can throw up some challenges because each child is unique so strategies to help them thrive can vary one day you think you might have the magic formula and the next day it doesn’t work anymore. I really like to see my class progress, especially when I work with non-verbal children. Seeing them enabled in their communication is just an absolute joy.
During the lockdown, I wanted to create a lasting legacy by developing something that was useful and relevant to my job, so I decided to create a series of inclusive resources.
I found as Equality and Diversity lead that there weren’t good texts that I could use with my class in a symbolised format so I created some and then shared them online. Initially, I made them use on the digital platform at school but then the parents of my pupils encouraged me to share them on YouTube and within Facebook groups.
I shared the resources with the National Education Union’s LGBTQ group on the Mobilize app. I spoke at SEND Help conference on the importance of providing SEND children with diverse role models and representation of different family groups and access to adapted books on relationships.
Have you always wanted to work in your industry?
I did not imagine that I would work in SEND or alternative provision when I first began my teaching career. However, I did always say that I would be a leader in education and as soon as I qualified I had my sights set upon being a headteacher. Over time as my journey progressed and I tried my hand at different aspects of education I always came back to the same thought and clarity of mind that one day I could be in charge of a school making big decisions about lots of people's lives and always doing what was best. I have had some fantastic role models and I will take the best from them but I have also had some difficult experiences and there have been a number of situations where I’ve felt my own belief structure be compromised, which has been a challenge but I’ve either challenged those ways of working or moved on to something new.
Any anecdotes that you feel might be insightful?
When I was first diagnosed I told my boss and she told me not to tell anybody. It makes me laugh now but at the time I was horrified by this attitude especially when I was working in a special needs school. I think it’s really important for neurodiverse people to be visible so that others can be inspired and also see that you can be successful and happy as well as excel at what you do. I ignored the advice of my headteacher, once I was open about having ADHD I found that my team was much more successful because they understood how I worked and why things were done in a certain way. I’ve also spoken at local conferences and it often gets a laugh when I mention that I was told to say nothing. At my new school staff are much more willing to talk about neurodiversity and to see each child as an individual who could possibly be both autistic and has other conditions. In my last role it was very much tunnel vision and a focus on autism but last year I actually put quite a few referrals through for ADHD and finally, I felt that I was listened to and respected by the parents there because previously nobody had even considered that the children might also have ADHD and they were presenting to me very much as having that profile as well.
When I received heartfelt messages from parents saying that: ‘ Chloe has a deeper understanding of my child and she just gets it. I leave our conversations feeling enlightened and positive every time. For me, that is the best I could ever ask for. Being a neurodiverse educator I can bring a unique perspective from a place of authenticity and lived experience. It’s something I will never give up on and will always be the number one champion for the children and families that I work with.