Lead 5050: Maria Devlin

BSC is providing an opportunity for colleagues from across our business to be part of Lead5050, an organisation that empowers women in education.

As well as this, four ‘BSC Leading Lights’ have been selected whose applications really stood out from the rest. We caught up with one of our ‘Leading Lights,’ Maria Devlin, a teacher at British Study Centres London Hampstead, to find out why the initiative is important to her. 

What made you want to join Lead 5050?

From a young age, I noticed how gender roles affected me and the people around me, and I have been hindered by some typically ‘girly’ problems in my time – a lack of confidence in my abilities, a reluctance to take on leadership roles, and a nagging sense that success is something I don’t deserve because there is always someone more deserving out there.

Many of my friends and colleagues have felt the same. I know that I personally would not have been able to overcome these problems in any degree without the support, sympathy and stellar examples of other women. We need to know that people like us are out there, facing the same challenges, in order to face them ourselves. I believe it’s important to create space to share our stories, not only so that we know we are not alone, but so that we can eliminate some of the sadder stories. With all of the intelligent, skilled and powerful women I know, there is really no need in 2019 for us still to feel that we are not capable, not leaders, and not deserving of success. I’d like to communicate this belief to all of the women I know, continue to advocate on their behalf, and give back to other women by participating in Lead5050.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far at BSC?

I have a couple of favourites. We did a project task about using LEGO to teach English. Ryan Hannan, our Director of Studies, was inspired by the TED talk ‘How I’m Using LEGO to Teach Arabic’ by Ghada Wali and set me the task of using some of the skills from the talk in my class. I loved the visual aspect so chose to focus on the colours of LEGO and using that to highlight word classes in English ie asking students to literally ‘build’ sentences from prepositions, nouns, verbs and adjectives so they could visualise the word order, word function, any missing words in the sentence eg. articles.

Helping the Student Experience team continue the work of my colleague Katie in designing a Drama Workshop for students where they could practise speaking in a more dynamic classroom setting through drama techniques. Students had a lot of fun and planned some absolutely wild cinematic adventures in the process!

What do you most enjoy about working at BSC?

Having a supportive, amusing and inspiring Director of Studies and generally feeling positive about my immediate management team. I also really appreciate my talented fellow teachers who offer support, lesson ideas, and a wealth of experience as well as being really good fun to work alongside in a positive office environment.

What’s been your biggest career success so far?

Every time a student has a ‘Eureka!’ moment in my class is a success. It’s very hard to pick a particular moment, but I’m lucky enough to facilitate and witness a series of mini-successes in my day-to-day life.

What drives you in your career?

The English language is a fascinating beast with a dark past, a rapidly evolving present, and a vast potential as a lingua franca in the future. I’ve always enjoyed its singularities and elasticity – how many varieties there are, how different cultures and communities worldwide have made it their own – and I love helping students demystify and tame said beast.

I never thought I would have a career that motivated me, to be perfectly honest. When I became a teacher, I realised that it was because I need a career that involves communication, support and empathy – to feel as if I’m helping people do something useful. These are the things that drive me in daily life as well as in my career.

Is there a particular woman in business that inspires you? 

Rihanna. She’s grown up in the public eye from a young age, been underestimated because of her youth and femininity, and had to survive domestic abuse and hardship. Despite this, she retains a sense of humour and commitment to her own success that she doesn’t allow it to be dampened by other people’s views on her – or any blunders that she or her team commit. By retaining that sense of self and commitment to her vision, she has flourished without losing her personality or shrinking herself to fit expectations of what a successful businesswoman should look like.

She’s not only musically talented but incredibly innovative – her Fenty Beauty makeup range, with more shades for skin colours than any makeup brand in history, revealed an enormous gap in the market (ignored by many big brands for generations despite clear demand) and sold out in stores across North America on the day it was released.

What innovations do you see in the future for BSC?

Technology, the internet especially, is an inescapable part of education now – for good or ill. When mobile phones and screen interfacing are an ever-present way of sharing information and talking to people, it doesn’t make sense to teach students that their phones are for break time and lesson time is technology-free except for the PC controlled by the teacher. We need to acknowledge the way in which society is changing, harness technological tools as they emerge, and guide students into more effective ways of using them.

Computer literacy is inextricably linked with English literacy. Our students will almost certainly need to understand the English internet in order to thrive in the future, whether it’s to apply for a visa online, to check the status of their university application, or to try to understand why all their English friends are always talking about this ‘Brexit’ thing (and what is proroguing after all?). I see BSC hopefully being at the vanguard of this movement and incorporating technology more seamlessly and efficiently into our teaching practise and our promotions.

If you had one wish for the future, what would it be?

Strides are being made in terms of putting the student first and acknowledging the diversity of our students, which is the essential ‘innovation’ required in our industry. I hope that the new and dedicated management team combined with the sizable talent already present within the company mean that we make BSC synonymous with quality schooling.

Do you want to learn more about women in International Education? Find out more with Lead 5050. 

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