Katie is a fantastic English Teacher who has also juggled the challenge of a young family too… I recently asked her to share her thoughts on how she held it all together. I am sure, like me, you will find her reflections touching and inspiring. Thank you for sharing them with us all. I am sure there are lessons for us all about how we do what’s right for the people we love.
Musings of a working Mum
When you asked Stella and I what the secret was for working happily as a teacher and also being a mum, I initially thought that I knew the answer: working two days a week.
Since then, I’ve been thinking, ‘what is it that’s made it ok?’ And so, as I’m sat listening to Mabes complaining from her cot that I’m not feeding her to sleep, (I’ve done my time and feel that after 9 months of feeding enough is enough) I thought I’d try to make sense of my experiences of returning to teaching as a mum.
Each time I’ve come back to St Paul’s, my feelings towards school have been different. And each time I feel that maybe I’ve learnt to do things a bit differently in order to survive, enjoy my job and also enjoy being at home.
Before I had children, I was a different type of teacher. I had TIME. Time to stay at school for hours after the students went home, or to whizz home via the gym and then settle down to work. Now it’s very different and while I don’t have any magic answers or solutions to how to be a happy working mum, a few things have made it easier along the way.
After having Ollie, I remember being observed by Clare King (serene, composed, effortless) and her saying to me (boiling hot, flustered and on the verge of tears at the end of the lesson) ‘You’re too available,Katie.’ I was still performing my one woman show five times a day, making myself available to 150 students all day every day I was working. It was a recipe for burn out. Clare showed me how to save my sanity and plan lessons differently. I got to reserve a bit of energy, plus the students benefited from being left alone for 20 minutes whilst they cemented the learning I had introduced at the start of the lesson and I could use this time to plan where to take them next whilst their learning was fresh in my mind.
Another thing that has helped make life easier is sharing. Sharing plans, lesson resources, interesting articles. As a department, we’ve always been good at collaborating and pooling resources. However, there was a time that I would open up the file and look at the lesson resources and then spend time ‘tweaking’ them- redesigning PowerPoint backgrounds, trawling google images for alternative pictures that really wouldn’t have an impact on the learning. It was A.Waste.Of.My.Time, but a deep rooted habit to kick! Jennie has also revolutionised how I create resources for a lesson(s). Before, I would make a PowerPoint or notebook file and then create the handouts on word. Why did I do this ? It was a faff and finding the handouts to match the lesson wasn’t always that easy for my disorganised self. Jennie makes her handouts part of the PowerPoint. Simple as that. Three slides for three abilities, all within the resources for the lesson. Makes it easy to share and easy to store on our shared area on the Gateway too. Why didn’t I think of that?!
Being surrounded by dynamic, inspiring and outstanding teachers is a daunting experience and coming back from maternity leave feeling amongst other things: exhausted, heavier and older, has at times been hard if I’m honest. But what I truly believe now, (thank you Vanessa) is that variety of styles is a good thing. The Dream Team are amazing. Creative, innovative, intelligent and inspiring. Their ideas for learning blow my mind each day I’m at work. But I’ve realised there is a place for teachers like me too. A long time ago, I was a bit like The Dream Team ( but not nearly so brilliant!) and now I’m a mother, I think I offer something else in the classroom. It’s lots of things I guess, but once you’re a parent you have a different frame of reference. I understand that each pupil is someone’s child and know what that feels like. Now I feel that I can offer wisdom of experience and a kind, less flap able ear to bend, shoulder to cry on, sounding board for ideas.
At the moment, working two days a week, I feel like my career isn’t progressing. But currently, that’s not my priority. I wanted to come back to work not just because we’ve got a huge mortgage, but because I love having a job that I feel skilled at. I love being in a working environment where I’m inspired every day by my colleagues and the students too. It’s refreshing and revitalising to come to work and I feel hugely satisfied at the end of each school day. My best friend recently had her third baby too and she’s given up teaching. At first I was envious and wished I could be at home all the time, but now I know that staying at home has limitations too, not just losing financial independence but also a sense of self. I’m not defined by being a teacher, but it is a big part of who I am and being in a professional setting is invigorating and such a contrast to the domestic drudgery that accompanies the many delights of motherhood.
Gone are the days when a laminator and colour photocopier are on my Christmas list, but it doesn’t mean I’m not dedicated – just different now.
I hope it interests you!