Every School is Different

Part time Lead Practitioner and Maths blogger, Jo Morgan (@mathsjem) is mother to two girls.  She explains how discovering Twitter on transformed her second maternity leave and empowered her to move to a school with a more family friendly culture to balance her passion for teaching and the time she wanted to dedicate to her family.  Check out some fabulous Maths resources on her award-winning blog.

I moved from banking to teaching in my late 20s and got pregnant not long after qualifying. I’ve always been an ambitious and career-focused type of person – I planned to work part-time until my child started school and then return to teaching full-time. I was surprised, and very upset, when my request for part-time working was refused. My school told me that they couldn’t accommodate my request and that I’d have to return to school full-time. I stood there with my tiny baby Maddie in my arms realising that I’d made a disastrous career move. I’d given up a successful, family-friendly career to enter a profession that wouldn’t let me be both a mum and a teacher.

Devastated about my failed career change, I got in touch with my contacts at the Bank of England, where I’d started my career on the graduate training programme ten years earlier, and was offered a part-time job. Just as I was about the accept the job, my school changed their mind and said that they would allow me to come back part-time, but very much on their terms. I accepted, happy that my PGCE had not been a complete waste of time. Returning to work was very difficult at first. On only two days a week, I was paying more in childcare than I was earning. I often felt out of the loop at work. My timetable was totally impractical, and my daughter would not settle with her childminder. Things were tough.

The following year they put me up to three full days and things became easier, though I was frustrated by my school’s attitude towards part-timers, particularly their insistence that part-timers were not allowed TLRs. I was also surprised by the school’s total cut to CPD budget – no external training was funded whatsoever. My colleagues were all very experienced teachers who had been doing things in exactly the same way for many years – their style was 100% textbooks, Ten Ticks worksheets and MyMaths.

When I started maternity leave with my younger daughter, Hettie, I decided to take my professional development into my own hands. Whilst heavily pregnant, I started a little blog to gather together some of the interesting maths teaching ideas I’d spotted online. I was advised to join Twitter, which I reluctantly did in May 2014. This turned out to be the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done. I have a fairly addictive personality and it wasn’t long before I was utterly hooked! All those maths teaching ideas, all those resources, all those lovely supportive people with words of wisdom. Suddenly I was surrounded by an amazing community, and suddenly maths teaching became exciting. Being on Twitter all the time meant that I always had lots of ideas to blog about. Hettie didn’t sleep at night for two whole years, and during those long evenings and nights rocking her to sleep, my Twitter pals started to become my best friends.

My newfound confidence and passion for teaching mathematics made me realise that I needed to change school. A Twitter contact put me in touch with a school that really values the contributions of part-timers and doesn’t seek to limit their career paths. I went to work there four days a week as a Lead Practitioner in June 2015, and have been much happier ever since. I now love my job! My colleagues are wonderful, and the school’s leadership are incredibly supportive and encouraging. This is the big lesson I learnt from my experience – if you’re unhappy, change school. Every school is different.

I’m still on Twitter everyday – I’d be lost without the maths teaching community there. My blog has become well known in schools all over the country, passing two million visits in three years. I received the UK Blog Award 2017 in the Individual Education category, which was perhaps the proudest moment of my life! I do quite a lot in the maths teaching community now – blogging, tweeting, speaking at conferences, making resources, organising events for maths teachers – and I feel like I’m part of something really important. I’m also mum to two young children, and wife to an incredibly patient and supportive husband – sometimes I have to step back and ask if I’m getting the balance right. Perhaps not, but I’ll get there. One thing I know for sure though – taking control of my CPD whilst on maternity leave was the best decision I ever made.