The MTPT Project’s founder, Emma Sheppard (@Comment_Ed) considers the project’s mantra: “wellbeing means different things to different people” as she begins her second maternity CPD journey.
Over the last month since the birth of my daughter, I have done a lot of CPD. My professional learning for this maternity leave is taking a far more structured approach to the whimsical and exploratory subject knowledge development of my first, and is very much focused on the growth of The MTPT Project. In particular, I am building my leadership skills in the areas of CPD, teaching and learning, adult facilitation and coaching through our accreditation process, and improving my understanding of the national educational landscape. This has meant networking with some big players in education – the TES, Teach First, the DfE, the Chartered College, unions, think tanks, educational publications – and learning more about politics, or at least political figures; school, MAT and local authority structures; teacher retention and recruitment; gender and diversity; research methods and the teacher workforce – all with my new little Lucie attached to me in a sling, snoozing on table tops or receiving cuddles from CPD providers and colleagues.
It’s been a lot of fun, but the sense of urgency that has come with the sudden growth of the project means that I have not wanted to miss out on any opportunity that has presented itself, which has resulted in a lot of activity, very soon after giving birth. I thought I was doing quite well at safeguarding my own wellbeing through this: making the very sensible decision to keep my son in nursery four days a week; booking in computer-based pyjama days to aid my physical recovery; taking taxis and public transport to reduce overexertion; reminding myself that as long as both babies were alive and fed, then the day had been a success… but there was only so long the post-labour adrenalin was going to last before the sleep deprivation of parenting two children kicked in.
When I woke up a little over a week ago, therefore, to attend a Teach First CPD event focusing on senior leadership, delivered by the wonderful people at Ambition School Leadership, it was to a mouth full of ulcers and the black feeling of despair that only comes from three week’s worth of five hours (broken) sleep a night, or a very long Autumn term with a Year 10 class that only a mother could love. “You are completely insane,” a small voice in my mind said, “Why are you doing this to yourself? What are you trying to prove?”
Gritting my teeth, I pulled myself out of bed, drank some coffee and left my husband and son planning their Science Museum adventure, because there was a stronger voice – still despairing and dark – that knew that even if I were to stay at home, I wouldn’t get what I needed: sleep. My son wakes up at 6:30am and then cries/ talks/ bangs/ comes in to say good morning to the fascinating new ‘bebe’ and show my his Olympic gymnastics floor routine on our bed and insist we read the ironically entitled ‘Peace at Last’ over and over again. When he naps, my daughter feeds, and if they both happen to be napping at the same time, the caffeine has just kicked in and I am suddenly full of energy, or find myself nodding off just as one of them wakes up. Then there’s lunch time and the joy of finding and putting on shoes very slowly, and the packing of snacks and nappy bags, and the changing of nappies, and the re-enactment of the Battle of InTheBuggy just to get to the park situated five seconds away from your house to chase squirrels in the rain for ten minutes before everyone gets cold and grumpy and wants to go back in to throw all the toys all over the floor (son) and scream their way from 4pm to 11pm (daughter).
It wasn’t until, walking across aforementioned park, I breathed in the fresh air and I suddenly felt invigorated, alive, freed. I wouldn’t spend the day miserably rotting at home, resenting my son and feeling frustrated and like a quitter. The little things suddenly gave the day such purpose: quiet commuting time in my own head as my daughter slept; a pastry and coffee; watching the London skyline rush past; people watching on the train; posh Teach First offices; the view over Greenwich; writing in the notebook a Year 11 student bought me as a thank you gift; writing notes and questions to explore later; free sandwiches! And the thought of all these little things added up and propelled me, almost buoyantly through the park.
At two stations in this quaint little suburban green patch, were groups of locals huddled around weights, stretchy things, mats, boxing gloves. I noticed them with suspicious eyes as I stepped out of my house. Eagerly, these locals ran, punched, jumped, squatted. In the rain. At 8:30 in the morning. In the freezing cold. On a Saturday. “Insanity comes in many forms,” I thought to myself as I listened to the birds singing, “As does wellbeing.”