Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

Head of Geography and Pastoral Leader, Fiona Sheriff (@fiona_616) shares how she completed maternityCPD during her second maternity leave to develop her subject leadership and networks around her daughter’s naptime.

In February 2023 I started my second maternity leave. I had learnt from my first leave five years previous that I do not sit still well, therefore I knew I would be looking at taking on some challenges and furthering my learning whilst on maternity leave. 

Prior to starting my maternity leave I had become a ‘Fawcett Fellow’ with the Institute of Education at UCL, these are one year positions working on the geography curriculum, meeting at IoE once a term. I was fortunate to continue this through my maternity leave and also to be able to take my baby with me to the sessions. 

This then made me consider what else I could do, and through the power of social media I participated in ‘round table’ sessions for the Myatt&Co website, wrote resources for Tutor2U and TeachIt Geography and

wrote a book for the 100 ideas series alongside participating in online CPD from the Royal Geographical Society and exam boards. I also completed the Secondary Geography Quality Mark for my department and visited local primary schools to lead fieldwork CPD sessions. You could say I went a little bit overboard!

But how? And why? We fell into the beautiful habit of contact napping (wouldn’t have it any other way!) and whilst she slept I wrote or watched or sometimes both at the same time. Whilst she slept I wanted to do something constructive, and for my own sanity. I’ve always felt imposter syndrome in my role and I always like to upskill myself and further my understanding on the breadth of topics in geography. Some may wonder whether I wasn’t paying enough attention to my baby or whether I felt pressure to carry out a wide array of CPD, but the best advice I was given was “put your own oxygen mask on first”, and investing some of my time into quenching my thirst for knowledge was helping to look after my own health whilst my baby slept soundly on my chest. When she was awake the laptop was closed and baby play time ensued!

Participating in CPD during my maternity leave has had a positive impact on my professional practice as I had the time to consider how I could implement the ideas I had learnt about, rather than just writing them down in my notebook and forgetting about it. It also enabled me to make more connections with others as I was able to network and communicate with a wide range of people working in education through which I have been able to access some exciting opportunities. 

Towards the end of my maternity leave I also participated in The MTPT Project Parental Leave group coaching programme, and this empowered and encouraged me to want to help other parents who want to embark on CPD during parental leave. Doing what is right for you during any form of parental leave is so important, that might be going overboard with CPD or doing some exam marking or it could be switching your teacher brain off altogether!

Fiona acts as The MTPT Project’s Northamptonshire Regional Representative.  To join her WhatsApp group and get involved in The MTPT Project community in this region, contact us or drop her a DM on Twitter.