Great things! … when it’s right for me and family

Former Assistant Headteacher and SENCO, Paige Griffin (@peagriff), describes how she navigated her passion for leadership and her desire to spend more time with her son and discovered contentment rather than conflict.

I have always enjoyed working working with children and had done so for almost 10 years. During my experience as an Assistant Headteacher and SENCO at a specialist provision for children with SEMH, I was enjoying my new role and new school. I did at times miss being a class teacher and having that bond but then Covid-19 hit and there were new responsibilities and I didn’t have time to worry about that. Then whilst working from home, I found out I was pregnant. I felt a mixture of feelings: excited as it’s what I had always wanted, scared because I was having a baby in a pandemic and nervous as I had just recently started my role. 

I called my headteacher full of worry and I was so surprised that she was so happy and excited for me! What a relief. My plan was to have my baby, be off for a year and then return to work whilst my mum cared for my son. Plan sorted. Then on February 20th 2021 I was blessed with the most beautiful boy and my

whole world and attitude changed. How would I leave him? I kept thinking, ‘enjoy your maternity as it will be over before you know it’ but I spent more or less the whole time worrying about leaving him and going back to work. 

I stumbled upon The MTPT Project and our paths crossed a few times as they joined us on an Instagram live for YBTN (Young Black Teachers Network) where we spoke about leadership and navigating motherhood. I then decided to reach out as I needed some advice about my return to work. The support, advice and patience was just amazing.  I am so grateful for the platform as it allowed me to see whether how I was feeling about returning to work was normal. Reading the tweets and retweets of many mums alike it made me see that I was just one of so many who were having similar thoughts and feelings. The lovely team also checked up on me as I had mentioned potentially not returning to work but I still wasn’t sure, this meant so much and I felt they were there when I needed them.

Aside from being a mum, worrying about work and just getting to grips with my new normal, I applied for a place on the Aspiring Heads programme and was successful. At this point I still wasn’t sure if I even wanted to work in schools but I was hoping this would give me the inspiration and clarity I needed about whether I was destined to work in schools and reach the top or not. During one of the first few sessions, we had a guest speaker from a truly inspirational leader who mentioned the impact being a headteacher had on her journey and experience as a mum and that along with all my support from The MTPT Project, friends and family was the moment I decided I was definitely going to leave my post and be a mummy to my son.

As I continued through the Aspiring Heads programme I realised that I had the potential to do great things, but I knew that those great things would happen when it was right for me and my family. I will take the lessons, stories and experiences with me and hold onto them until it’s the right time to allow them to flourish, I’m ever so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of it as it really did show me that we need people like me in education, but the door will always be there when I’m ready to open it.

Now I’ve made this huge decision, this is when the real worry started… how would I financially survive? What will that mean for my career? What will people think? I actually didn’t care as I was so confident in my decision. My headteacher was so supportive and said if she could go back in time she would do the same… again this confirmed I was doing the right thing. 

My maternity leave was coming to an end and the dreaded day had come to return to work. Everyone was amazing at home and at school but I hated it! I counted down the weeks but it was longest 13 weeks of my life, but I made it. 

The MTPT Project were amazing: they gave me some top tips for returning to work, things as simple as preparing my clothes and food to make life more smooth. I really felt they were there to reassure me and provide advice when I needed it the most.

Once I had finished I felt a sense of overwhelming freedom and happiness! My son had set me free from the pressures and unrealistic expectations that’s schools have. I was free. But what now? When people asked, “what are you doing?” … I didn’t know how to answer. I’d say, “nothing”, but actually I had spent my whole time back at work looking at jobs and alternative working options and spoke with and networked with some great people.  Eventually I decided I would become a self-employed SEN education consultant and tutor at a black Saturday school. I’m still not sure how this will look once I start properly in September but I’ve finally taken the steps to register as self-employed – this took so long to do and I know now that it was due to nerves.

One thing I’ve learnt from the whole process is how to make work work for you and your family. There are so many other working options for people/mums in education, but it wasn’t until I was on my maternity that I was able to actually stop thinking about work and SEN and see my options. 

I thank The MTPT Project hugely for their ongoing support and opportunities and Aspiring Heads for exposing me to such great stories and networking opportunities. As much as I’m on a career break, I knew I wanted to still keep my toes in education and I’m so happy what the future holds.