I never envisaged I would have a period of time where I wouldn’t be teaching.
Since becoming a teacher nearly ten years ago I have loved being immersed in school life: the buzz of the classroom when a lesson is being well received; the staff room and department camaraderie; the sense of community and shared purpose that being in a school brings. I have had the privilege of doing a number of roles in two different schools in West Sussex, my favourite being Head of a wonderful and dedicated English Department.
Back in 2020 when I found out I was pregnant, I remember confidently declaring to my line manager that: “I would be back in the classroom after nine months,” full-time and of course, maintaining my leadership position.
I can only laugh at 2020 me now, completely unaware that I was about to be reborn in a different role that would consume me like no other before, the role of mother.
After a challenging birth and first year of motherhood, I made the difficult decision not to return to the career I love after my maternity leave, and instead look after my little girl full-time. It is a decision that I have not regretted and one that has benefited me and my family enormously.
However, teacher me is still there too; lurking at the bottom of the ball pit in soft play, so how have I satisfied her without returning to school life?
- Exam marking. This year I marked GCSE English Literature papers. Nearly 700 of them! Every year I find this experience immeasurably useful. The process of marking is fantastic CPD – it allows you to retain familiarity with the markscheme, access standardisation and training materials from the exam board, and read real life scripts from a diverse range of students across the country. Very quickly you begin to ascertain strengths and weaknesses across a wide student body, become highly confident in awarding marks and observe useful strategies that successful students have used to navigate the exam paper.
- Engaging on Edutwitter. After exam marking, I tweeted my thoughts on what successful students did on the paper I marked and had a tiny taste of what going viral might feel like! There was a fantastic response from the English teaching community to my thread and I am glad my insights were valued. Twitter is a very useful tool as it enables me to engage with like-minded professionals, keep up with the latest pedagogical discussions and still feel like part of the teaching community. The MTPT Project have also been really helpful in giving advice and connecting me with people in a similar situation to myself.
- Tutoring. I have recently started tutoring and really enjoy it. It satisfies the part of me that misses planning lessons and engaging with students. I also really enjoy making bespoke resources for an individual to support progress and address any gaps in learning or understanding. It has felt very satisfying to use the knowledge gained from exam marking and to utilise my subject knowledge to create lessons that have really helped my student engage with the content and make progress.
- Working with other schools. This one is a new avenue I am exploring, but a school that prioritises workload have requested help with marking. I hope I will be able to support them by marking some mocks and taking workload from busy teachers! I have always loved planning lessons and do wonder if there is a gap in the market for a role working with schools on planning – something I might explore more in the future.
So although this career break has been unexpected, I am pleased I have managed to find some small ways to keep my inner teacher alive whilst I navigate my new role of keeping alive my tiny human.