Madeleine Fresko-Brown (@M_X_F) stays at home for this one and takes us with her on her maternity leave reading journey.

Knowing I lov’d my books, he furnish’d me

From mine own library with volumes that I prize

above my dukedom.” – Prospero, The Tempest


“So, how much time will I have to study once the baby comes?” My husband, who is studying to be an actuary, asked his sister one day late in my pregnancy. His sister, one year ahead of us on the parenthood boat, laughed sympathetically.

“Do you know how demanding babies are?”

I am an English teacher, so reading was always going to feature highly on my maternity CPD to do list.  But the route to doing so was, as my sister-in-law warned, not always very smooth…

When I went on maternity leave, I was lucky to be given a few great books to get me started: my lovely colleague Serena Mullen gave me ‘Carry On’ by Rainbow Rowell, a young adult Harry-Potter-esque pastiche which I quickly devoured and enjoyed.  Said sister-in-law lent me “Do Parents Matter” by Robert and Sarah LeVine and my lovely Teaching Leaders friend and colleague Amy Castle gave me “Clever Lands” by Lucy Crehan. The latter two books both explore parenting/education around the world from an anthropological point of view and both are fascinating. I started eagerly pre-baby, reading bits of both and tweeting what I was learning.

Once baby came (bang on due date, a punctual little thing), unsurprisingly reading stopped all together. For the first 6 weeks, I didn’t pick up a book. I rarely had a hand free to hold one, and if I did, I didn’t have the concentration to read anything longer than a Facebook status.

But when a colleague from my new school emailed to ask for suggestions for a Teaching & Learning library, I did some research, and all of a sudden those parts of my brain that had lain dormant started lighting up again. I wanted to read all the books! (On that note, is a great blog by @jo_facer). See below for the list I came up with.

My visit to Oasis Academy South Bank gave me direction of where to start, and the next day I ordered ‘Making Evey Lesson Count’ by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby.  It’s a great book but I struggled to get through it – the truth is it was so much easier to pick up my phone and mindlessly waste all the battery than to pick up a book and really concentrate.  But if I had time to play Rayman Adventures to level 60 then surely I have time to read?! I vowed to do better and did manage to finish it, and to move on to ‘Get Better Faster’ by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo.  Another great one, but I have to admit I have stalled on that too – it’s a big heavy book, definitely not a one hander!  I have however listened to a podcast about it and read the introduction, which was enough to get me thinking.  If you also have eyes bigger than your stomach when it comes to educational reading, I recommend – fantastic subscription service where you can access 8-page summaries of a huge range of educational books.

Rediscovering my kindle was a bit of a revelation- it’s as easy to hold as my phone and appeals somehow and appeals somehow to my current short concentration span. I raced through the play script for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – one of the set texts for the AQA literature paper I am marking in June. I have also got hold of an AQA poetry anthology and the fantastic “The Art of Poetry volume 6” by @NeilBowen3 inspired by fellow MaternityTeacher @heymrshallahan.

The poems have proven lovely bedtime reading for baby but I haven’t made much progress through the essays yet.  

I have taken to carrying a small pile of books, my kindle, iPad and phone with me from room to room like some kind of possessive hamster, in the optimistic hope I might have the time or inclination to read one of them! But ten minutes later I find myself watching 13 Reasons Why and WhatsApping…

Even if I haven’t quite managed to read them all myself, engaging in these books has still borne fruit – the lead practitioner who I will be working with has now ordered the above books as well as some others I suggested he read before we start (‘Leverage Leadership’ and ‘Make it Stick’). My new head of department has ordered a few ‘The Art of Poetry’ books for the teachers and high attaining/aiming GCSE students. So I guess they can tell me what it says if I never get through it!

Reflecting a bit more on my reasons for reading, each book was influenced by a conversation or a tweet which I happened upon as part of my other #maternityCPD activity – my lighthouses, if you will.  But apart from that first silly romp with a meta-textual gay teen love story, all the reading has been driven by my two new modes of employment – the ports I am steering to (GCSE marking and AHT T&L).  Without these ‘anchors’ (have I done enough seafaring metaphors yet?), I’m honestly not sure if I’d have been motivated to stay afloat through a whole book.  Browsing online articles is somehow so much simpler!

So, is it impossible to read/study once a baby comes along? No, not impossible, but you might not find yourself racing through literature or nonfiction at the rate you might be used to (on that note, plays are very quick to read so perhaps a good compromise – and you can perform them animatedly to your little one – we recently enjoyed The History Boys, bad Sheffield accents and all).

We must apply the MTPT project’s mantra of “no pressure no guilt” to ourselves when we are on leave. Feel free to congratulate yourself if you have managed to read something weighty, but don’t allow yourself to feel guilty if you haven’t – keeping your baby’s boat bobbing along is the most important thing and anything extra is like finding treasure in the water – a wonderful bonus but not the point of the mission – unless you’re a pirate.

Below are the books I recommended my new school buy to stock up the T&L library:

Key texts from my interview presentation:

Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential (Dweck, 2012)
Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2012)
Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College (Lemov, 2015) [several copies if possible]
Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better (Lemov, 2016)
Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Brown, 2014) [several copies if possible]
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way (Birbalsingh, 2016)
7 Myths about Education (Christodoulou, 2014)

If we are going to get more into coaching, these might be a good place to start:

Brilliant Coaching (Starr, 2011)
The Perfect Teacher Coach (Broughton, 2013)
Get Better Faster: A 90-Day Plan for Coaching New Teachers (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2016)


I haven’t (yet) read these, but here are some exciting new books by popular education bloggers which may be good bets:

What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Psychology (Didau, 2016)
The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (Quigley, 2016)
Making Good Progress?: The future of Assessment for Learning (Christodoulou, 2017 – released today according to Amazon!)
Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories (Hirsch, 2016)
What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong? (Didau, 2016)
Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom  (Willingham, 2010)
Making Every Lesson Count: Six principles to support great teaching and learning (Allison & Tharby, 2015) (I have now read this)
Perfect teacher-led CPD (Allison, 2014)
Don’t change the light bulbs: A compendium of expertise from the UK s most switched-on educators (Jones, Lewis et al, 2014)
Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction (Lemov, 2016)

For another extended shipping metaphor, better written than this one albeit much more pessimistic, try: by @Xris32