Eight months into Maternity Leave, Frances Ashton (@FKAEnglish) is starting to think about the return to work. And true to form, she’s made a plan…

My Maternity Leave is ebbing away now. Although I won’t be ‘properly’ back until September, I need to start adapting and preparing. Normally, when term 6 arrives it is a welcome reprieve from exam stress and a much heralded opportunity to start planning for the start of the next academic year. Staff can be spotted sauntering rather than running for the first time in weeks. Tea is drunk by the gallon. Plans for a Summer party emerge.

September is a clamouring, labour intensive shock to the system and there is little time to breathe amongst the hoard of new students to greet and lessons to plan. So July is necessary head space: room for creativity and reflection.

Last year I only taught exam classes, so my July was peaceful, productive and calm.

This time will be different.

This time, I won’t have July and come September, amidst the noise of a groaning timetable I will also be contending with the logistical and emotional implications of the nursery drop off as well and dusting off my professional persona for the first time in a year.

I am inherently and irreversibly a planner. I don’t like being on the back foot and have been laying down plans to minimise the likelihood that I will be all at sea. I’ve been inspired by others in the MTPT Community who have fearlessly shown how possible it is to balance our two identities, explode back into the workplace and shine a spotlight on how inclusive, flexible and empowering our schools can be. Below, I’ve outlined the four main actions I’m taking to ensure I do them proud.

My Action Plan

1.The return to work meeting.

At the start of the term, I arranged a meeting with my Head to discuss my return. I even wrote myself an informal agenda covering the questions I want to ask about developments in the school, my own ambitions and a summary of the MTPT CPD I’d been conducting whilst away. My aim was simple: feel like I’m back, before I’m back. Next year’s priorities are conceived and nurtured this side of the summer break, so it was important for me to be part of those discussions and not inherit an agenda I didn’t help shape

2. Getting back in touch

Following this meeting, I contacted IT and asked to be put back on the Staff Mailing List. The decision to remove those who are on parental leave is made to enable parents to feel free from professional matters whilst they are away. But edging towards a return, I felt like I wanted to feel informed. Consulted. The vast majority I ignore, delete or file away to read later. But now I’m choosing how to manage this e-communication and I can engage when I want or need to. My direct line managers have been supportive of this and thankfully no-one has suggested that I should ‘not worry about work.’

3. Keeping in touch days

KIT days offer a great opportunity to get back into work in a staged way and try out that professional persona for a while. I know colleagues who have used them to attend key planning meetings or away days, or to help with revision classes. When I imagined using them for these very types of activities, I also envisaged coordinating them with Grandparent childcare or my husband taking a day off. I never considered taking my youngest (nearly 8 months) with me. Until I saw inspiring MTPT teachers like @KFiddian and @Gillettscience doing just that. Babies in slings, mid exam lesson or @WomenEd talk. So inspiring. Although I don’t think I’ll be doing this when I do have childcare, it is definitely something I will do if I need to pop in a do some quick sorting or planning.

4. Hunter-Gatherer.

In a world where knowledge is power, the person with all the resources is Queen. In a time of massive upheaval in the English curriculum, I have been absent during a period of industrious resource creation and development. Wonderful as I know these resources will be, I will need time to familiarise myself with them and adapt them to my own style where appropriate. Again, September (the cruel task master) will not indulge this. So, very soon I will be asking my HoD to pool as many key resources as he thinks I’ll need into a folder on the shared area (which I can access from home) for perusal in my own time.

When September comes, I’m sure there will be a period of readjustment. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts your professional identify can take a battering on Parental Leave. But this time, with the help the MTPT Project and the @WomenEd community, I feel I’ve managed to shape the type of maternity leave I wanted and will go back all the better for it.