I can hardly believe it but this is the last week of term which means I have been back at work now for a whole half term (that sounds like an oxymoron!). It has FLOWN by. Working two days a week is splendid in a lot of ways: the working week is over before you know it; the preparation time is much reduced; I have a lot less marking. And even though I am not there every day, I still get the benefits of work including time with my wonderful colleagues, time in the classroom with the kids, a bit of money and a break away from being Mama Kate by being Mrs B instead.
When I was preparing to leave to go on maternity leave just before Christmas, I had a lot of teaching colleagues make a lot of envious noises about how lucky I was to go for my ‘year off’. If I were doing any other job, I would have been incensed by the implication that having a baby – and maternity leave in general – is a doddle, a break, a holiday. However, as a teacher, I found it hard to get annoyed.
I am now 7 weeks into being a mum for the second time and even with the night feeds and the long cluster feeding evening sessions that seem to last forever, I can still say that I am less tired and more emotionally balanced than I was when I was teaching. Instead of being constantly aware of all the ways I am failing (as a teacher, this is something I was always feeling), I feel like a success. I have a thriving baby that is proof of my success – he is still alive! He is smiling! He is feeding! He is sleeping (sometimes)! I did that. And people are telling me all the time what a great job I’m doing, how well I am looking, how brilliant I am at being a mum. Compared to how I feel as a teacher, my confidence is through the roof. My oh my, the power of positive feedback! Fancy that!
It has left me to reflect on how I was feeling as I stepped out of the classroom: relieved for the ‘break’, disillusioned, lacking confidence in my ability to teach and unvalued. Despite having a fantastic team around me – my department are just superb – I constantly felt like I was falling short of expectations.
Now I am at home, spending large amounts of time sitting and thinking (breastfeeding is special but tedious too), I am feeling energised to get back into the classroom. I want to use the time I have to get on top of the new course content and exam specs. I want to take back some control by going back over the theories of teaching that were explored during my training (but then largely pushed out of mind in the whirr of the real-life teaching environment). I want to stop feeling like a failure and remember I have the ability to succeed.
I just have to get past Nicky Morgan’s speech which is still reverberating around my skull.
Today was my last day at work before starting my maternity leave. It was a teacher training day which was actually pretty useful with a particularly uplifting and interesting session with our behaviour consultant Victor Allen who is a complete legend. He has such a calming presence and he also reminds us that above all, it’s kindness that these kids need. I also had a chance to hand over my classes to the supply teacher who will be taking my classes, at least to start with. I was of course elated to be finishing work for a year especially because it means my baby is coming and I really am very excited to meet him.
But I also left with a strange sadness: I was leaving behind this place which was my place of belonging. I was giving up my classroom. I was leaving my friends. I was leaving a part of my identity which I didn’t even realise I valued like I apparently do. So this is an end (for now).
But it is also a beginning. The beginning of our next adventure as a family. I can’t wait.
Last year’s word was Positive. I think I maintained that for the most part with some notable lapses. This year, I had to think hard about what my focus should be. I settled on ‘Protect’ because my biggest focus (mainly) at work is to protect myself better. To protect my feelings better. I open myself up way too much and it makes me vulnerable. Unfortunately, I think it is also one of my strengths as a teacher – the ability to be candid with students about who I am and how I am feeling. I don’t want to care less about the kids but I do want to protect myself better so I don’t get so hurt and frustrated at their apathy, callousness or indifference. I think I thought by this stage in my life, my skin would have thickened a bit. I really thought I would out-grow my sensitive nature. Maybe next year I will crack it.
Term has ended and if we weren’t about to move out of our house and be homeless for 4 months, I’d be so excessively chill right now but as it is we have a LOT to do before Friday morning. It’s a strange feeling to be moving without our house being ready (built!) and because of this, it doesn’t feel completely real. Come Friday afternoon, I will finally be able to relish the fact that I have completed my NQT teaching year successfully and have 5 weeks of summer holiday left to do the many, many things I want to do.
I don’t generally think of myself as an unhappy person. I have a wonderful family, a great (if demanding) job and a lot of superb friends. Yet I was still intrigued by the #100HappyDays challenge that I had heard of – a colleague was doing it in order to focus on the positive things about our job as she was feeling somewhat disillusioned beneath the weight of the administrative duties of her new middle-manager role. The #100HappyDays website answered the question ‘why would I try’ by saying that people who have successfully completed the challenge claim to:
– Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
– Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
– Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.
I am far too new at this teaching lark to be disillusioned but I already know the constant feeling of not being quite good enough, not being quite on top of things and the constant fear of letting the kids down. At the beginning of the year, I chose ‘positive’ to be my word for 2014 and right now, deep into the Spring Term with the clock ticking on my underachieving year 11s, I am struggling to keep that word at the forefront of my mind. Whilst my fundamental happiness may be intact, my day-to-day mood is less ‘happy’ or ‘positive’ and more ‘panicked’ and ‘exhausted’.
Enter #100HappyDays. I am doing this challenge to remind myself what a special career I have. I am doing it so I don’t lose sight of my priorities. I am doing it so that I can allow myself to focus, if only for a few moments a day, on myself instead of all the other people (big and small) in my life who I want to care for. My first two entries have involved TV and bacon which I would say is fairly representative of what makes me feel good. I wonder what the next 98 days will involve. I will be posting mainly on Instagram if you want to follow.
Since this month’s NaBloPoMo theme is ‘pressure’, I thought I ought to write about it at least once this month and yet every day that I have come to write something I have felt reluctant. Maybe this is because ‘pressure’ is such a negative word and my word for 2014, as you know, is Positivity. Maybe it’s because I am bored by the constant pressure I am under and so feel no great urge to moan about all those things that life throws at me because I am a teacher or a working mother or a human being. I am not really sure I could write about this subject all month.
Then I thought about other applications of the word ‘pressure’ and tried to find positive ones. There is the cool kind of pressure that turns coal into diamonds. That kind of pressure is NICE. There is peer pressure which can be utterly horrendous but now that I am a proper grown-up person is instead supportive and appreciated. Thanks, Louise, for shouting NO! at me when I was about to reach for a chocolate without thinking in the English office the other day. Having someone like my work bestie Louise working with me and dieting with me is exactly the kind of pressure I respond to and apparently, even with my fully-grown status, something I really need to be an effective teacher/mother/human being.
Yesterday, I was back at school for teacher training and while this posts, I will be slap bang in the middle of a full day of teaching. As I went to bed last night, I was surprisingly calm (despite some last minute planning because it wouldn’t be me if I was *completely* prepared ahead of time) and was actually looking forward to seeing the kids again. I am sure by tonight this will have worn off. Tuesdays are my busiest day so I am quite glad to be getting it out of the way. It was a tough day of scary messages yesterday (Ofsted are looming and we HAVE to be ready!). I just want to get teaching now.