- Written by Jenny Smith
March / April 2014
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about belonging, and fitting in. As a new mummy, I have a whole range of new concerns and challenges to consider. Life with a small baby is never dull and months flash by before you know where you are.
In this journey, I’m terribly lucky. I’ve met a whole staff-room’s worth of other mummies, who are always here, always prepared to listen and share as together we tackle the uncertainties and the highlights of parenting: sleeping patterns, formula, injections, growth spurts, routines, weaning, teething, crawling, talking, grasping; the list goes on and on! It amazes me how quickly I have settled into my new job, and how much I have managed to assimilate in only four or five short months. Suddenly I’m an expert in my child and nobody else’s.
And that’s not something I’m used to, not being an expert in other people’s children, at least in terms of what makes them tick and helps them to learn. It has been something of a leap to make the adjustment to stay at home mummy while my maternity leave zooms past at high speed! I’m already looking into my options for returning to work in September, and considering the impact having a child will have on my supply teaching work. It’s going to mean much less flexibility on my part, that’s a reality I have to face. No longer will I want to drive miles away from home at a moment’s notice! In practical terms, there is no-one who can look after a (by then) 10 month old without prior arrangement. Nurseries and child-minders need regular “set” days agreed in advance, so gone is the early morning call. I’d be unwilling to work full time now, so, again, this relies on part time work being available. The agency are hopeful that something will turn up, and I hope to goodness they are right, otherwise things will get very complicated very quickly.
Of course, there is more to it than just choosing a nursery or a child minder based on their availability. Much more depends on their knowledge of the EYFS and the play and developmental opportunities Baby will receive in their care. And all of this is secondary, for me, to how well these people will get to know my child and provide opportunities that will challenge and stimulate her enjoyment and development. That they won’t have a “one size fits all” approach, and that they will see Baby as a person and learner in her own right. As a teacher with a lot of Early Years’ experience and expertise it is this, above anything, that I hope they will get right. I want the person who cares for her to treat her as an individual. I want them to value her play and use it to discover the ways in which she learns best, exploiting those in ways that challenge, interest and engage her. I want her to do what I would do myself, in effect. The things that I’ve been told make me good at my job. And I want them to keep high quality individualised records of her progress.
One thing you get used to as a supply teacher is change. Change of school, class, year group, head teacher, ethos, school size, children, demographic, catchment. Although one school is, in some ways, pretty much the same as another, they are all different too. And yet, something doesn’t change…the professionalism you bring to each and every assignment. The knowledge you have built up and added to over the years. The resources you have bought and moulded to fit a range of different classes and abilities. The flexibility you’ve learned to depend on. All these things stay the same.
Except that…while I have been on maternity leave the goal posts have changed. I’m returning to a different environment to the one I left behind. Now it is all about formal learning and testing children as they enter Reception. Thanks to Mr Gove and Mr Willshaw I’ll be returning to a sea change I’m not sure I can ever agree with. Despite the workload of a full time teacher and in spite of the bureaucracy and the paperwork and the seemingly endless hoops I have to jump through, I love my job. I am never happier than when I have had the satisfaction of seeing one of the children in my class open their eyes wide in wonder and truly learn something they are capable for the first time. Then they use that new skill and embed it into their play, learning it and building on it for the future. There are so many uncertainties about how things will change. I might be returning to a whole new teaching environment. Who knows?
Being on maternity leave has meant I feel very out of the loop. Industrial action and governmental changes have passed me by, in a sense. I will be returning to work in a different school, with a different class, and I may be asked to change the whole way I do my job. From my position on the side-lines I can merely observe and comment, nothing more. I only hope I still enjoy my job when I return to it.