- Written by Jenny Smith
January / February 2015
Ah the unknowns and ups and downs of supply. Next to “Where am I going?” and “Who will I be teaching?” the big question is often “Will I have enough money?”
For my family and I, it's a pertinent enough question. Having difficulty with childcare has limited the amount of work I am available to take significantly. I find it helps to deal with just the one agency, rather than signing up for a few. It's taken time, but we're finally beginning to develop a relationship I can work with. Unfortunately, I feel as though I've lost contact with the consultant I had been working with and moved to a different consultant, which isn't easy when you're only available for work occasionally. I feel as though I am having to prove myself all over again. And that has been more difficult to deal with than I imagined.
Having spent the past ten or so years of my working life in education, I've struggled with the idea of being the novice again. Of course, I haven't taught since a few months before my daughter was born, so I have been out of the classroom for something like 18 months, but in the meantime, I have made it my business to keep myself going professionally. I've written a book for people seeking to supply teach in the EYFS, and I have maintained this blog regularly. I've used my expertise in a range of ways over at the Supply Teacher Network to help people prepare for interview and observations. I've looked at planning and ideas, and given advice and suggested ways to improve.
And I've started to wonder if maybe I can do other things. Things related to teaching, but things where I won't always be the novice. Working for an education website, for example, helping to create their resources brings me in a little additional income, and gives me the opportunity for some professional development and autonomy into the bargain. It gives me the chance to prove what I can do, and hopefully give someone in a full time post a helping hand into the bargain.
Don't get me wrong. Working from home can be difficult. With a toddler on the loose all day, I have to find time in the evening and at weekends to complete assignments, and this means that I don't have an enormous amount of time for anything much else. That being said, there's something exceedingly satisfying about knowing that it's up to me to fit everything in, keep to schedules and deadlines, and give Little One the attention she needs. It means that I don't need to worry about my availability and Granny's availability and train times in the same way. If she visits, I ask her to baby sit for a couple of hours while I work. And then I jot down how long I've been working for, and on what, on Google Calendar, so I can keep a record of what work I have been doing, and for whom, and how long, approximately, it has taken. That proves useful when keeping a record for the books.
I'm slowly finding that there's a balance to working from home. Like with supply, you have to give yourself limits, and learn to switch off and do something else after a while. Personally, I find working in short bursts of a couple of hours is more effective than trying to put aside a whole day. It stops me from feeling guilty and means I can spend time with Little Legs, now that she's found them and is starting to spend more and more time on them!
Long term work isn't an option at the moment. Hard to accept, because I love having a class of my own, but true. Asking Granny to take on childcare for two or three days a week means her staying here three or four nights, which might drive my husband mad after a while. The alternative is nursery or a child-minder, but I don't really want to settle Little Legs somewhere only for her to have to leave if and when work dries up. When Granny moves closer, which she plans to do, we'll have more options. At the moment, that little bit of day to day and some freelance work is just about keeping the wolf from the door. Just.
How lucky we are to have that choice. I feel incredibly grateful that we can scrape by in our current financial state, and allow me the time to explore working from home. I say that because there's also another side to my reluctance. I know first hand now how swiftly baby turns into toddler, and I can see glimmers of the small child my toddler is becoming. This phase will pass, and all too soon Little Legs will be in Reception and too grown up to play with mummy. And I want that time passionately. I want to be here. I want to see her grow. And I never want her to say “But Mummy, you love your children at school more than me...”