Sunday, 21 April 2013

Gove - Work - Life*

I was what I would describe as a closet career woman. I was really passionate about my job, about education and working my way up. But I don't think I was too "in your face" about it... I didn't eat and breathe work every waking moment, but I relished in it, quietly. I changed jobs at the end of my first year of teaching, and as we were relocating, and applied for everything I could. I couldn't be too fussy, we had a brand new mortgage to pay. I fell on my feet into a somewhat unexpected managerial position and I could not have been happier. I worked until 6pm every night and rarely took work home except at the weekend sometimes. I (almost) always felt on top of my to do list, and felt able to juggle life and work. Work hard, play hard. 

I didn't take much time off after having E and had planned to go back full time. People raised their eyebrows at me. But "my" children at school were and still are really important to me. Shortly after E was born, my late mother-in-law became very poorly, and our childcare situation changed dramatically... I ended up returning a couple of weeks later than I had planned to, but only four days a week. There were a whole host of reasons why it needed to be like that, but I've not looked back.

This weekend was about family, friends and outdoor fun.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how I'd have coped full time. I am too much in love with my day with my daughter each week. We get to enjoy places like the Sea Life Centre when it's not really busy, I can catch a sneaky nap time cuddle (not often, I have strong opinions on this but that's for some other time), we get to see some of our friends who don't live locally sometimes, we get to be just me and her. Lunchtime, is without doubt, my favourite meal of the week. Me and her.

Last week, we said goodbye to E's nana after her valiant battle with cancer. E never met her Granny, my mum. On my day off last week, E and I stayed home and read books, made lion noises and laughed together a lot. Aged 26 and a few days I've had my fair share of grief. Life's too short. Our day just got a whole lot more special, a whole lot more important. Any thoughts of ever going full time until all the kids (the one I have, the ones I plan to have) are at school have gone. Our day.

That's not to say that I found my happy medium. In twelve weeks time, I'll have been back a year after maternity leave. I've still not mastered my work/life balance. The holidays are great. E comes out of nursery and we have a lot of family time then, as D also works in education. But term time is a real struggle. I have a long commute and my days of working until 6pm are a distant memory as I do the evening nursery run. I've left the building by 5pm. By the time we've done bedtime and fed ourselves, it's gone 8pm and my inclination to work is weak to say the least. I am fully aware that every working household with kids must be similar. Hats off to us all. I inevitably end up working three evenings a week and some time at weekends, and I've become far more productive in my PPA and management time at work this year than I ever was before. I've come to realise that I can't always be outstanding or even good. I just have to be good enough. But I'm yet to work out what good enough is when it comes to my job. Just this week I had a long conversation with a parent whose grievences partly stemmed from something I hadn't done. Or rather I had done it but I hadn't done it often enough. When is the time for it? How can I be more efficient? I obviously teach less but my managerial role didn't reduce when my days did. At the weekends if E goes out with daddy and I stay at home and work I feel like I'm really missing out. On him and on her. If I work late and don't make it home in time for bedtime, I feel hideously guilty. But I've not finished my written feedback from before the easter holidays. Take a step back. Daddy needs time with her too. I was home but I didn't put her to bed last night. What's the difference?


School days should be longer and school holidays should be shorter. A predicament that would have made my heart sink even before I felt like I was juggling 231 balls, some of which have thorny bits and others of which are ticking time bombs. 

I know E is a long way from starting school, but my first reaction to this was "I WANT TO SEE MY KID!" Longer at school in a day means that valuable, precious time of an evening is shortened, and they are more tired and therefore more grumpy. I would feel the same if my days were longer. I know that I'm lucky that I'll get my school holidays with my kids, and not all parents do, and some have to put childcare provisions in place for them but I genuinely feel that the kids need that time off as much as the teachers. To stop, to have fun, to be children. To catch up on marking, to get a bit of sleep, to get that holiday illness I always seem to get. I want to be able to educate my children too. I want to take them places, let them see stuff, spend time with their friends outside of school, see their grandpa who doesn't live in the next town. That's what life is about too, even if I struggle to balance it right now.

I don't even know where I start with how I feel about this as a teacher. Even when I'm finding the balance hard, the children that I teach are of utmost importance. I'm freaking about May Day bank holiday and how that impacts on my Year 11s who only have five weeks until their exam and giving up more lunchtimes for them. I'm thinking of creative ways to get to those kids who don't respond all that well to my natural teaching style, and the big elephant in the room - one word, begins with O - is still very much in the room. I know there are people who think teachers work 9-3 40 weeks a year and that misconception will probably never change. I've had that discussion too many times, but we do work through our holidays, our evenings, our weekends. I did work an 80 hour week when 34 weeks pregnant to conduct the school show. Because we love it. But there's only so much we can give at once. And if we want... need... to improve standards of education, then I'm sure every teacher who does their job for the right reasons is willing to play their part in that. I don't even know where we start, if I'm honest. But I am positive that this wont solve it. Excellent teachers will step down from their positions because of this and that will not help to boost standards of education. Fact.

It fills me with dread: Less time to do even more?

So this term is my time to work out how I make myself more efficient. To work out what rules I will set myself for the new academic year, and ensure I stick to them. The first step to fixing a problem is realising that there is one, right? 

Me and her. I must remember. 

This is the start of summer.

*Yes, I know it's Sunday, not Friday, but this occupied a lot of Friday's thoughts... 

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