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Juggling teaching and parenthood

Career | Published 1 November, 2008 | By: Helen Beckett

Parenthood changes your life forever and, some teachers argue, your career, too. Read how five teachers adapted their working lives.

Fulltime, single and organised
Lindsay is a primary school support teacher. “I had my second daughter while I was at university. My Mum agreed to look after baby while I finished my studies. A position became vacant at a school where I had been on a teaching placement. It was a full time job in a lovely, small school and was too good an opportunity to miss. Other staff had children of school age and we helped each other by swapping planning, preparation and assessment times and with emotional support.

“I used a private nursery attached to the school my children now attend, paid fees for term time and had the option of holiday club whenever I had to do planning or classroom moving. I now work as a support teacher at five different schools and this is more flexible: I can finish earlier and do paperwork when my girls are in bed.”

Lindsay’s tips

  • It’s amazing what you can get done in lunchtime! If you take the whole for lunch, don’t frown when you see the person who takes half the time leave half an hour before you.
  • Sometimes my daughters don’t get it when I say am busy in the evening. I’ve solved it by having a cut-off point when work things get put on hold and my children get time with me.

Job sharing man
Dennis lives in Yorkshire where he job shares as a classroom teacher in a primary school. “When we had our second child, I decided to work part time as my wife was going stir crazy at home. Fortunately one half a job share was vacant at my school and I stepped into it. It works rally well; I hated the thought that I spent all my time with other people’s children and was missing my own growing up.

“Yes, it’s probably screwed any prospect of promotion to deputy or head in the near future. But I’m not overly career minded. I work closely with my job sharer using email and the occasional evening visit, odd phone call to make sure there’s a smooth handover. “

Dennis’ tips:

  • Google apps is brilliant for doing lesson planning online together. It’s a free piece of collaborative software
  • Be accommodating: it’s not your own classroom anymore so don’t get upset if it’s upside down when you arrive back in it.
  • Get good at finding things out - information won’t come to you

Promoted after a career break
Gillian has two children (and is expecting a third) and teaches fulltime at a special needs school after taking a year’s career break. “I was teaching part time and employing a nanny to look after my two children. My 10 month old son broke his leg, and was in hospital for a month. I took just three days off when the accident first happened and was exhausted, running between hospital and work. On one particularly bad day, I thought, ‘why am I doing this?’ It was like a weight lifted off me.

“I came back to school on a supply basis two days per week at the end of the year out (June and July) and found that if anything, my status had gone up. I felt that I had been missed! I came back the following term to a more senior role with a TLR attached, as I was encouraged to by the head.”

Gillian’s tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Most things are possible, if they really, really need to be. There is always a way. If you can’t do it any more - stop

Head of department who delegates
Lara, mother of a six month old and a two and a half year old returned to her fulltime post as head of dance, creative arts and media. “My child minder has both children; she is fantastic and picks up the pieces however late or disorganised we are. I kept working part time through my maternity leave to keep my secondment roles from being lost. My partner and I have to plan trips and other commitments with care; having parents evening simultaneously is horrific with no grandparents local.

Lara’s tips:

  • Allow yourself, at times, to do the minimum requirements of the job. As heads of departments, there are a lot of things you may feel you should be doing but actually you could find a way of being hard nosed about what do
  • Take your kids to school if necessary. I took the kids into school during my last leave and fed my baby in front of my deputy head - she is a wonderful mentor as she came back quickly after her babies

Part time, tired, still ambitious
Rebecca C is the mother of a three-year-old daughter and works three days a week as a reception teacher in a primary school.“I opted to go part-time because I wanted to strike a balance between teaching and motherhood. The private nursery I use is open from 7.30 to 6 but it still means that I cannot be in school until 8am and must leave by 5.30pm. I am rushed to prepare teaching materials and resources for when the children arrive and staff meetings after school are hard as they often last two hours. I take a lot of work home and work on my days off.

“I have applied for upper pay threshhold status this year and as far as I know, being part time will not affect my chances. However I have missed out on being able to change year groups this year because of being part time. I am however, able to be subject leader for two curriculum areas (same as when I was full time) and I know this will enhance my CV. I am permanently exhausted and never feel I do either job (teacher or parent) properly.”

Rebecca’s tip:

  • Have special outings and things to do planned for your days off, so that you spend quality time with your child rather than getting bogged down in house work.

Need more workplace advice? Visit Teachers’ survival guide


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Comment (2)

  • Thank You for sharing your experinces. I job share 0.6 and am mum to 4 children. I can relate to something in all of these tales. Will use the advice.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    7 April, 2009


  • I am working part time at the moment in a secondary school, on a temporary contract. I have been at the same school for 3 years now as I have been very useful when a teacher is regularly off due to "illness", she has now left and so the school are able to advertise for a permanent teacher, unfortunately in our science department there are too many biologists and so they are recruiting a physics or chemistry specialist. I have been part time as I have struggled to get the children to school as there was no breakfast club and asking my parents to help was only an option on a part time basis. I am now ready to return to full time employment but only want a TMS post as I do not want to take on too much all at once. I have been teaching 13 years now but 9 of those have been part-time. I have the problem that I seem to be too expensive to employ. NQT's are so much cheaper and with increasing budget constraints, they are beeing taken on in preference to me. I am a good teacher and have much to offer but I'm not sure if I'm going to get a full time post when there are lots of cheaper NQT's about.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    23 April, 2009


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