One week down, forty-four to go!

44 weeks to go

That’s right. I’ve been back at work a week and I’m counting down the weeks until the summer holidays already! In fact, I’m actually only counting down the days until our next day off (only 13 more school days until we get a Monday holiday, then it’s only another 24 school days until we get a week off in October). I know teachers get a lot of holidays, but believe me, we need them!

My first week back at work was far from plain sailing. Actually, it was pretty bloody awful. Quite aside from the fact that I had to wake Toby up two hours earlier than normal, leave him at nursery for nine and a half hours a day and only see him for an hour before it’s bedtime, work itself has not been an enjoyable experience.

[I apologise now but the rest of this post is a bit of a rant and a moan…thanks if you decide to keep reading, I just need to get it off my chest!]

To start with, I only got the job in the middle of the summer holidays so until in-service day last Monday the only time I had been in the school was for my interview. I didn’t know my timetable or what classes I would be getting, I hadn’t seen my classroom, I didn’t know who I would be working with or any of the school policies or procedures. What I also found out on the first day was that I was replacing a teacher who had been suspended under a cloud of scandal three weeks before the end of last term. What that meant was that her classes hadn’t been taught for the last three weeks (and in Scotland that is important, in secondary school the timetable changes in June and everyone moves up a year so the last few weeks of term are the start of new classes). There was no handover about where the pupils were up to or what to expect from each class as I would expect when starting at a new school. It also meant the classroom I moved into was in a state of disarray – it seemed the teacher I replaced just shoved all her paperwork, resources, even dirty dishes and rubbish, under the desk! It was so bad I couldn’t get my feet under the desk to sit at it.

And so, on Tuesday I had to face my first classes with very little clue as to what I was doing. No-one had really had time on the in-service day to explain the school’s discipline policy so when I had to deal with poor behaviour (and unfortunately there was a lot of it) I didn’t know what options I had available to me. Every school has different ways of dealing with bad behaviour – issuing ‘punishment exercises’ (lines to you and me) is common in Scotland but this school doesn’t have them. They do use detentions but in my experience in the last week the kids aren’t really bothered if they get a detention, it’s only 10 minutes of their break time anyway.

As a new teacher I would always expect the kids to push me a bit to say what they can get away with but some of the classes I had to attempt to teach last week were horrendous – kids refusing to stop talking, constantly shouting out, not following instructions, not doing anything they’d been asked to do, ignoring warnings and punishments…. and I didn’t feel like I had any support to deal with them. On Wednesday night I came home and burst into tears because it had been so horrible.

I like being a teacher, I really do. And I know that managing the kids’ behaviour is part and parcel of that but there is a limit to just how much rude and disruptive behaviour I can cope with. After four years of teaching in some very deprived areas I am used to poor behaviour often from kids with lots of issues who get no support or structure at home, but even so I was astounded at just how bad some of the behaviour I saw last week was. And, even more so since I’ve had Toby, I just don’t want the stress of spending most of my day in a state of conflict with pupils who have no interest in learning a modern language, or even any interest in being in school at all.

I will admit that my week did improve slightly on Thursday and Friday and it turns out I do actually have a few nice classes. I’ve found out a bit more about the school discipline policy and so feel slightly better equipped to deal with poor behaviour. The other two languages teachers are nice and have been doing their best to help me. And I’ve managed to clear up the desk (to a degree) and can now at least get my legs underneath it!

So, things are already looking a bit better than they were last week. There’s still a long way to go before I’m really settled in but I’m not despairing quite as much as I was. And at the very worst, it’s only 44 weeks (and counting) until the summer holidays!

I’m going back to work (and my worries about nursery)

I’ve been on maternity leave for 13 months now – I’m a teacher and a conveniently timed pregnancy meant I started my maternity leave at the beginning of the summer holidays last year. It was always my intention to return to work after a year but I was only on a temporary contract before my maternity leave and unfortunately, although I was successfully interviewed there were no posts available for Modern Languages teachers in the council where I was working previously. In this council everyone has one interview with the council and then they allocate people to the available jobs, rather than the decisions being made by individual schools.

Staffing requirements can often change over the summer holidays which means a job may come up once the schools start back in a few weeks (and this is what has happened to me every other year I’ve been teaching) but this year, with childcare to organise, just hanging around and hoping something came up wasn’t ideal. I can go on the supply register, but again I wouldn’t be able to make myself available at short notice because of having to arrange someone to look after Toby. We don’t have any family nearby so it’s not like I can just ask my mum to pop up the 250 miles to look after Toby so I can go to work for a day!

Anyway, it was starting to look like I might not be going back to work after all. We told the nursery we wouldn’t be able to take up the place we’d reserved for Toby and after doing some sums we worked out that although we wouldn’t have a lot to spare, we could manage on just one wage. But then I saw jobs advertised in two schools in a different council. They were a bit further away than I’d like ideally but I had to take a chance and apply for them. I was selected for interview for both jobs and had the first one today….and they offered me the post!!

I’m very pleased to be going back to work – I love being at home with Toby but I’ve been surprised just how much I’ve missed my job over the last year. But it’s really scary to think that in two and a half weeks I’ll be back at work full time (Scottish schools go back mid-August). And even scarier is that my little baby boy is going to have to go to nursery full time in a couple of weeks too. Luckily the place was still available at the nursery we had chosen so he’ll be going there. He’ll be doing some settling in sessions very soon and I really hope he manages to get used to it quickly. miss him I know, when I think about it logically, that nursery will be really good for Toby. He’ll get to socialise with other children, he’ll get to do so many more activities than he would if he was at home with me all the time…but but but…..I wish he didn’t have to go. Nobody has ever looked after him apart from me and his dad (apart from a couple of times when we’ve had babysitters while he’s been asleep) and I can’t imagine him spending more time with the nursery workers than he does with us. I feel so sad that someone else might witness his first steps, or his first proper words. I’m so worried that he’ll get upset and I won’t be there to comfort him. I feel like he’s too little to understand what’s going on, and I can’t explain to him why I can’t be there.

Toby woke up from his nap just after I got the call this afternoon to say I had got the job and I went upstairs and gave him a cuddle and I cried for all the cuddles I’m going to miss. I know, really, that I’m doing the right thing, and I’m sure Toby will love nursery soon enough. (And if our plans work out the way we hope it will only be for a year and then, hopefully, I’ll be on maternity leave again…and after that, who knows.) For now though I need to start organising and working out how I’m going to fit in all the chores around a full time job. And I’ve got two and half weeks to fit in as many cuddles as I can!