So here we are, husband and wife, two point four children and a dog later. Before we had children, I was a supply teacher. I worked all and any days I was asked to, and I would do whatever was needed to get the job done, even if it meant giving up my own time, or providing my own resources. Supply or not, I was always committed to giving the community of children and parents in my care that little bit extra. The very best I could, and it was never too much trouble. I enjoyed being committed, and it was part of the reason why I was asked back to different schools, and had word of mouth recommendations for long term assignments. I prided myself on doing a good job.
And yet. There was a part of me, even then, who wondered how things would change when I had children. How would I balance things? How I would go from being teacher me to teacher me with two children and a dog at home me? I never wanted to be the mummy whose children told her she loved her class more than them. Unthinkable!
So how does one make sure that doesn’t happen?
1. The truth is, you can’t always. Sometimes work, even as a supply teacher, has to take priority and your own children take a metaphorical back seat for a few hours. Back when I had no children, though, I remember a weekend before an Ofsted visit where I worked entirely for free. I was told I would be paid overtime, but of course I never was! My in-laws were visiting, and I spent hardly any time with them at all. These days, I would ensure I got paid. I no longer worry about offending people now I have children of my own (ringing the doctor to push for an emergency appointment has taught me a lot!) and I value my time more. Work sometimes intrudes – that can’t be helped – but don’t do it for free.
2. Think carefully about what works for you and your family before accepting work. Is that long term down the motorway such a great idea? It’s a failing school. Ofsted are looming large, but so is Christmas. A long term now might mean a holiday in the summer, but it might also mean expensive child care, little or no quality time with your family, early starts and late finishes. Only you can decide if it’s worth accepting. The greatest advantage supply offers is its flexibility. For those with young families, it can be a godsend. Staying at home with a sick child, home educating, being able to attend school plays and sports days, these are the perks. Always consider your options with care, and say yes when it’s right and no when it isn’t.
3. It is worth remembering that your children will grow. Sometimes it feels as though I will have under fives forever, but the truth is that they are changing every day and that where once there was a toddler and a baby, now there are children. Growing ones. Scary! As your children grow, your supply availability and teaching profile will change and mature. Where once perhaps you had no experience or interest in nursery, it may look very different through the eyes of a parent with a two or three year old. This is a good way to challenge yourself and provide your own professional development opportunities!
4. School will always be there. Your children won’t be small forever. They won’t need you to to parent them so intensely once they become tweens and teens. They won’t have so many firsts. Babies and toddlers have so many milestones to meet, in swift succession. Enjoy them. Celebrate with them wherever you can. Embrace the freedom that supply offers in that regard, and enjoy it. If you are working on day to day supply, appreciate the extra times that gives you with your children, particularly on the days you are feeling the pinch or wondering if you should look for something more permanent.
5. Be honest. Tell your agency how you are feeling and what your expectations are. If you want to be available for your children during the evenings and weekends, then maybe that long term isn’t for you. Maybe you need another year of short term or day to day contracts. Or maybe you don’t. Only you can know.
And whatever you decide or however you feel, make the right decision for you and your family.
By Resident Writer Jenny Smith
Want more from Jenny? Try this: Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching
Or this: Show Me Show Me Skills!