Going back to teaching after a lengthy period can be quite daunting, especially if there is a new member of your family needing your undivided attention. Here are some tips to make life easier.

There is no doubt that a baby changes your life completely. Indeed, some parents, if finances allow, opt out of work for a few years, whilst others decide on a change of status from full to part-time, so that they can spend more time with the new arrival. For most, parenthood is a joy but when the time comes to get back to work it can be a heart-wrenching and difficult time. It is hard to imagine that one little person can be so time-consuming, but the simple fact is, babies do need and want your attention. It is important, thus, to be well organised.

1. Be happy with your childcare. It is never too early to decide on childcare arrangements. There are many options available nowadays and it is important that you make the right decision for you and your child. A nursery school’s hours might just be too rigid for the flexibility that is often required in a teaching post but, on the other hand, a nanny might prove too costly. It may sound obvious, but once you have found your perfect childcare solution make sure that both you and your baby are used to spending time apart.

2. Build flexibility into your childcare arrangements. If finance is not an issue do try and build some extra time into your weekly routine. If financing this extra time proves to be a problem then look at the possible alternatives (a willing grandparent, for example). An extra hour or even half-hour at school may add to the cost of childcare fees but it could make all the difference to your effectiveness as a teacher. It will also mean that you can spend time with your child at the end of the day knowing that tomorrow’s lessons are all prepared. Don’t forget to think ahead to INSET days, attending courses and additional meetings, all of which can throw your arrangements into confusion.

3. Use free lessons, lunch hours and breaks wisely. It is tempting to just go and fetch a cup of tea and read the notice board in the staff room but your time would be better spent working. It is amazing how many lessons you can prepare or books you can mark in a single free lesson. Alternatively, pop out for half an hour and stretch your legs. Enjoy the luxury of some peace and quiet, clear your head, take some exercise and pick up odd items of shopping at the same time!

4. Make ‘To Do’ lists. Again, this may sound obvious, but making lists is a good way to ensure that you don’t forget anything. Don’t feel that adding tasks, even mundane things such as photocopying, to your list is a waste of time. As soon as you realise that there is a task (photocopying, speaking to a colleague about a pupil, preparing another worksheet etc.) to be done, add it to your list. Remember, there is a lot more on your mind now and it can be these small tasks that get forgotten.

5. Prioritise. Always look ahead to anything extra that might be looming large just around the corner. If, for example, there are reports to be written make sure you have planned ahead and created some time in your day in order to get them done.

6. Be ruthless. Just say no! You don’t have to prove to anybody that you are superhuman – doing a full time job and looking after your baby should prove to yourself that you are pretty special. If you do not want to take on a new club or organise an extra outing don’t feel obliged to do so. Only you know just what you are capable of, so only take on what you think you can cope with.

7. Be tidy. There is nothing worse than coming back to an untidy, cluttered desk each morning, so try and tidy as you go. Put books away at the end of every lesson and file away your worksheets. Go through your pigeon hole regularly and throw out the junk mail. Act on requests straight away, if possible (if not, add it to your ‘To Do’ list for the next day). The acid test is to think ahead to a potential disaster before you leave the house the next morning (for example the baby is sick or your toddler has an accident). Will you be able to walk straight into school just in time for the start of the day and be ready to launch into lessons?

8. Make good use of the pupils. It may be that in the past you had the time to stay after school and sort out your displays or label envelopes. Remember, it is always possible to find some willing pupils who would help you to do those displays, especially if it means spending a wet break time in a warm classroom.

9. Don’t be afraid to make timetable requests. When the opportunity arises it is always worth sounding out the various possibilities open to you as regards the next year’s timetable. You might be able to have your lessons timetabled in such a way that you could have an afternoon off to spend with the baby, or a free morning at the start of the week where you could get a substantial amount of planning and marking done.

10. Don’t neglect yourself. If at all possible try and give yourself some free time too. Perhaps a grandparent could come and look after the baby one afternoon so that you can spend time doing something for you? Or perhaps you could get together with another parent and take turns to look after each others offspring. It is tiring working and looking after a baby and you do need some catch-up time, even if it is only for one afternoon a month.

11. Keep important phone numbers handy at work, such as the doctor, health visitor, childminder and nursery. If anything untoward happens, you should then be a step ahead.

12. Sort out options for emergency childcare in advance. What are your backup arrangements if the childminder is poorly, or your child has something infectious and won’t be accepted by the nursery for a few days? TEX

Since 1994, Jane Dalton has been teaching at Dauntsey’s School, Wiltshire, where she was appointed Head of Department. Her love of languages and desire to get pupils to enjoy the experience of life abroad has led her to her role of co-ordinator of Exchanges and Trips. Pupils have enjoyed a variety of trips and have the opportunity to go on an annual exchange to Orleans.

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