As I write this, I have one and a half days left of my school year. As of Thursday I am on maternity leave, and I plan to take a full 12 months off.
It is such an odd feeling knowing that I won’t be working next year. I know that caring for a newborn is full time work (and then some!), but it’s completely different. Everyone keeps reminding me how busy I’m going to be, how much work it is to raise a baby. I know that (well, I know to expect that – as this is my first baby I can’t really ‘know’ until I’ve done it). But it’s different.
I have worked since I was in year 10. That’s about 13 years of being in the workforce, with no longer than a few months off at any time during those years. It’s ingrained into my very being to be working, earning money, making myself useful.
And now, with only a day left, I am facing an odd psychological state – I am not returning to work for a full year, possibly longer.
I packed up my desk last week, and said goodbye to most of my students. I can’t even really describe what’s going on in my head. I’m very excited about the impending arrival of our little bubba, and of not having the responsibilities of a job. It will be very nice indeed to not have to deal with behaviour issues of teenagers, demands of the profession, the daily commute, and all the little intricacies of navigating a career in high school teaching. I won’t have to do marking, planning, phoning parents, play ground duty, or reporting. It certainly was a good feeling to know I don’t have to stress over what classes I’m getting next year, how many times my timetable will change, what new pedagogies and acronyms will be brought in.
At the same time, I’m terrified.
I love working. I believe I’ve said in previous posts that I honestly couldn’t imagine being unemployed for any length of time. Taking holiday time is fantastic and necessary, but you always know when you’re going back. It’s completely different to ending your job and not knowing when you’ll return, and what that return might look like.
I have definitely had trouble letting go.
I’m really good at organising things, and I have become very adept at writing unit plans. Even though I won’t be there next year, I single-handedly re-wrote every unit plan for the year 8 science curriculum. I did this because we weren’t aligned properly with the Australian curriculum (with changes that have happened in the past couple of years not having been picked up and incorporated appropriately). I also re-designed every assessment item for year 8 science – to match the new unit plans, to streamline processes, to create a bit more variety and opportunities for students to showcase their skills, to reduce marking loads, and to ensure they align with the new ACARA Standard Elaborations.
I did all that on my own for the large part – we had a few staff meetings where I was able to consult other year 8 science teachers for their input and ideas, which was fantastic. It has taken me the better part of a term to achieve this, working on it on and off as I’ve had spare time.
But why would I put in so much effort into unit plans and assessment items for something I won’t even see next year?
I don’t really know. I think a part of it is because I enjoy doing tasks like that. I also think a part of it is my inability to simply let things go. I am the year 8 science coordinator this year, and I knew things were wrong, and I knew how to fix them and that I had the skills/ability/knowledge/time to do so. Did I get paid extra for it? Of course not! Did I get recognition for it? Nope. I had three people thank me for putting the work in. Three out of the whole science department and senior leadership team, for the hours of my own time and effort into creating a year-long work plan that is ready to roll, including resources, for a time when I won’t even be in the school. Heck, I’m not even permanent, so I may technically never return to the school – I may never actually use this thing I have created.
Note that I certainly didn’t do this for the praise, or to advance my position, or kiss any butts. Reading back over that last paragraph, it might come across a bit bitter – that isn’t really my feelings toward it. I did it because I enjoy doing things like that, I’m good at it, and I wanted to feel useful. I wanted to contribute to the time I won’t be working.
And now that time is upon me, and I view it with a bittersweet outlook. Will I return to my old school? Will I enjoy being a mum? Will I actually miss the work? Will I miss that entire part of my being – the working, career-driven 20-something woman?
Only time will tell!
This article is also published on Actual Teaching.