An open letter to Heads of Department after returning from Parental Leave

Dear Head of Department,

It’s my first day back from Parental Leave, and I am enjoying the sensation of drinking a cup of tea without feeling the need to place it somewhere high above the ground. I have just bought a new suit to celebrate my return. I look smart, but I feel rather small.

In some respects, I am a dream employee. I am full of fresh enthusiasm yet I have several years of teaching behind me. I can just about remember the photocopier code and behaviour management seems rather easy after simultaneously juggling a baby and the mashing of boiling sweet potatoes. I am looking forward to my new classes, yet I have a healthy dose of realism when it comes to their seating plans. I even enjoy the INSET session on Data Protection, because the lecture does not require me to sing the Wheels on the Bus.

Yet I have forgotten things. Seemingly small things trip me up. I had forgotten about that quantitative data reporting deadline, and I do not have enough data in my messy-markbook to fairly reflect on pupil performance. This makes me feel a little incompetent. I had forgotten about that prize giving evening, and I am struggling with childcare. I had forgotten to tell finance about the field trip, my apologies.

I do not know new things. I do not know the new reporting structure. I do not know how to work the new scanner. What is the ‘Wellbeing’ programme? The old administration assistant in the top office has gone, so my cover request sheet lies inert on my already messy desk.

Please, Head of Department, do not forget me. Do not think that, because I am sat with a cup of tea to my mouth and a purple feedback pen in my hand that I am fully restored to the teacher that I once was.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Make time for me, and check in with me. I hate to keep badgering you.
  2. Remember me. I’m old (perhaps I was here before you, even) but I’m also a bit ‘new’. I might need some ‘heads up’ on that new assessment policy
  3. Protect me from myself. I now have two very young children who were up at 5am this morning (and sick the night before) and I have reduced my hours and I need to work out childcare for the parents’ evening coming up, but I want to be the teacher I once was. So gently and genially place one hand on my arm and stop me from crushing myself into the ground.

Because I want to be here. I want to do well. I want a bit of ‘myself’ back. I want this identity. I don’t just want to be ‘dad’ or ‘mum’.

It just might take me longer to get there than we hoped.

Yours,

Parent

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