Lianne Francis, Cardiff teacher
In this job, organisation is everything. Without meticulous attention to detail and a lot of forward planning, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be at meltdown stage before the term is out.
Unfortunately, educators now spend less time sharing ideas about how to engage pupils with quadratic equations or Shakespeare and more time discussing ‘coping strategies’ that will help us avoid having to take time off for stress.
I get up at 6.15am and my head is swimming with thoughts of work by 6.16am. I go over my lesson plans in my head while I shower, having a quiet panic about all the things I haven’t yet managed to do this week.
My little girl gets woken up at 7am and her dad gets her dressed while she protests at having to leave her warm bed (I’m with her 100% on that one). We hurry out of the door while it’s still dark and I try to squash my rising stress levels as she takes her time walking to the car, asking about the moon or telling me about a cat she saw.
Making the most
I try hard to make the most of my time with her on those journeys, determined to be the best mother I can be in the brief pockets of time where we are together during the week.
I drop her off at the childminder at 8am, some mornings having to peel her off me because she wants me to stay and play with her (if only she knew how much I want to do just that).
I spend the rest of the day juggling meetings, data analysis, lesson planning, reports, exam entries, intervention strategies, training and departmental improvement plans. Sometimes, I even manage to do a bit of teaching.
I try to escape on time but fail most days, cursing myself for failing as a mother because I’ve allowed myself to get cornered by yet another colleague or line manager who wants to add another task to my endless to-do list.
By the time I get my daughter home, we are both exhausted and grumpy but I make sure I never, ever work while she’s awake. We play, talk, laugh and read books and I am grateful for that daily, delightful diversion from the job that often feels like it sucks the life right out of you.
But my decision to dedicate time to my family every day comes at a price: if I am to survive as a teacher, I have to resume working as soon as my toddler goes to sleep at 7.30pm.
Most days, I try to wrap things up by 10pm but, in reality, my mind is whirring with work-related anxieties for hours after I put down my red (or purple, or blue, or green) pen.
I often sleep fitfully, waking at regular intervals and relying on various strategies to push thoughts of work out of my mind and drift back off to sleep. If I have a lesson observation the next day, sleep is a no-go, so I just read instead and try to rest.
And then I blink for a moment, and it’s 6.15am again.