The latest in our fabulous series of guest blogs comes from Jo Cowan who is one half of the team at Metamorphosis Educational Consultancy.

I was inspired to write about working at home following a cryptic post of a picture of a glass of prosecco on a WhatsApp group.

Let me explain…

In my previous life as a class teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, I was lucky enough to lead a team of amazing staff. Funny, professional, caring, inspiring, dedicated – every day was a good day for our team. Even when things went wrong, we could laugh about it together. Mostly. And we had a WhatsApp group to share our thoughts on the day after we got home. Usually, the comments and memes were posts which enabled us to discuss and process the things that had happened that day. Some days were really tricky, with safeguarding issues meaning that we had to make tough decisions regarding children’s safety and well-being. Some days involved mountains of paperwork. Other days just involved lots of bodily fluids. (I worked in Early Years, with children aged from two years old – toilet training is part and parcel of what we do.) Some days were loads of fun, and some days were just hard work. And we usually had a meme for each kind of day, which we could all understand and which added to our bond as a team. Often sweary, always funny…you know the type. Not funny at all to anyone else, but hilarious to us. Our record was 63 posts, after a particularly trying day.

However. For various reasons, I decided that I wanted to spend my time working one-to-one with children, rather than doing all the 101 tasks that teachers do that do not involve them teaching. And so I resigned from my teaching post and, with my business partner, set up a tutoring business from home. Which I absolutely love doing. I love the freedom to be my own boss, to make decisions based on what is right for the children I teach, rather than decisions which are based on political machinations from Ofsted and the Government. I love being able to spend time unpicking what a child is having difficulties with, and fixing those difficulties, rather than doing ‘crowd control’ for large groups of children. I love seeing the look on a child’s face when they understand something that they were previously struggling with, and I love working with parents to help them to understand the ways in which their child learns and how they as parents can help them at home. I love the fact that I can just go for a walk, or unload the dishwasher, or phone the dentist, if I need a bit of a break and some thinking time. I love being able to do invoices in my pyjamas.

But. There’s no-one to share the good days and bad days with. My business partner and I both work in our own homes, and we don’t ever meet the children that the other one works with. We can’t have any shared laughs about funny things that have happened during the day, as we haven’t shared anything. We communicate really well – we are friends as well as business partners – but we don’t meet face-to-face very often and when we do it’s very ‘bang-bang-bang’ as we rush to get through huge amounts of decisions, tasks and information-swapping.

Where does Prosecco come into this?

So. Back to the prosecco. One day last week, after I had been out of the team for two months, a picture of a glass of prosecco appeared on the WhatsApp group of my ex-team. Prosecco was our drink of choice – with gin for the more hard-core amongst us. We continue to meet and share news, but obviously I’m not working with them any more and so I miss out on the day-to-day ups and downs of a busy school. The message underneath the picture said, ‘Congratulations’ and named one of my ex-team members. I’ll call her Jane. Now, I didn’t know what Jane had done. Was she pregnant? Had she been promoted? Passed her driving test? Got divorced? I hadn’t a clue. I felt really left out and couldn’t add to the barrage of ‘well done’ and ‘so pleased’ messages that were building up. I felt like a fool for not knowing, and I felt sad – devastated – that I hadn’t been there on the day to find out what Jane had been up to.

I finally plucked up the courage to tentatively ask what we were celebrating, and I found out that Jane had moved back into an area of work which she excelled at, which would make the team’s life easier, and which would hugely benefit the children that they teach. Win-win for everyone. I was able to join in with the congratulations.

I still, the next day, felt a residual sadness at being out-of-the-loop with the lovely people that I used to work with. And yet, as I sat at my computer, I made a conscious decision to count my blessings. My teaching is more finely tuned now and is focused solely on the needs of the individual child that I am teaching, rather than the needs of the group, which may not – does not – always accurately reflect each child’s needs. I am able to teach in a way that is decided by my own experience and knowledge, as someone who has been teaching since before the Spice Girls and Take That were in the charts the first time around. I am able to set my own hours, to have a perfect work-life balance, to spend more time with my family and friends. I am able to exercise, have a drink whenever I need to and go to the loo whenever I want, something which teachers everywhere know is a luxury! I work hard, yet the tasks I do are meaningful ones which make things better for the children I teach, instead of paperwork for the sake of paperwork, which lots of schools seem to love asking teachers to do.

Why did you leave your 9-to-5 job?

And so, fellow WKBN people, I want to ask you to remember the reasons why you left your 9-to-5 jobs. Yes there will be random pictures of a glass of prosecco on your ex-colleagues’ WhatsApps which you don’t understand, but on the other hand you have chosen the life you now lead and there are many, many positives in it. Yours will be different to mine, but there will be many, many positives in the self-employment life you have chosen. Embrace them!

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Jo Cowan and Clare Liddy

Jo and Clare at Metamorphosis Educational Consultancy teach children who are finding school life difficult. They have taught in mainstream schools across the state, independent and international sectors, teaching children of all abilities, including those with needs such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum conditions, speech and language delays and disorders, dyspraxia, developmental coordination disorder, global developmental delay, English as an Additional Language and gifted and talented children.

Jo and Clare, as SENDCos, have worked extensively amongst multidisciplinary teams as well as leading annual reviews of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), applications for statutory assessment and applications for school entry deferral. We are experienced in liaising with speech and language therapists, paediatricians, social workers, foster carers, educational psychologists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and early years intervention officers. We have experience of running parenting clubs and classes and online training courses. Contact us if you would like to find out more.

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