Pregnancy is such an exciting time, but it is also a busy time as your family prepares for the baby! As teachers, we also work throughout our pregnancy to prepare our classrooms for our maternity leave. Preparing for a maternity leave is important to help your students and substitute transition while you are gone.
I have had three very different experiences with maternity leave and I have a few tips to share to let you know what I have done to help prepare my students, myself, and my classroom for maternity leave.
Ask for help, accept the help...take all the help you can get. Don't try to do it all! This may be hard to do at first (if you're like me) but don't push yourself! Pregnancy is exhausting, being a teacher is exhausting, being a pregnant teacher is ex-haust-ing. There's no denying it! During each of my pregnancies, as I neared the end, I had a hard time going up and down three flights of stairs to my classroom so many times a day. Other teachers were willing to help take my class to and from specials or lunch so I would not have to go up and down so many times. This gave me a few extra minutes (most of the time to use the bathroom!) and it really helped me. I'm so glad that I asked for that little bit of extra help!
Do you have parents come in to your classroom to help? Having parents come in to the classroom and become familiar with the routines and procedures is a huge help to you and also for your substitute when you are out! Some things that I love to have parents help with are: packing the students Friday/take home folders, helping with our classroom store, reading aloud to the students, working with small reading groups, helping with group projects, and helping with bulletin boards and doorway decorations; to name a few. Having parents come in and help while you are still present in the classroom is important because the students become familiar with the volunteers and the parents also become familiar with your classroom...all of which will be extremely helpful for your substitute when you are out. Parents are always willing to help at home too! Don't be afraid to send home small tasks like cutting or sorting! Send things that parents are able to do from home but will also save time for you! The extra time saved can be used as time to prepare for your leave.
I always LOVE to share my exciting news with my students. They, of course, are so excited but also have a lot of questions. Sharing your news with your students or announcing in a fun way will make them feel special and they will also feel included in such an important time in your life. In each of my pregnancies, I shared the news in different ways with my students. They are always SO excited, but of course inquisitive. As soon as I share the news, the questions begin..."Who will our sub be?" "How long will you be gone?" "Will you be back?" This is the best time to open the discussion with your students to help them understand how the transition to a long term sub will work. After sharing with your students, be prepared for questions from parents as well. Parents will find comfort in knowing you will be working for an easy transition to a substitute in the classroom.
I also love to include my students by doing a fun activity. I have them guess the baby's weight, length and name and then we gather and graph the data from their predictions. They love to see who is the closest once the baby is born too! To include some writing in to the fun too, I have students talk to their parents about when they were born and write about that day. They even bring in a baby picture. They love sharing their stories and pictures and the stories, pictures, and predictions make a fun bulletin board!
Create something small for the students that will celebrate a birthday while you are gone. Leaving a small card or treat will mean so much and remind them that you are thinking of them on their birthday! Stop at the Target Dollar Spot (you'll probably be there anyway😉) and grab a few small goodies for those students. Your students will love a little birthday surprise from you! You can also find birthday cards and labels for free HERE.
Another way to show students you are thinking of them is to leave a fun (and easy) way for them to contact you. I left a QR code in the classroom and linked the code to a Google form for students to write me a quick note. I use a Google form because it is easy to check in and see student responses from home. On the form, I choose a "paragraph response" so students have room to write and then I use this easy QR code generator to insert a QR code. You can find a free template to create a sign with a QR code HERE. Simply hang it in your classroom and then check in every once in a while to see the notes from your students. If any students had questions or things for me to respond back to, I email a quick note to my substitute for her to share.
Once I am home and settled a bit with the baby, I also have Google Hangouts with my students every so often. They LOVE video chatting and I love hearing about how things are going too. They get a peek at the baby and it's nice to see their excitement.
Create a substitute handbook and (if possible) meet with your substitute before your leave begins. Explain how things work in your classroom...leave no stone unturned. Explain centers, transitions, hallway procedures, supply storage, parties, homework, pencils, etc. I may have mentioned this already, but the transition for your substitute when you leave is so important! Making sure all of the routines and procedures remain *somewhat* the same is so important so that the students can adjust to a new teacher with ease. Preparing the teacher with the ins and outs of your classroom is key. It's also important for your substitute to understand that your classroom is HER classroom and preparing her will help her feel comfortable and confident to enter your classroom. I also like to make a checklist of things I have covered throughout the year before I leave.
Make all the copies! You may want to check with your administrator or union rep to see what you are required to prepare for your leave. Some teachers are required to leave plans for their entire leave, some are required to leave some plans and some none at all! My contract does not require me to leave any plans...but I choose to make plenty of copies for the new teacher before I leave with a week of plans ready. I also try to complete any big projects before I leave. I like to make sure any writing projects, book clubs, and read aloud novels are wrapped up so the new teacher can start anew when they begin.
It is sometimes hard to hand over your classroom to someone new but I know you will do as much as you can to prepare your substitute and your students. Remember, only do as much as you can and understand that no matter what, things will go smoothly when you are not there. Your hard work to prepare throughout your pregnancy will ensure that you will be home worry free with a beautiful baby in your arms. Relax and enjoy your time with your amazing new family.
There are so many things to think about as you are getting ready to welcome a precious new baby to your family! While you are welcoming someone new to your family, your students will also be welcoming someone new to your classroom and I hope my tips will help your transition!
You can find a pack with everything you need to help prepare for your maternity leave: parent letters, substitute handbook, student predictions, graphing, and writing pages, word scramble announcement page, an original book "What to Expect When My Teacher is Expecting," and more! Click here or on the image below!