How to Successfully Plan For Maternity Leave When You're a Teacher
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There are few things that are more stressful than planning for your maternity leave when you are a teacher.
There’s so much to think about: telling somebody about how your day-to-day routines run, how you like data kept, where materials are located, individual needs for individual students, the list goes on and on.
There’s just so much you feel like you need to share in order for things in your room to run smoothly without you.
I started preparing for my maternity leave when I was about four months pregnant. I really like to be prepared in any situation and I got so anxious not knowing when I was going to be gone and wanted to have everything ready as soon as possible so that somebody could step in at any time and it would affect my students very minimally.
I want to take some of the burden off of you, so I compiled a list of a few tips to help you prepare for your maternity leave and having a long-term substitute in your classroom as well as a few documents you can use to help organize your thoughts that your sub can refer back to.
The first thing I did was get my entire classroom in order. Last year when we left for spring break, we never ended up returning due to COVID, so a lot of things got shoved into cupboards where they didn’t belong and I needed to get everything in order before I could tell anybody else where anything else was located in my room.
I went through all of my cabinets and drawers and got everything organized and labeled so that when I took something out I knew exactly where it would need to be returned and somebody else could follow that same system.
I then took my computer around our classroom and started making a list of things that a substitute may need and put a location label on it. After I did that for the entire classroom, I organized it in alphabetical order, sort of like a table of contents so that if my substitute couldn’t find something they could refer to that sheet and know the general area to look. As I type this out I'm starting to realize maybe I'm a little crazy! It was worth it to me, though, as it eased some anxiety!
For example, my curriculum materials and professional books are located in a cabinet behind my desk so I just put cabinet behind us. My indoor recess games are in one of the six cabinets along the side of my room, so I just labeled them side cabinets. I hoped that whoever covered my classroom was competent enough to be able to find it from there.
I added this page to a sub binder and in that section I also put a map of the school and a map of the recess zones were students could play outside. This was probably one of the biggest jobs that took the longest and I spread that out by doing 15 minutes before or after school here or there until it was all finished.
I did this early on so that when I was super pregnant I didn’t have to be up and down and organizing things as much. It was also really helpful to just get rid of stuff that I didn’t need anymore and that made my room feel much more organized and clean and put together too.
Next I printed contact information for all students and put that in a section in the substitute binder as well. I know that this information is confidential, but whatever substitute teacher was in my classroom will need to be in contact with parents for a number of different reasons like behavior concerns celebrations sending home report cards etc. and so they will be needing to keep that information confidential as well.
When I got back after my maternity leave, I shredded all of that so that I could keep the information confidential in my secure online accounts. I also created a parent contact log that I included in this section of the sub binder so that I would have record of the contact that my substitute had with parents so I could follow up on any issues or continue any plans that were set in place.
I pinned down a schedule that worked best for my classroom. I then started working on lesson plan templates. Our school runs on a six day cycle that revolves around our specials, and our specials times are not always consistent. Therefore, my schedule can be a bit different from day to day. I have a template that already has all of my concrete times set and editable sections for what changes day to day (my reading or math lesson). I'll include mine so you can see how I set it up!
It was easiest for me to set this up in Microsoft word using tables. I was able to preset the fonts, etc. I just have to make sure to save a copy when I make any changes for the upcoming week so I don't mess up my master copy.
I provided an editable copy as well as a master copy that my sub could write her plans in by hand if she wasn't a fan of typing them. That's just what I prefer!
I did the same thing for guided reading groups--I had a template ready so that I knew things would be set up the same when I returned as they were when I left! Keeping the kids in a routine is so important.
Next I got my students really familiar with their routines. I then made a section of the binder that included how the students were familiar with and comfortable doing each routine.
For example, when the kids come in in the morning, they hang their things up and move a magnet to tell me if they brought a lunch from home or need a school lunch. This also supports me with attendance as students get started on independent work and centers.
It is just easier to keep kids consistent with the same routine and will be less work for the substitute to figure out! I had a page that quickly described each part of our day and the routine that went with it.
I really buckled down with behavior. I set really high expectations for my students anyways, but I really stuck with them and did not budge a bit. It was important to me that students knew what was expected of them, even when I wasn't there. I wanted to take care of any issues before I left. I felt like keeping my students in a consistent routine as well as being consistent with expectations and following through with consequences was very helpful in preparing my students. Substitutes will need to do what works best for them to get the room to run successfully, but I felt like I had set a good foundation.
Let it go! I am a type A personality and love, even crave, having control. But I had to let go of all of that and be okay with being gone for awhile and knowing that not everything would be perfect. Of course I thought about my students while I was gone, but they were in good hands.
I definitely had to do some reteaching and put new or altered routines in place, but I would have had to have done that even if I had planned for every single last scenario. Try your best not to stress about work and enjoy your time with your baby.
I'd love to hear what questions you have about preparing to leave your classroom for a couple months or if you have tips on what helped you best plan for your maternity leave!
Talk to you soon,