Saturday, July 2, 2016

Oh, Baby! Preparing Students for Maternity Leave

If you read my "Five for Friday" yesterday, then you know I am expecting. I am filled with both joy and anxiety. My due date is September 30th, so IF I make it to that date, I only have 4 weeks to prepare my classroom and students for my six week departure. Like the Type-A, OCD teacher I am, I have already started doing many things to prepare.

I've noticed from scrolls through my Instagram feed, that many of the fabulous teachers I follow are also expecting and due around my timeline. My hope is that this post will help any teacher prepare for maternity leave, especially those who have to step away at the beginning of the year. Or, help any teacher who has to prepare for another extended leave due to health or family leave.

When I had my first daughter, it was at the beginning of April, so my experience was a little different. I did learn that there are two crucial things that need to happen before you leave:
1. Prepare Your Students
2. Establish Routines

Talk About It: Begin the conversation about your upcoming absence. Don't let it be a surprise or something you mention for the first time a week before you're due. Even though your students can see that you are pregnant, younger ones won't actually realize that you will have to leave for a while when the baby is born.

Meet & Greet: If possible, have your sub come in for a day to meet your students. If you have an amazing principal, they might pay the sub for a day (or a half day) to shadow you and see how things work in your room. Take full advantage of having the sub and begin establishing relationships and helping them understand the consistency of your routines.

Get Them Excited: Plan a mini-baby shower for your class. Bring in cupcakes, play shower games, and even have them vote on names for your little one. Anything that gets them involved and excited will help them understand why you will be gone for so long.
The last week of school my sweet class threw me a surprise birthday party/baby shower. 
They decorated the classroom, brought in cupcakes/chips/juice/my favorite soda, and even gifts! 
I will definitely miss this bunch! It was such a great time!

Explain Everything: Well, not everything... Just be very clear about the importance of certain routines and the responsibility the students will have to follow them while you are gone. Don't just explain the math workshop routine, have a conversation about how it is important for them to follow the rules and learn how to do it right, so they can continue to enjoy workshop while you are gone.

Think About the Little Things: Make sure your classroom can run without you. Do students know what to do if they need a tissue, have to use the bathroom, loose supplies, have a question, need help, lose an assignment, etc. Think of all the little things students run to you for at random times throughout the day and make sure they know what to do. This would be a great anchor chart to create and hang in your room.
This amazing anchor chart is from Haley at My Silly Firsties.

Class Meetings: Have daily, bi-weekly, or weekly class meetings leading up to your leave. This will help build culture and it will give more time for conversation about what they should expect while you are gone. One great thing to do would be to role-play scenarios of every day things that might happen, and how the kids should handle it.

(, for real)

Step Your Game Up: In the weeks leading up to your leave, there is no room to play the nicey-nice teacher who lets students skate by with not meeting expectations. You don't have to be mean to be firm. Students should know that you expect them to meet whatever expectation is set, consistently. This might mean being the obnoxious teacher in the hallway, being a hardcore bathroom monitor, or shooting that death glare if someone calls out without raising a hand. It can be exhausting, but if you are consistent, then it won't last long and your sub will thank you.

Record Your Routines: Whether or not your sub can shadow you for a day, you need to have all of your routines written up somewhere for them to refer to. You should also include notes on rewards or consequences that are attached to following the procedures/routines.

Create Visual References: Don't just rely on your student's memory to follow all the routines exactly while you are gone. Create anchor charts with your students before you leave. Have them just used to knowing where the charts are and following them. For my last leave, I had a routine PowerPoint with slides for am routine, pm routine, entering/exiting class, lining up, bathroom, recess, hallway, cleaning up, getting out supplies, independent reading, math centers, fire drills, etc.. The sub would pull up the PPT every morning and display the slides as needed. The kids were used to it, because I used the same thing before I left.

---Organizing Your Room for a Sub
---Creating a Maternity Leave Binder

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