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- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
Maternity leave as a teacher is different from any other profession. Six weeks of lesson plans are needed and as you already know, just leaving a plan for one day is a struggle. Leaving your students in the hands of another person for six-week is daunting and overwhelming. As a teacher, we have a need for control and leaving a classroom for that long is not easy for us. We are in the middle of a “baby wave” at our school and I have seen some wonderful organization tips and some not so great situations. Here are a few things I have noticed and some things to be aware of as you prepare for maternity leave.
1. The substitute is not you. A teacher cannot be replaced. It is as simple and as complicated as that. The person that is taking over your classroom for six weeks will not do things the way you would do them. His/her classroom management will be different and the students will respond to her differently. It is a fact and as soon as you accept it the better off you and your sub will be.
2. Plan early. Pregnancy is a nine month process, not an overnight stomach virus. You usually have at least eight months to plan and organize your lessons and your room for your sub. Please do not leave your room in chaos for them. Make copies of assignments, for at least the first couple of weeks until the sub can get the hang of things. Remember what it was like for you as a student teacher or even a first year teacher? Little things make a difference. Label lesson plans clearly and attach any and all handouts to these lesson plans. Put page numbers in your plans. Describe the book they will use. Never leave anything to chance. Simple things that seem obvious to you are not obvious to someone else coming in your classroom.
3. Student helpers. Choose two or three reliable students in every block to help the substitute take roll, handout papers, etc.
4. Keep it simple. Your students will be without you for six weeks or more, so you need to choose a unit that is manageable. Not all of us are lucky to have a certified teacher take over our classroom. My best advice for my fellow English teachers is to choose a novel. Print out questions, make chapter tests, and a list of projects to choose from. Not all subs can handle group assignments or even partnerships. Independent assignments are the best way to go.
5. Multiple Choice Tests. You will probably be grading your own assignments and I cannot stress it enough that you should use multiple choice tests because you will be tired enough without having to grade pages and pages of essays and short answers. You can make multiple choice items challenging, remember you have time to plan, and if you choose your unit in advance you will have time to make the tests.
6. Online drop boxes. If your school is lucky enough to have Gaggle or Blackboard, take advantage of it. Show your students how to submit assignments and post questions. It is much easier to grade things online than having to pick up papers and having them scattered around the house.
7. Over plan. We all over plan in our classrooms, leave eight weeks’ worth of work instead of six. You never know if the students will rush through assignments or if you will have complications and will be out for longer. No one wants to lesson plan or come up with new things for the students to do while they are taking care of a newborn.
8. Student Learning Targets. At the beginning of the year, we set our SLT (as they are called in Louisiana) and our “score” as a teacher comes from how well our students perform on the state test or parish test. Please be aware that you will be out for six weeks. Do not set yourself up for failure. As I have said before, you cannot be replaced. Make sure you set a goal that you can obtain knowing you will be out for six weeks, please make sure your administrator is aware of this.
9. Leave a How to guide. Leave instructions on how to take roll, how to write-up students, even how make copies. As I have said before little things make a difference. Of course your co-workers will check on her and take care of things if she needs, but if she knows how to do most of the school rules she will feel better.
10. Enjoy the baby. I know it is tempting to come back sooner or even “pop by” to check on things. The first six weeks with your little one are important. You will never get the time with them back. The school will still stand and your classroom will still run without you. It will be okay.
Bond with your new addition and the rest of your family will be waiting for you to return. Things will not be perfect while you are gone, but nothing is ever perfect even when you are here. Everything will be fine so enjoy your world of big bows, diaper changes, and stuff animals because it goes by too quickly.
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