Mom, my teacher's having a baby!
It’s an exciting time in every woman’s life: becoming pregnant and preparing to be a mother.
This life transition affects more than just the woman and her partner, it affects those around her -- whether she realizes it or not. And if she's a teacher? It affects her students as well.
Whether your child is 6 or 16, a pregnant teacher has an impact in the classroom. As exciting and happy as it is, you need to keep an eye on how it's impacting your child's education. For younger kids, the situation may trigger unintended tension around the transition to a maternity leave. For older kids, there may be challenges with consistent teaching and assessment.
Before a pregnancy is announced, there may be stress in the classroom. Think about your own icky feeling in the first trimester -- and now imagine trying to manage classrooms full of students while trying to keep lunch in your belly.
Many kids sense something is going on long before anything is said. Your child may suddenly begin to tell you negative things about the classroom or express things about school that either don't seem logical or are wholly denied if you approach the teacher.
It's a tricky situation: You need to respect the teacher's personal life, but you also need to look out for your child.
Preparing for transitions
Once a teacher does announce her pregnancy, there likely will be more verbalized emotions, from excitement to anxiety. If there has been stress in the classroom up until this point, putting a name to it may actually calm things down a little (or a lot) for a while.
Communication is critical. Now is the time for the teacher to start preparing the students and the parents for the next set of transitions as the baby's arrival nears. Depending on the due date relative to the school year, the teacher and administration should be planning for contingencies. Though everyone may hope it's unnecessary, that includes contingencies should there be pregnancy complications.
While asking a teacher specific pregnancy questions is off limits, asking about transition plans for the classroom is reasonable -- and essential if your child sometimes struggles with transitions. Not only will this help the students, but it may also help the teacher identify areas for which to plan that will make the transition easier for her, too. You can ask:
- When does the school expect the teacher to go on leave, and will there be any planned reduction of time before that?
- Has a long-term substitute been identified, and when and how will a transition to that person begin?
- If the maternity leave is during the middle of the school year, how will the teacher transition back?
- Will the teacher be available for questions during leave? This can be important at the high school level as teenagers' grades impact college applications and a shift in approach or expectations mid-year affects those grades.
No matter the situation, staying involved and aware is important. Plan regular check-ins with the teacher, the substitute and administration leading up to, during and well after a teacher's maternity leave. Planning and communicating can help all of you ease the transition and provide a consistent environment for the kids while appropriately celebrating the new life the teacher is bringing into the world.