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Best of 2014: #4 Planning for Maternity Leave

The fourth most popular post this year is not specific to world language teaching, but instead about the dreaded task of planing for maternity leave. If other teachers had as much anxiety as I did about leaving, then I can understand why they want to read up on what other teachers have found successful. I know that I was very blessed with the substitute that I found, and that I was able to actually take a break. I can only hope I will be as lucky in the future!


As a teacher one of my first thoughts after finding out I was pregnant was, "what are my students going to do while I am gone!?!?" I knew that there was not a single sub in our tiny district that even spoke Spanish, so the odds were low that my students would be able to do a whole lot with the language while I was gone. I spent the summer after I found out fretting and thinking about what kinds of units students could do without someone who could speak Spanish teaching them: geography of the Spanish speaking world, movies, and research reports on famous Spanish speakers, traditions, dances, countries, etc. Luckily, I did not have to worry about using these ideas since I found a Spanish speaking, certified Spanish teacher as a substitute! This brings me to my advice when gone for an extended period of time:

1. FIND YOUR OWN SUBSTITUTE!
I have learned you will never know until you ask, so when I asked our principal if I could find my own maternity leave substitute, he was actually relieved to have it taken off his plate. I am lucky enough to live in a town with a university know for education, so my search was actually quite easy. I contacted former Spanish professors and asked if they knew anyone who was students teaching in the fall and would be free in the Spring (I was due in January), posted the opening on job boards, as well as posted it on the Iowa World Language Association Website. I was very fortunate to find a certified Spanish (& French!) teacher who finished his student teaching in December and needed something to do until he started his full time job in the fall, win, win all around!

2. Let go of the control
While at the IWLA conference in the fall I brought up maternity leave while sitting at lunch with a lovely group of ladies. They had a variety of experiences from planning every single day of their leave and grading while at home, to letting the sub do whatever they wanted. What I learned from them was I did NOT want to spend my precious (unpaid!) weeks at home planning and grading. Once I knew I had a capable sub, I made an outline of what the sub would ideally cover, plus a ton of extra ideas, mini units, and activities if needed. I then left all day to day planning and grading up to him. And you know what?!? I came back and the students had met my goal for them, they learned and used Spanish. 

3. Make a Substitute Binder
While in graduate school I substitute taught pretty much every subject and grade and you know what I took out of it? Have a detailed Substitute Binder and your sub will love you. This is something every teacher should have, whether you will be gone for an extended amount of time or not. There is nothing worse than being deathly ill, but having to stay up late typing up sub plan. Have a detailed Binder, with emergency plans and activities all ready to go on your shelf, that way all you have to do if you are sick (or go into labor early) is tell your principal where your sub binder and extra plans and materials are. 

4. Communicate with the substitute before you are gone
Once my substitute was lined up, I started flooding him with information. I set up a Google Drive folder sorted by level with all of the possible resources he could need or want for the unit they would cover. I also included TONS of extra activities, games and resources in a drive folder as well. I also created enough bell ringers for the time I was gone. You can download them here- EmpezarBy talking him through everything before I left, I was able to relax once he started knowing that he had everything he needed to be successful. 

It will be alright. As teachers we are used to planning every minute, but in order to actually enjoy the time you are away, you need to step back and know that someone else can take over while you are gone. No, it will not be exactly like when you are there, but if they are hearing and using Spanish, then you have done your job. 

How did you plan for maternity leave?

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