The median age of teachers in the U.S. is 43, and about 77% of those teachers are female. With that in mind, chances are that you’ll have a good number of teachers taking maternity leave over the course of their careers.
As an administrator, you want things in the classroom to run smoothly while your teachers are taking time away to tend to a new child. Good preparation is key to making sure that the transition to a long-term substitute teacher is seamless — and that both teachers feel supported.
So how can you best support your faculty and staff while maintaining efficiency during the months teachers are on maternity leave?
Assign a point-person in charge of maternity leave
It can often be confusing for teachers to know exactly how to communicate their impending need for maternity leave, so make the steps clear. This will help teachers report their planned leave earlier, which is best for students and administrators.
Teachers are also bound to have a number of questions relating to the terms of their leave. In addition to planning and prepping for the absence, common concerns include filling out the proper paperwork along with requirements for insurance and advanced lesson planning.
Appoint someone who knows the ropes to be a contact person for teachers. Whether this happens at the district level or at the school level, a point person can answer some or all of a teacher’s most common questions, like these:
- How much leave is covered?
- What about using sick leave and/or short-term disability?
- How will insurance work, and what (if any) additional forms need to be filled out?
- How much advance planning is required? (Daily lesson plans? An overall schedule? And with what level of detail?) Discuss with teachers what best practices look like in your district or school.
- What about responsibilities like report cards and grading? How much (if any) of those tasks fall to the classroom teacher, and how much is the long-term substitute teacher responsible for?
Additionally, make sure your district is in compliance with current FMLA (Family & Medical Leave Act) laws. The point-person should be well-versed in what is allowed by law in terms of leave length and what an employer can and cannot ask of an employee on leave.
Allow teachers input in choosing their long-term substitute teacher
Teachers tend to know best what kind of substitute teacher will fit the classroom environment they’ve created. They’ll likely want someone with a similar classroom management style, and they also may have worked with substitute teachers they already know and trust. Be as accommodating as possible in finding a good fit.
If a teacher doesn’t have a specific request, it is up to you to choose a reliable and vetted substitute teacher. Here are some of our recommendations for qualities to prioritize.
In order to make finding a long-term substitute teacher even easier, take a look at how Swing Education can help.
Allow a day or two of shadow time
Although it will cost your school or district a little bit, consider allowing a day or two for a long-term substitute teacher to shadow the classroom teacher they’ll be replacing. This offers big benefits to both the full-time and substitute teachers in ensuring a seamless transition, so it’s often a worthwhile investment.
Shadowing will also allow students to meet the substitute teacher and give the full-time teacher time to familiarize the substitute teacher with the classroom and the policies and procedures already in place.
A small move like this can help head off questions and problems in the future.
Send a card or small gift
When the baby arrives, consider sending a small note or maybe some flowers to let the teacher and their family know you’re thinking about them.
Consider having team teachers or department members also sign the card. This small gesture of celebration can go a long way toward helping your faculty members feel valued and appreciated, and it will maintain the feeling of camaraderie that all the best schools have.
The first weeks after having a baby can be some of the most important in a new parent’s life. And although the preparation can be daunting and sometimes overwhelming, a little bit of support from administration will go a long way.