Teacher Maternity Leave: A Planning Guide for Your Whole Pregnancy

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pregnant woman sits at a table writing with one hand and her other hand over her stomach
Jeanne Sager

Written by Jeanne Sager

So you’re a pregnant teacher, and you’re planning to take maternity leave from the classroom. It sounds like congratulations are in order!

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As teachers, we love to plan and organize, and your impending bundle of joy is an exciting reason to get out the sticky notes, highlighters, and planner! I’ve pulled together a list of teacher-specific preparations for you to schedule before your baby arrives and your long-term substitute takes over.

Do Teachers Get Maternity Leave?

Maternity Leave Parental Leave Checklist Planning Preparation

Listen to teacher Vanessa talk about becoming a teacher-mom on the podcast.

You may have already talked to the folks in the main office or the teacher’s union, or maybe you haven’t, and you’re wondering how much maternity leave teachers get or if you even qualify for time off. The good news: The US Family Medical Leave Act is federal, and it guarantees all new parents (moms or dads) 12 weeks of time off after the birth or adoption of a new baby.

Now for the not-so-good news: The federal law does not require employers to pay their employees during those 12 weeks, and that includes teacher maternity leave pay. The law just stipulates that employers have to allow the time off, and they can’t fire them for taking a maternity leave.

With no federal mandate, paid maternity leave and paternity leave are both up to your local laws and deals with the district. Some districts do offer paid time off for new parents, while in others district contracts allow teachers to use their accrued sick leave to ensure they can still get a paycheck during time out of the classroom with a new baby.

Once you’ve determined how much time you’ll be able to take off, it’s time to get planning.

Teacher Maternity Leave Planning Guide

First Trimester Teacher Maternity Leave Checklist

The first trimester is defined as conception to 123 weeks.

  • Start a paper or electronic file for all of the emails, documents, and forms you’ll receive with regard to your pregnancy or adoption. There is a lot of paperwork coming your way!
  • Research your rights for maternity leave (talk to your union rep).
  • If you have a partner, look into what they might be able to do for leave also.
  • Think about when you’d ideally like to finish work. It’s great to have a tentative end date in mind when you’re planning, and this can definitely be adjusted.
  • Think about when you’d like to inform your principal that you’re expecting. You are not obligated to disclose your pregnancy in the early stages, but you will eventually need to have the conversation so they can hire a leave replacement teacher.
  • Pop lots of healthy, high-protein snacks in your desk drawer.
  • Look into childcare options in your area if you will require care, as some areas have very high demand and long waitlists.
  • Set up or update your substitute teacher folder to prepare for absences for appointments.

Second Trimester Teacher Maternity Leave Checklist

The second trimester is from weeks 13-27.

  • Organize assessment and grading data. Keep everything up to date in case you need to make a swift exit.
  • Enjoy announcing your pregnancy to your students and their families.
  • Tidy up your classroom and desk area, and begin taking home or storing personal items.
  • Do some serious classroom decluttering — recycle old paper and dispose of resources and equipment that are no longer useful and your long-term sub won’t need.
  • Check in with your teaching team or teaching partner about your plans.
  • Check in with specialist teachers and learning support. Schedule meetings to discuss students with additional needs before you go.

Third Trimester Teacher Maternity Leave Checklist

The third trimester is from weeks 28-40.

  • If you know who will be replacing you, make contact and arrange a “handover” meeting.
  • Leave passwords and logins for students somewhere safe and accessible.
  • Clear off your work laptop ready to hand it back.
  • Create lesson plans for your leave replacement.
  • Complete all of your paperwork for your administrator to lodge on your behalf.
  • Catch up on grading.
  • Choose a last day, and let your colleagues know when this is.
  • Let your students know when you’re planning to finish work, and remind them as the time approaches.
  • Send an email to parents and guardians letting them know you’re finishing up, and (if known), include an introduction and picture of the new classroom teacher
  • Set up an automated reply from your work email to begin the day you finish.
  • If your classroom has a fridge, clear it out.
  • Pack up and take home all of your personal belongings from your classroom and common areas.

And that’s it! Feel free to copy and paste this list of teacher-specific preparations for maternity leave into your planner or spreadsheet. You may choose to add it to your existing (non-teacher) checklist, or keep this one separate. Wishing you all the best with your new arrival.

Banner image via shutterstock/YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV

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