The Longest Shortest Year: Maternity Leave & Teaching in 2019-2020

First, a Recap: 

August 2019: 
I waddle my third-trimester self into school over the summer holidays to compile maternity leave plans. My lovely AP reminds me repeatedly that "you never know" when labor might start.

September 2019: 
The first day of school coincides with Week 35 of pregnancy. My AP tells me this is when she went into labor. As I go about my days, there is a looming sense of "my life could change at any moment." It feels like I am at the starting line of a marathon, but don't know when the race will start. I enjoy getting to know my students and reassure them they'll be taken care of while I'm out.

October 2019:
A few weeks before my due date, a stranger walks into my classroom. He is an ATR and has been assigned my schedule. "My leave replacement?" we wonder together. He is wonderful with the kids, and super knowledgeable about math. I am overjoyed that we have time to collaborate before I go on leave.

On my due date, I am in school. I promise my students I will leave if labor starts.

The Friday after my due date, I give into the urging of my husband, doctor, co-workers and a few anxious students - I call out.

A week after my due date, baby girl arrives. Life is turned upside down into some beautiful chaos. When I do think about school, I worry/wonder if I will remember my students' names. I only had 6 weeks in class with them so far this year.

December 2019: 
Ten weeks after giving birth, I return to school. It is lovely to see my colleagues and students (I am relieved to find I do remember their names). I am back for 2 days before the holidays begin.

January 2020: 
Life begins a new normal as a working parent. I sleep sometimes. I want to give 100% to my school-kids, and need to give 100% to my new biological-kid. I struggle with finding a balance. I tell students my New Year Resolution is to be present - to be fully in the moment when I am in school with them, and to be fully present when I am home with my family.

February 2020: 
I am beginning to find some semblance of work/life balance. My 4 month old sleeps through the night sometimes. My new co-teacher and I build and re-build routines in our classes.

On February 27, I listen to The Daily podcast about coronavirus. I am motivated to begin stocking up on groceries. We buy diapers in bulk online, but decide against going out to Costco.

March 2020: 
Coronavirus takes hold in New York. I am increasingly anxious and so are my students. As other states close their schools around the country, I feel 40 weeks pregnant again. Life is about to change, but I don't know when it will happen.  I wonder how much to share with my students, and how to prepare them for remote learning. I am torn between preparing them and providing a sense of normalcy during school. Reading the news, I am terrified - for my students, for myself, for my new baby. I am pumping milk at work and sanitize everything compulsively. My hands break out in rashes from washing.

On March 15, the call comes in. Schools are closing. It is a Sunday night.

So, where are we now?

This school year..  I've had 6 weeks with my students, 10 weeks without them, then 10 weeks with them, and now I only see them remotely.  I hear colleagues saying they will leverage the relationships they've built over the first 6 months of the school to float them through remote learning. It is strange to not have that buoy.

Reflecting on the year illuminates the question that is on my mind.. how do I not only maintain but build relationships with my students online? 

What I've tried so far..

  • Check-ins at each synchronous session (asking "how are you?" on say, a scale of baby yoda
  • Singing happy birthday to students celebrating a birthday in quarantine
  • Sending surveys and sharing responses to let them know I'm listening 
  • Sharing my video stream, of my face, my home and my daughter with them (despite feeling anxious about it) Because I know that seeing my face can provide a sense of normalcy and a glimpse "outside" the four walls they're in.


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