There must be something in the water at Potosi School District. Six teachers in the district are planning maternity or paternity leave in the 2020-2021 school year. The 2020 Potosi “Baby Boom” has arrived.
For some teachers, planning for a leave is not a new task. These three “veteran parents” have taken leave before, and know just how they want their classrooms to function when they are home with their little ones.
Mr. Fry, the high school English teacher, is a third time dad to Elliott, Cameron, and new baby Morgan. After taking two paternity leaves for his daughters, Mr. Fry has chosen to delay his paternity leave this time around, saying, “I want everyone going through this for the first time to have what I had.” Since there is a shortage of subs, he has opted to wait on his paternity leave until second semester, although with a student teacher coming in second quarter, he may opt not to take a very long leave. When Mr. Fry has taken paternity leave in the past, he has made sure to leave a detailed sub plan. Mr. Fry promotes deep thinking and open ended discussions in his classes, which makes it difficult for subs to know what to ask students. “Even if [the subs] do know the piece of literature, maybe they don’t know it as deeply as I do having taught it for ten years.” To make up the difference, Mr. Fry tries to help his sub by grading papers, keeping in contact with his sub, and reading materials to enhance and revise his curriculum. Mr. Fry believes that the more he reads, the better he can teach, so he is constantly reading a book to further his knowledge.
Mrs. Meier, the high school special education teacher, is a third time mom to Memphis, Ransom, and baby Ripley. Mrs. Meier is currently on maternity leave and is finding it difficult to be gone. “I feel like I am giving up one to support the other” she commented to me over the phone. Special Education makes planning for a sub more difficult, which is why Mrs. Meier is feeling guilty for being gone. Just like all the other new parents, Mrs. Meier is exhausted from trying to juggle three children, and commented, “Thank God for coffee.” During her leave, Mrs. Meier tries to focus on her family and not do any work, but she does occasionally check her email.
Mrs. Schroeder, the 4k teacher, will be a second time mom to Neveah and a new baby. She is planning to take maternity leave after she has her baby in December.
There are many other factors that need to happen in order for a successful leave to take place. Besides planning on the teacher’s part, the administration needs to make adjustments on their end as well.
Mr. Uppena, the principal, has an important role when teachers need to be on leave. His job is to find the substitutes. “In normal years, you generally have a large pool [of subs] and that’s probably the big difference right now. This year we are down to seven [subs] and generally we have twenty.” According to Mr. Uppena, everyone has been great at stepping up and helping cover when teachers need to leave or are gone unexpectedly. Mr. Uppena has taken the elementary out to recess himself many times to give teachers a break. “Everyone is so willing to help each other out. I think ‘wow, what a great place to work.’”
For some teachers, being a first time parent and taking a leave is a new concept. The three first-time parents at Potosi School District have a different perspective on taking a leave than the “veteran parents”.
Mr. Jahnke, the middle school special education teacher, is first time dad to baby Kylie. For Mr. Jahnke, planning for a long-term sub is difficult. “The amount of information I can give [the sub] is hard because it is all confidential”. Mr. Jahnke is taking every Friday off for five weeks to spend time with his new baby and to make up for the difficulty of his subject. His sub is the same person every week, so they can get to know the students and figure out how to help them without knowing their IEP. Mr. Jahnke notes that being a new dad is tiring and it can make work more difficult after long nights with Kylie. Although, there is a, “family feel amongst us teachers anyway we can”, which has come in handy when he needs help or to give some gifts to congratulate him. “Bigger districts may not get that sense of community as much which is what makes Potosi great.”
Mrs. Urbain, the art teacher, is going to be a first time mom to a baby boy in November. For Mrs. Urbain, making sub plans isn't a new game. She noted that she has long-termed subbed for an art teacher before, so she understands what the sub will need. Art class brings new challenges for long term subbing because not only is Mrs. Urbain the elementary through high school teacher, but art also takes a sense of creativity that some people may not possess. In 3-D art, Mrs. Urbain started with clay work because that is a challenging aspect that non-artist may struggle with teaching. “Once I know who my sub is, I will see what they are comfortable with.” A big concern that Mrs. Urbain has that most teachers do not have to worry about is that because of the shortage of subs, she does not know what will happen if they cannot find her a sub. She hopes that they will find people to cover, but she knows they could cancel her classes until she is back.
Mr. Bohn, the middle school English teacher, is going to be a first time dad in a few weeks. When his baby is born, he plans to take two weeks off from work to spend time with his family. To prepare for his paternity leave, he met with his sub and planned to have activities that were online so that they were easy to do without him. Mr. Bohn also noted that he planned out for two months in advance just in case something happens or he is very busy at home, the work is taken care of. “I got coffee and Redbull,” was his response to how he is going to manage time with a baby and work. He noted that he is really stressed about balancing both. Unlike Mr. Fry, Mr. Bohn is not worried about the style of discussion in his class. “Middle schoolers are learning the rules of English. The only difficult class for a sub might be 9th grade because they are doing more analysis.”
Although there are differences between the “veteran parents” and the new parents, they all came down to the same conclusions. Sleep is limited and coffee is a savior, each subject requires different planning and brings different challenges, and everyone is excited to spend time with their new babies.