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A little careful planning will go a long way — and provide you with peace of mind when you hand your class over to a long-term substitute. Preparing your classroom for a long-term substitute can easily create stress — one thing parents-to-be definitely don’t need. On the flip side of planning for y

Dec 11, 2017

A little careful planning will go a long way — and provide you with peace of mind when you hand your class over to a long-term substitute.


Preparing your classroom for a long-term substitute can easily create stress — one thing parents-to-be definitely don’t need. On the flip side of planning for your new arrival, you find yourself charged with putting your students in good hands and ensuring that your substitute has everything laid out for the weeks or months that you’ll be gone. Whether you or your partner is expecting, here are a few guidelines to help nix extra worry and set your students, sub, and self up for parental leave success.

If you’re the one pregnant…

  • Prepare for sickness during the pregnancy. Whether it’s morning sickness or the full-blown flu, being pregnant and sick is a double whammy. Your immune system is more vulnerable during pregnancy, so eat well, get rest, and don’t hesitate to pass that hand sanitizer around your classroom. Have emergency sub plans at the ready — you can always use them to supplement your long-term sub plans if they go unused.

  • Grab a bathroom buddy. If you thought you had a hard time finding time for the bathroom at work before being pregnant, you’re in for a cruel joke. Buddy up with a neighboring teacher who can watch your class in a pinch.

  • Keep snacks in your desk. Growing a baby eats up a lot of energy. Hoard healthy snacks and extra water bottles to stay nourished during the day.

  • Go easy on yourself. Teachers are notoriously bad at this, but it’s extra important when you’re pregnant. Wear comfy clothes, take breaks, get off your feet, and make time to relax. Surging hormones and physical changes can wear you out physically, mentally, and emotionally — give yourself grace and prioritize self-care.


When it’s go time…

  • Be prepared for your parental leave to start early. Babies come on their own schedules. Prepare your sub’s resources and plans well in advance; aim for the end of second trimester or 10 weeks before you’re expecting baby’s arrival. Trust the parent-teachers that came before you: This isn’t overkill. Even if your baby comes late, you’ll be glad you were done early with the planning when your energy dwindles in those last few weeks.

  • Lay it out. When it comes to your sub plans, create a specific binder for your parental leave with a clear schedule, outlined procedures, and your expectations. Be extra detailed with your lesson plans for the first few weeks in order to help your substitute get adjusted, prepping all copies of handouts and activities. After that, provide each subject or class’s scope and sequence with pacing guidelines. You’ll also want to include special student accommodations, teacher and student login information, seating charts, daily student jobs, and transportation info. Don’t forget notes on how to use your grade book, attendance system, and other classroom technology. Pro tip: Leave individual notes about  students so that your substitute can differentiate for their needs.

  • Meet your sub. It’ll ease your anxiety to get to know and trust the person who will be filling your shoes. Make it a point to meet together (or even have a “shadow” day) before your leave starts so that you can get a feel for each other. Provide him or her with your cell number/email and the names of one or two go-to colleagues — and then trust that they’ve got it handled. Give them freedom to make changes and adopt as they go.

  • Open up with your students. Prepare your (school) kids for their substitute teacher. Chat with them about having a long-term sub (or possibly more than one) and what that will look like. Discuss behavior expectations. Let them know that you’ll be checking in on them. And most importantly, share your enthusiasm for the new baby! Kids at all grade levels will be happy to talk and bond around such exciting news. They’ll look forward to your updates and your return.  

  • Focus on the little thing. We’re talking about the single most important thing: your new baby. Parental leave is such a short stretch of time when considering the big picture. Your students and campus will survive without you (we promise!) while you concentrate your energy where it’s needed most.


Mom or dad, you’ve got this. A little careful planning will go a long way — and provide you with peace of mind when you hand your class over to a long-term substitute and adjust to life with a new family member.

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