It may have been my imagination; it may have been a midnight cry from my child to eat, but I swear that at midnight on August first, I woke up with a lump in my stomach. The lump that tells me that, with the arrival of August, my summer break is basically over. It’s a lump that’s part anticipation, part terror, and it means I have to turn my brain towards returning to school.
Now technically I am on maternity leave for the first six weeks of the school year to be home with Spartacus. The paperwork says I am off from August 25th until October 5th when I return to teaching. My district gave me those days because that’s when they will need to hire a sub, rather than starting me six weeks from his birth (which I could have chosen, and because he was a summer baby I could have skipped dealing with any maternity leave hassle).
Unfortunately we are not offered paid maternity leave; first we are charged all rollover and current vacation days (which count as both vacation and sick leave; there’s no difference in time off), then we take the remainder of the vacation as unpaid leave and either lose from that month’s paycheck or have the difference divided and deducted from the remaining paychecks in the school year. Granted we aren’t paid too terribly much to begin with, and I know American companies have some of the worst maternity leave policies in the western world, but it is rather crummy that child-centric school districts aren’t able to offer better care to their teachers. This policy also means I start my school year with zero vacation days; every time I need to take off to take my baby to a follow-up appointment or if I actually get sick, I will be charged the amount the district dictates and lose that from my monthly paycheck 😛Despite the fact that I don’t have to physically be present at the building from August 25th until October 5th, it doesn’t mean I’m really “off.” After all, I have a substitute to plan for. She is really a lovely lady; one of our high school’s regular subs, she is efficient and attentive to detail, but she’s not an English teacher (or a freshman World History teacher), so I have a lot of planning to do. She will do all the teaching and hopefully some of the grading and copies and such, but since it is my classroom I probably should have a pretty good idea what is going on there. Thus, yesterday Spartacus and I ventured up to the room to survey the damage of all my cleaning efforts from May. I started organizing my classroom library and got on my computer to check my work email for the first time in a month. I started sifting through some of the new resource books we’re going to use this year (for the first time, the English department has purchased a 4-year college vocabulary curriculum so our kids will have cohesive, vertically-aligned vocab training). I showed off my baby to my students who work at the front office, my principal, and various other admin and faculty I ran into. I planned to drop some stuff in my classroom and be out in 30 minutes. 3 hours later we left…(talk to any teacher you know; “stopping by the classroom” is a terrible, soul-sucking errand that should never be embarked upon if there are other things one hoped to accomplish that day).
Of course, first thing this morning I got a voicemail from admin telling me I technically need a doctor’s release to be on campus at all, even for our staff development training in the next two weeks, verifying I am able to “return to work” before I actually “return to work.” Workman’s comp and liability is so complicated…
That lump that materialized in my gut last Friday shifted from terror to excitement once I got back into the building and saw my reflection in the newly-waxed floors and polished desks. For the first time ever, two of the three courses I am teaching this year I taught last year, so I get to tweak instead of create from scratch. I find myself mulling when we get our free district planners so I can lay out my syllabus chronologically, and wondering when I can take my baby to the teacher supply store in the next town to look at grade books (ooh!). What new readings can I add to the syllabus? How will I adjust my classroom and grading routines to fit this group of students? And the big question: how on earth will I teach freshman world history when all I currently have is their textbook?!
In other news, my baby boy Spartacus is one month old today. When did that happen?