I teach 10th-grade English in an urban high school. When I tell people where I teach, the follow-up comment often is, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Other times, when they learn which grade I teach, people respond with something like, “I’d be so scared to teach that age level.” They are being sincere. My reaction to both comments is fairly consistent: “I love where I teach. Big, little, rural, suburban, urban – kids are just kids.”
I really do love my job and I enjoy my students. When I first found out I was pregnant, I figured I would tell my students right after the first trimester. I told a few close friends at school first. I was a little nervous to tell the administration because I’m not married. I first called a female administrator I feel comfortable with. When I told her the news, she was caring and supportive. Her kind reaction encouraged me. I then told the other building administrators. Soon all of the staff knew, but I still hadn’t told the students.
I was putting it off for two reasons. First, in the case of all the teachers I have ever known to be pregnant, they have had to endure the same comment after legitimately disciplining students: “You are just in a bad mood because you are pregnant!” Charming, I know. I was hoping to avoid that kind of response. More than that, however, I knew my pregnancy would be a disruption from learning. If I wear glasses to school one day instead of contacts, get my hair cut, wear earrings or sport a pair of shoes the kids haven’t seen before, all learning ceases.
Anything that is the slightest bit different from the norm throws the students off. Many of my students don’t have much consistency at home, so they count on the school to offer regularity in their lives. When minor changes occur, it throws them off their game, so to speak. So I kept waiting to tell them. Finally after my 20-week ultrasound, I decided to break the big news. It wouldn’t be long anyway before June arrived and school was out for the summer.
Talk about a chaotic reaction! They were enthralled, concerned and even upset that I had waited so long to tell them. Everyone wanted to touch my belly as they entered and exited the classroom (especially awkward because I wasn’t showing), and they wouldn’t let me so much as move a classroom chair. Every day brought new questions; from what I was going to name the baby to if I could feel her yet.
But those were last year’s students. I went through the same situation when we began this new school year. More concerning than letting the students know I’m pregnant is the fact that I'll be out for six weeks so early in the school year. I already feel guilty leaving my students for six weeks, but I cannot even imagine how I am going to feel leaving my newborn baby with someone else while I go to work – even though I’ve arranged for a friend to watch the baby.
I already feel sad about leaving her, and I haven’t even had her yet!