It's Working Project

A Teacher in a Poor District Finds Generosity From her Administration

Tell us about your maternity leave.

Both leaves (2008 and 2012) happened suddenly due to bedrest. Because I am a teacher I was fortunate to be able to use the summer months as part of my leave.

First Son: 2.5 months of unpaid leave and 2 months in the summer (paid but not required to be in the building)

Second Son: I used 2 months in the summer, 4 weeks of sick days and the rest was unpaid leave.

Bed rest both times, that’s tough! How did you handle that? And how did your employer and students handle it?

My students handled it well both times. The first time I was teaching 7th grade and I had two fantastic TAs that picked up the slack while a temporary sub finished out the year. I got to choose (along with my principal) the sub that would start the next year. I got to choose someone who offered something different than myself–a young, black male–which was a great way to demonstrate and teach in a way I wouldn’t be able to had I been there. It was hard though, not being the one to establish routines.

The second time I knew it was probably coming so I picked out a long term sub who had student taught in my building the previous semester. I was working in a high school at this point (same district, even some of the same students) and the students understood. My administration was incredibly supportive. One of the things that I loved about that district is that the leadership understood that we were working with a challenging population (more than 70% of the students live in poverty) and were underpaid, so they were kind in the ways that didn’t cost money.

I paid for short term disability insurance which was key to covering my bedrest the second time (it kicked in after two weeks and was about half my salary from two weeks after I went on bedrest until 6 weeks after I delivered). It was expensive and I likely could have done better had I saved on my own, but not for certain.

As a younger person, how did you envision your adult life in terms of career and family? How was that vision different from the reality?

I thought it would be neat to work and have a partner stay home with children. It is different from reality because we would not be able to pay for our home, car, insurances, etc if both of us didn’t work.

What was your work life like before kids? Your home life?

 I worked a lot more. I felt like in many ways I was a better teacher.

What did your work life become after kids? Your home life?

 I can multi-task better.

Did you always know that you would work?


How did you (or did you not) time your pregnancy around work?

My first  term pregnancy was achieved under the support of my doctor. It was lucky that it happened the way it did. And the second pregnancy was the same way. I wouldn’t have chosen any differently and felt lucky to have the summer work out.

How did you share the news of your pregnancies with your employer? How far along were you when you had the conversation?

 My first term pregnancy was after a miscarriage and suspected to be a miscarriage so I told my principal at 9 weeks that I would either need a few months off the next semester or, in the worst case, a week off in the next month.

If you are in a relationship, how did you decide which partner would go back to work? What issues factored into that decision?

I had the summers off and was breastfeeding. My partner worked an hourly position.

Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.

 I had someone helping with my paperwork while I was on leave. I have offered to help with paperwork and run IEP meetings when others are on leave.

How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?

It was simply emailing information to them.

If you returned to work, when did your confidence around work kick in? How long did the adjustment take (or are you still adjusting?)

 I was fortunate that I came back in different school years, because in many ways I was just starting over again.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work?

 Friends who had gone back to work.

What was your biggest initial concern and/or obstacle to going back to work after starting a family?


What, if any, changes did your employer make to accommodate you as you transitioned back to work?

 They gave me a key to a storage closet to pump in, both times. In terms of state testing and other mandated times when I would have to miss pumping they provided coverage so that I could go pump. Often this was in the form of my principals coming in to cover for me.

What, if any, requests did you make to your employer as you transitioned back to work?

 A place to pump.

What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method?


If you breastfed, did you need to pump?


If so, how easy was it for you to pump?

 It sucked.

If so, how long did you pump after returning to work?

 Until both sons were 12 months old.

How did you make your pumping location work for you?

I got to use a materials storage closet at my first building. I pumped next to textbooks and a giant abacus.

I used a room with two way mirrors that was storing stuff like giant cans of pudding at my next building. I covered the mirrors with construction paper.

Have you made any changes to your career since starting your family?

I currently work in teacher education. However, when I had my sons I worked as a special education teacher in a public school district of a small urban community.

What was the impetus for that change?

My career change seemed to be a logical next step. I now work in many schools in my town guiding the student teachers and teaching at the university in the evenings. One of the biggest motivating factors was the flexibility and insurance offered at my current job.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your pre-children self?

Get better insurance if possible. I was taking home $24,000 a year teaching and my insurance costs were $1200 a MONTH for my family through the school district. It made it nearly impossible. I was working to pay insurance and daycare.

Anything else you want to share with us?

My district was poorly funded and my classroom at the high school had a chalkboard, no white board, smart board or projector. My computer was a decade old. My doctor suggested about halfway through my pregnancy that I work from a seated position. My district did what it could and provided a stool and an overhead projector. I had to buy my own wet erase markers.

I spend time in a bunch of districts in my region now and it’s really sad. We chose to send my sons to a public district that has about 55% poverty and no white majority, but just a few miles away it’s 96% white and 12% poverty. I wouldn’t want to have my kids go there or teach there, but I have heard rumors they have a pumping room (blows my mind).