I took a leave of absence for 14 weeks after my son was born on 9/22/11. All I have to say is, “wow”.
Coming back after New Years was incredibly difficult. In fact, had I known what I was in for, I probably would not have come back at all! BUT, now that the worst is over, I am so glad I did.
Returning to work after being out for so long was not easy. Especially in my case, because I was only a classroom teacher for barely 3 weeks before I gave birth. I did not have much time to establish clear rules and guidelines, to familiarize the students with my expectations, and so on. When I returned I had to announce that the party was over.
It was interesting, because some students really took kindly to having me back. I think they appreciated the organization, because some kids need that to learn, but everyone loves a good time, right? When I was gone biology was most likely the class they looked forward to. Not because they were inspired or awe struck by the subject, but because they did not have rules enforced. The first six weeks were very difficult for me. I had to constantly set boundaries and students were constantly crossing them, which meant that I was constantly disciplining.
The best thing I could have done was stand my ground. Basically, the same thing any experienced classroom teacher would do in the first few weeks, except amplified by what seems like 1,000%. This was a HUGE learning experience for me- turns out as a hardcore disciplinarian (I’m sure the kids had another word in mind…) you do end up respected. It just took a few weeks of kids to get things out of their system, let them fight you, and then finally give up when they realized the wall that is you is not going anywhere. Girls that seemed to hate my guts in the beginning turned out to seek me as their confidant at times, and even laugh at my jokes, though that took some time (for both myself to show my humorous side and my students to get to know me).
At the end of the year, I was showered with more gifts that I ever had been, and I was even told by numerous students that they really appreciated me after they got to know me. I appreciated hearing that. This is my 5th year teaching, and within those 5 years I’ve had one lay off and 2 children, therefore they haven not been the most consistent 5 years, so when I hear things like that I feel like I might be close to mastering the art of teaching- though I know there is always room for improvement no matter how long you have been teaching. So, though the midyear was a very rocky start, in the end things worked out for the best. I really enjoyed working with my students this year, I have learned a lot and I hope they did, as well.