Professional Practice

8 Helpful Tips to Make Your Maternity Leave Less Stressful

Growing a human is hard work but preparing to be out for six to eight weeks makes it seem even harder. Most art teachers can’t rely on department teams to take over while they’re gone. Instead, we are left scrambling and stressing about what’s going to happen in the classroom during those long weeks. Planning for an extended absence takes time and organization, but it doesn’t have to be as painful as having the baby! Read on for some tips to make it easier.

8 Helpful Tips to Make Your Maternity Leave Less Stressful


1. Develop an outline.

The most important thing you can do organizationally is to develop a master plan. Include what grades will be doing what and estimate how long each project will take. This will keep you organized and focused as you work through the details.

2. Start early.

Planning for weeks on end is a big challenge, so take it one step at a time. Start planning as early as you can, a little at a time. Set aside fifteen minutes each day or an hour or two on the weekend and plug away. It adds up!

3. Consolidate.

Can second graders and third graders benefit from the same lesson? Would your Art 1 students be able to work through the same plan you made for the first week of ceramics? If the answer is yes, do it. You’ll save yourself time while still providing quality instruction.

4. Think about common procedures.

How are kids expected to go into the room? What’s the procedure for sharpening pencils? Have a section in your plans for common procedures that are used again and again. This way, things will stay consistent for students and your sub will have the tools to maintain the structure you’ve established.

5. Find a sub who meets the needs of your school.

I’ve been on maternity leave twice: the first time I really needed a sub who had great classroom management and was familiar with the challenges of my school, so I picked someone who fit the bill even though she didn’t have much art experience. The second time, teaching in a different setting, I had to find someone with fine arts experience for my high school students. I went with a recent art ed graduate. The bottom line is to think about what your students need and find the right person.

6. Work smarter, not harder.

I remember being so stressed out about how I was going to describe the setup and cleanup for each one of my elementary centers…until it hit me – I could take photos! I did just that, laminated them and posted them for the sub and students to see. Think about the easiest way to convey information and use it.

7. Embrace Technology.

Personal websites are easier than ever to build and great for sharing information. If you have classroom access to a computer and a projector, using a site like Weebly or Blogger to post plans can be very effective. I created pages for each unit, with links to slideshow presentations, Pinterest boards of examples, and even instructional videos. My sub, students, and parents can access the information that’s posted whenever needed, plus I can update from home while I’m out. Pretty cool.

8. Let it Go.

At this point, everything has been planned and organized. Now it’s time to go home, have your baby and bond with your new family. Don’t worry about how the sub will follow your plans or if that special student will act up without you there. It’s out of your hands and that’s okay.
Planning for maternity leave can be stressful but using strategies like starting early, taking advantage of technology and working smarter instead of harder can really help.

Have you been out of school for an extended period of time?

What tips do you have for making everything go smoothly?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Melissa Purtee

Melissa Purtee is a high school art educator and a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about supporting diversity, student choice, and facilitating authentic expression.

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