Build the Best Maternity Leave Binder (so you can leave work at work)

Have you had a chance to read Part 1? 5 Tips for Surviving Teaching while Pregnant (with Twins!)

Years ago, the algebra team on my campus did a team building activity where we shared strengths we saw in our fellow team members. Most of the responses were statements such as “Sara has a great rapport with her students” or “Jake’s content knowledge is impressive.” Mine was that I’m organized. 😂

Now, my desk is always a mess, but what my team members were getting at was that I like to know what I’m teaching when and send copies to the print shop full units at a time.

Not everyone shares my compulsion to have lessons prepared early and they are still thriving. But teachers preparing for maternity leave could benefit from this type of organization in the short term!

Make an epic curriculum binder.

If you are lucky enough to have your team plan for you while you’re out, count your blessings and move on to the next topic. For teachers who are responsible for planning for their leave without the extra support, read on!

If you are not an organizer by nature, what I’m about to say will be difficult to hear: Make a binder of all the assignments you plan on assigning starting from the end of your pregnancy through three months past your due date (or more if you have a generous maternity leave).

Prepare to be out earlier and later than you expect. Babies come early and maternity leave plans can change.

I expected to return after eight weeks, but took a full twelve weeks instead due to a difficult recovery. You will be able to relax and enjoy your new baby (or babies) so much more when you know your students are learning what they are supposed to learn while you’re out of the classroom. It will make picking up the pieces when you return to work a little easier.

What goes in the binder?

 1. Monthly calendars

Include monthly calendars with assignment names (that match the names of the digital files if stored on the computer).

These calendars will provide a quick overview of the months you are out.

I also like to use monthly calendars to keep track of what needs to be sent to print shop.

2. A copy of every assignment

Even if you’ve gone fully digital, include a printout of each assignment for your sub. I stored all of the files that needed to be sent to print shop on the shared district drive, but still included copies of the assignments in the binder.

Having a physical copy made it so much easier for the retired math teacher covering my classes to keep the order straight! I used worked-out keys in my sub binder if I had them, but filled in with blank assignments in a pinch.

Including master copies + keys is probably best practice, especially if your school still depends on physical masters to run copies for students!

3. Assignments grouped by week

Use dividers to section off each week’s assignments. I used sticky notes as dividers with “Week ___” written on each sticky note. Big paper clips work wonders for keeping each week together and the binder less beastly to flip through.

Someone not familiar with your course should be able to look at the calendar, flip through your binder, and (if applicable) look at the files on the computer and immediately know what needs to be taught when.

4. Blank weekly planning templates

Include a generous stash of weekly planning templates for your sub to use while you’re out. This (probably) doesn’t have to be a full lesson plan template, just a place for your sub to make adjustments to the calendar as needed.

As we know so well, unexpected assemblies, weather days, and absences occur, derailing even the most thoughtfully laid out curriculum calendars.

Your sub will thank you for providing a simple tool for them to use to make small adjustments to your plans.

(You can find a free weekly planning template here!)

Not sure how to start? The Secondary Teacher Planning Notebook can get you started on your binder-building journey with monthly calendars, lesson plan templates, and more. And its gorgeous too 😍

Read Part 3:  4 Tips for a Smooth Maternity Leave Transition