In any workplace, there are times when employees will share the joyous news with their colleagues that they have fallen pregnant. This is, of course, a natural and wonderful occurrence.
However, when teachers are approaching maternity leave, there are several things to think about that may not be a consideration in most other workplaces – not least that the children used to being taught by that teacher now face many months of a new teacher and the changes that entails.
This is where clear and open communication will help this go smoothly.
1. Recognise the impact on the staff member
It is important to bear in mind that you may be one of the first people to have been told this information, perhaps even before wider family and friends.
As such, it is vital to not only be discreet and keep information confidential but to recognise the importance to the staff member involved in sharing this with you – don’t just treat it as another admin process to enter into but a moment of real joy.
Be mindful that they may be nervous about the future – either as a parent-to-be or how it may affect their career. Offer whatever support you can, depending on what seems appropriate. Even if specific support cannot be offered, members of staff always appreciate a safe space to ask for support when it is needed.
2. Offer a clear ‘sharing timeline’
Of course, as a leader, you will have to take steps to begin the process from an HR, admin and teaching perspective – but make sure you keep the mum-to-be involved in the steps and when they will be taken.
When you do come to sharing the news, make sure you think carefully about who you share it with. Before passing the news on to parents, members of staff will appreciate knowing. This would best be done in a staff meeting, so that all members of staff hear the same message at the same time.
After members of staff know, it is time to share with the parents. But here again, it is important to keep the person involved throughout each stage of the process.
The pregnant teacher may appreciate reading the letter before it is sent out to parents. They may also prefer that the news be shared with colleagues by themselves or have specific requests in its sharing. Make sure to keep the communication open throughout.
3. Have a plan
Parents will be thrilled to share in the celebrations. However, the fact that this is good news will not be enough for all.
Naturally, the first thing parents will be asking themselves is “how will this affect my child?” Parents will be concerned that their child will have a disrupted year and will worry about stability, especially if their children have had teacher changes in the past.
This is why having a clear plan to communicate the news will be essential in helping to pre-emptively ease concerns of parents.
However you do decide to plan for this, whether you are posting a maternity cover; employing a temporary member of staff or perhaps using a member of staff returning from some form of leave, make sure you have it planned out so you can clearly explain what steps will be taken.
Open and honest communication is always respected and appreciated by parents, especially when it involves their child’s class.
4. Don’t post too soon
If you are planning to hire a temporary maternity cover, it is wise to share this with parents before posting the job. There are always eagle-eyed parents who will spot this before it is communicated and then playground rumours may cause problems at a later stage that could have been avoided.
Having a baby is an amazing thing but there is no denying it has a big impact. Sharing the news is key and, by avoiding any excited eagerness to share or take next steps prematurely, it can be done carefully and appropriately.
5. Share the joy
Last, when sitting down to think about how this will be communicated with parents, start with the obvious. This is a happy and momentous piece of news to be sharing. So often, leaders must share troubling or concerning news with parents or letters to share problems or unexpected changes.
This is a chance to share some good news with your school community so frame your communication in this way.
Matt Payne is head of lower school at Nord Anglia International School New York