What if I need to vomit while I'm teaching?

10th April 2015 at 01:00
Being a teacher is tough, but being a pregnant teacher is tougher, especially when you accidentally let it slip to your students

I am still getting used to a fairly enormous life change taking place in my otherwise very stable existence. I am attempting to get my head around the tiny, small, practically inconsequential fact that there is another person growing inside me.

There are so many questions, many of them relating to my job as a teacher: how long will I be able to work for as the bump bulges? When is the right time to tell my colleagues? What if I need to be sick while I'm teaching?

Initially, I found it excruciating to tell other members of staff. I began "coming out" at about 15 weeks as I was exploding out of my work wardrobe. And because my pregnancy was, ahem, not quite 100 per cent planned, I had to make changes to arrangements that were no longer viable. Taking 55 children to the South of France when I was eight months pregnant, for example, was clearly not going to happen. Therefore, I had a lot of teachers to tell relatively quickly. Overall, my colleagues have been amazingly supportive and I actually feel much better now that I can be honest about the exhaustion, the vomiting and everything else.

If I was nervous about informing staffroom comrades, the idea of sharing my news with pupils was 10 times worse. I had planned to put off telling the kids until I was showing so much that it was completely inescapable. My advice to anyone in a similar predicament would be to avoid, at all costs, doing what I actually did.

I was teaching a Year 10 class and another teacher came in to ask me to sign some forms. The students were doing a piece of extended writing so I stepped outside the classroom for two minutes. In the corridor, my colleague asked, and I answered, the standard baby questions about morning sickness, bump progress and scans. I returned to an eerily silent class and immediately knew something was wrong. Thirty faces were staring at me with big, silent grins. My mind raced. What on earth had just occurred?

At that moment I realised I was still wearing the microphone I use for one of my hearing-impaired students. I had inadvertently broadcast my news to the whole class. Needless to say, by the final period most students seemed to be staring more at my abdomen than the whiteboard.

So the kids know. It wasn't how I planned it, but there we go. On the whole they have been charming - they occasionally ask a nervous question and they stare quite a lot, but I have found that if I don't make a big deal about it, they don't either.

Change of pace

One of the hardest things about being a pregnant teacher is realising that, no matter how much I try, I just cannot keep moving at the same speed as I did before. Year 11 parents' evening nearly killed me: 11-hour days at four months are a no-no. However, since I have "come out", my school has been very supportive, allowing me, for example, to schedule shorter parents' evenings - I simply ring anyone I can't see. The lesson here is to talk to your bosses and tell them what you are finding tough. If you don't say that you need help, you won't get it.

Conversely, while I have been experiencing an entirely new way of being, my husband, who is also a teacher, has had very little to deal with at school. His body is not expanding, he has not had to tell colleagues (although, being soppy, he has been announcing it left, right and centre) and he has not had to come to terms with exhaustion that is, at times, unconquerable.

However, he has had to battle for his right to attend scans and midwife appointments and, as a head of department, he is already planning in advance for his paternity leave. All teachers know that staying home is often much harder than going into school, in terms of arranging cover and anticipating the chaos that will await you upon your return. Some of my male colleagues - regrettably - did not take their full paternity allowance because of this pressure, which is shocking.

Overall, being a pregnant teacher is hard, but then again, so is simply being a teacher. The challenges I'm facing now are the same, just coupled with even more tiredness and a failing memory (although this is proving an excellent lesson in responsibility for my students, who have taken to reminding me when homework is due).

There are positives, apparently. A colleague who has been through this before insists that taking care of one child is significantly easier than teaching 240 a week; something to look forward to, I hope.

Being pregnant also puts the whole teaching business into perspective. It makes you focus on what is totally essential rather than the ever-growing list of things that could be done but may not need to be.

Most of all, I try to remember that there is someone else who needs me now as much as the kids in front of me. That's the tough bit.

Katie White is an English teacher at Kingsbridge Community College in Devon

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