As she calls for the class’ attention, the teacher has one hand extended towards the board and the other held self-consciously across her waist.
She feels the eyes focus on her middle. “Are you pregnant, Miss?”
It’s a question no teacher wants in the middle of a lesson. And it can feel like Pandora’s box has exploded once you confirm that, yes, you are pregnant.
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But depending on your body shape and how your bump grows, it may be impossible to hide your pregnancy from students.
We spoke to teachers about how they announced their pregnancies and what advice they would give to others.
1. Check school policy
Some schools like to control how a teacher’s pregnancy is announced to students, enabling them to inform parents about the maternity leave arrangements in advance.
“My school sent letters home telling parents that I was taking maternity leave and that my class was going to be covered by another teacher after Christmas,” explains Alex, a primary school teacher in Essex.
“I was about 20 weeks by this point, so I was starting to show. It made it a lot easier for me because I didn’t have to deal with parents asking questions about my cover.”
2. Think about your words
Students may have an emotional response to your announcement for any number of reasons: they may have experienced a miscarriage in their family or the loss of a sibling, or another distressing pregnancy experience.
If your school leaves you to announce your pregnancy, it's wise to check with the safeguarding officer to see if there are any vulnerable students in your classes and seek advice if necessary on how best to announce your pregnancy.
Stephanie Keenan, curriculum leader for English and literacy at Ruislip High School in north-west London, says teachers should reflect before going public with the news.
“My advice is to think it through before you (over) share. There are many emotive areas of discussion that can be raised by teacher pregnancy, such as infertility, IVF, fostering, sperm or egg donation, adoption, miscarriage or stillbirth. And teenagers will raise them.”
3. Pick your moment
The start of a lesson is never a good time to announce that you’re pregnant because it is unlikely much else will get done afterwards.
Sometimes, it is the most unlikely students who take an interest in your pregnancy… and there will always be a few who will try and use it to get you off task.
“My headteacher was happy for me to decide when I wanted to tell the children and I waited until 25 weeks for a number of reasons," says Heidi Connolly, a primary school teacher in Hampshire.
"The main one was that this was the stage that I felt most comfortable sharing my news with more people.
“I was really excited about telling the children and it ended up being rather amusing. They were excited but also surprised as they thought I’d just ‘got a bit fat’.”
4. Don’t be shocked by self-interest
Even if you have a really good relationship with a class, that relationship is always based on the fact you are their teacher, so when you say that you’re pregnant, what they may hear is that you are abandoning them.
“When I told my A-level class I wasn’t going to teach them in September because I was going to be on maternity leave, one of my best students rolled her eyes and sighed,” recalls one media studies teacher in London.
“At first, I was so hurt because I had taught them since GCSE but, on reflection, of course she was annoyed. I knew she would be fine and was being left in capable hands but she was just worried about her grade.”
5. Brace yourself for big opinions
Just as being pregnant seems to be a green light for every person you’ve ever met to share their personal parenting philosophy with you, you may hear some interesting comments from your classes, too.
Whether it’s their opinions on working and parenting, the age they are going to have children or what they expect childbirth to be like – be ready for some thoughtless comments.
For the most part, you can simply smile and nod, but don’t forget that it’s OK to say “That’s not appropriate” if something makes you feel uncomfortable.
Stephanie Keenan and Heidi Connolly originally shared their pregnancy announcement stories in the Tes magazine ‘Becoming a parent’ issue. Read the full stories here.
This was originally published on 5 October 2019