Maternity Leave Reentry

Q | I am just coming back from my maternity leave. I feel overwhelmed and, because I didn’t start the year with my students, somewhat disconnected. How can I get back into the swing of things?

A | Coming back after the year has already started is difficult, whatever the reason. Kids have already adjusted to their substitute teacher’s way of doing things and have settled into a routine. Still, there are things you can do to facilitate your return.

Sticking with established procedures will ease the transition for you and your students. For the moment, rely on units you’ve done before. For a special project, ask your students to write a letter telling you about themselves—what their hobbies are, what they want to be when they grow up, etc. Don’t grade these; instead, write a short personal note at the end of each letter. If you’re friendly and you show students that you’re interested in them, they will soon see you as their teacher.

As to feeling “overwhelmed,” teaching all day and caring for a baby at home make for a challenging life. As you establish a schedule, you will begin to feel less overwhelmed. It certainly won’t be easy, but if you have support at home and at school, you can do it. Lots of women (and some men) already have!

Urban vs. Suburban

Q | I spent the past five years working in a Title I school. The kids were challenging but I loved it. This year I’m in a wealthy suburban school. The job is easier but I can’t shake the feeling my work doesn’t matter as much.

A | All kids need good teachers—urban kids, suburban kids, private school kids. 

That said, some schools find it easier to attract good teachers. Wealthy, suburban schools usually fall into that category. Title I, urban schools, as you know, have more difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers because of the very challenges that appeal to you.

I taught middle school because I liked the inquisitiveness and goofiness of that age group, but I realized some of my colleagues would have been happier teaching high school. And I knew I wouldn’t be as successful as a primary school teacher because I wasn’t sure I could manage younger kids!

Good teaching matters to every kid, but there are reasons teachers choose certain grade levels or even certain schools. You have an affinity for poor, urban schools. You like the challenge. You’ll probably enjoy teaching in your new school, but you may want to consider that urban schools could be a better match for your skills and interests.

Question for Suzanne Tingley?

Suzanne Tingley is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and education professor. Her Practical Leadership blog can be found at